When one decides whether to attend graduate school, there are so many factors that come into play. Thoughts about balancing work, school, family, and social obligations, as well as the financial burdens it could cause, swirl around your head. As a full-time teacher, your schedule is jam-packed already with lesson planning, grading, unit plans, meetings, emails, and so on, that you cannot fathom adding your own schooling on top of it too!
I will start off with a bit of the background on how I decided to join an off-campus cohort offered through Georgian Court University. I received a bright pink flyer in my mailbox at school advertising this “new program,” and I immediately threw it into the recycling bin. Thankfully, my best friend and coworker took a bit of a closer look at that flyer and forced me to go to an informational meeting in October 2015. Well, after that meeting, I never looked back.
Fast forward to two months later, January 2016, and I was sitting in my first class, nervous about how I could pull this off. My binder and notebook were organized and ready, syllabus printed, and I kept listening to the professor, just wondering how this all would be possible.
One major factor that contributed to my success in this cohort was the convenience of it. When joining the program, you are given an overview of the two-year schedule that will be followed. All of the start and end dates for each class are provided, with multiple breaks built into the schedule, so you can plan accordingly.
Another factor was the location of the campus, which was five minutes from my school. I attended the off-campus site at Central Regional High School. Most of the other graduate students in my cohort had a relatively short commute as well. Not having to drive all the way to the main campus in Lakewood was extremely convenient, not to mention saving money on parking tags for the university.
In addition, the structure of the actual courses was convenient. The spring and fall semester classes were each 7.5 weeks long, while the summer ones were six weeks long. The classes did not overlap one another. Through this cohort, you were still completing two classes in one semester, but it gave students the ability to focus solely on one class at a time. Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy, but it gave you the additional ability to focus on your full-time teaching job. Looking at the syllabus for two courses at one time and trying to wrap your head around completing not one, but two keystone artifacts at a time, would have been extremely stressful. Completing the artifacts at two different points throughout the semester was helpful.
Also, as the courses offered are hybrid, classes met in person three times during that 7.5 week time period. Each of the three meetings was four hours long. It was so convenient to be able to do most of the work at home on the computer and not have to drive to class each week. Also, access to the Georgian Court Library Database from your home or school computer offered journal articles at your disposal.
Having various administrators from school districts throughout the state of New Jersey was beneficial to the program. Good advice was offered, as well as stories of their experiences and an understanding of the demands of your job on a day-to-day basis. This was helpful because they could see where you were coming from.
With the program overview, class schedules, location, and professors, there were so many ways Georgian Court made this degree convenient. It gave many students the chance to reach success where it may otherwise have not been achievable. Now, looking back, I am so grateful that my friend didn’t throw out that bright pink flyer, and made me think about something I never thought I could do.