My (Non) Journey to Graduate School

This blog post is long overdue. But I just can’t not write about it. So, here you go… 🙂

If you love what you do, it’s not really work.

— Blue Smoke, Nora Roberts

Five months ago, I made one of the most spontaneous (and important) decisions in my career life: to apply for Graduate School. It’s been a consideration or option over the past few years, but it never felt sure. Not until that warm February night while walking with boyfie on the way home and reflecting on the work I’ve done that day.

I like my work. Stressful, yes, but that’s part of the job description (though I like to complain about it now and then haha). I like how it keeps me involved me with numbers on a daily basis. I like how I get to “play” with them (with some restrictions, of course).

The challenge here is understanding the business itself. I don’t know if it’s because I graduated with a Mathematics degree or simply because I’m ignorant, that I have limited knowledge on things business-related. Sometimes, it takes me a few stumbles to finally understand what my boss is telling me. Hahahuhu.

That’s where the idea of Graduate School came in.

On my first year of employment, I used to tell everyone that I plan to take MBA. I used to want it just because it seemed like a practical thing to do. My friends wanted it. My previous superiors recommended it. Some of my colleagues were taking it. So, why not?

It was never a desire, however. It’s a great advancement for my career, yes. From what I gather, many of those who plan to take this program are actually those who aim for the Managerial position. But it wasn’t (and still isn’t) my ultimate goal.

All I want is to be better, and then the best. A higher position is only secondary (more like a reward, actually), but isn’t necessary.

Late last year, when I saw UPD’s announcement that they had started accepting applicants for the MBA Program, I already had it in mind not to pursue it. But on that night five months ago, I wanted to change my mind. I wanted to do something for my “limitations”.

Yet I didn’t want MBA — I was sure that it wasn’t for me. Then I remembered VSB (Virata School of Business — the college of UPD that offered MBA) also offered MS Finance. I also remembered taking interest on its curriculum, that it looked more appealing to me than that of MBA’s.

Maybe this was the one, I thought.

So I decided that I’d apply for the MS Finance program. I decided to take another look on the curriculum, have a peek on its requirements, and see if I can start processing them for the next application period. The following day, when I checked their website, lo and behold, application for both programs (MBA and MS Finance) was still ongoing! And there were two weeks left to process the requirements!

Should I start now? Or should I wait for next year? I asked myself.

Well, what do you think? 😉

Two weeks later, on the deadliest of deadlines, I had my documents submitted:

  1. Online Recommendation Forms filled up by my boss and my previous superior (from my old job);
  2. COE requested from our HR;
  3. COEs from my old jobs (Since I’ve only been working with RHR for about a year and seven months at that time, I had to hunt for my old COEs to show that I’ve exceeded the minimum two-year working experience requirement. And as of submission date, my total working experience was about two years and ten months.); and
  4. A copy of my TOR.

Oh, and some fees too.

One week after that, we took that GPAT (Graduate Program Admission Test). It was like taking the UPCAT all over again. But harder. And just like the UPCAT, I didn’t expect much. If I pass, I pass. If I fail, I fail. Come what may, as they say.

I passed, anyway. Hehe. 😉

It was more than a month later that the results were released. During that waiting period, Mommyla called to tell me about having a share for my Grad School tuition (I wrote about it here). I wasn’t even sure that I’d pass the test, and there she was, already offering me tuition money. I took it as a sign that maybe God really intended this for me.

And yes, it was in His plans. The journey was meant to be. But not for the finish line that we were all thinking about.

After the GPAT, there was the Proficiency Test, where applicants needed to pass all  the five subject areas (to test the proficiency, obviously haha) before getting admitted to the program.

Financial Accounting, Algebra, Statistics, Calculus and Math of Finance — those were the contents of the test. You’d think that for a BS Math degree holder, these subjects were easy peasy. Well, it should have for Algebra and Calculus, since we studied those for the four years I stayed in UPLB.

I failed Algebra, anyway. Darn word problems. Huhu. 

And yes, I passed Calculus. Derivatives and Integrals? Psshh. Hahaha. 😛

For Statistics and Financial Accounting, I took only one course of each during college, and I took them during my freshman and sophomore years, respectively. Which meant I already forgot about them. I did a little review. But when I took the test, I mostly relied on the little things that I could remember on those subjects. And, of course, I failed them too.

For Math of Finance, I had zero knowledge there. I studied what I could find on the Internet, but no, I couldn’t pass that one.

Four out of five. Failed.

But VSB was a college of second chances.

There was a second Proficiency Test, where we only needed to retake those that we failed. But before that, we had to undergo some workshops to learn (or relearn) those failed subjects. It wasn’t required. We could do self-study. But I wasn’t willing to pass the opportunity.

Down side? The workshops weren’t free. I had to spend a couple of thousands — and put a hole in mine and boyfie’s love savings — just for these workshops.

Boyfie was understanding enough to give up that amount of money. If I failed to get admitted to this program, however, I’d pay it all back — whether he liked it or not. Besides, I held our money. I could not tell him about the money being back in our account. Hehe. But no, I wouldn’t lie to him.

Anyway, the workshops ran during most of May with time schedules of 6PM to 9PM on weekdays and 9AM to 4PM on Saturdays.

Those weekday nights meant rush hour. Late dinner. Late night rush to catch MRT’s last trip. I tell you, it wasn’t an easy journey. Plus, I’m not a late night person. That made it all the more difficult.

Plus, due to lack of time, I had to do the assignments and practice exercises not only lunch breaks but also during work — snippets of time, if I could manage it.

On the second week, I had a Monday to Saturday schedule of workshops. Which meant a week of late-nights and early-mornings (I’m not an early morning person either, haha). At the end of it, I was already asking myself if this was what I really wanted.

Then I started thinking about tuition (that is, if ever I got admitted). I wasn’t sure I could afford it.

Yes, there was Mommyla’s money, but I was only expecting little from there since she did say she could only give little.

I had a friend who owed me a five-digit amount of money. I could remind her about it. She already forgot about this, actually. And I just didn’t have the heart (until now) — though I have the right — to ask her to pay back this more-than-a-year-old  debt. Anyway, this issue deserves another post, so I won’t elaborate. Maybe I’ll write about it some time.

And then there was the annual salary increase. I hoped the increase would be sufficient enough for my tuition and for me to live with ease. Alas, the odds weren’t in my favor. When I received my salary that month (May was our month of annual increase), it was met with disappointment. It wouldn’t have been if there was no tuition to think of. I’ve done my Math. No way would I be able to pay that tuition.

Time and money. Funny how one worry led to another. I wanted to give up, to just stop doing what I was doing. Where’s the sense of it all, anyway? Why did I even start this in the first place?

But I believed in God and His plans for me. He had His reasons for putting me there. Pass or fail, he meant for me to take this journey. So I submitted myself to Him, trusted His Ways even though I couldn’t understand them.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

With God’s Will in mind, I continued the workshops with peace. No more worries, just living the moment.

Besides the worries, some good things happened too. Among them were boyfie’s surprise visits. I’d go out of class to find him waiting for me (unannounced) with some takeout dinner. Then we’d eat together by the spot near the sari-sari store beside VSB building. The first time he did this, I wrote this (originally posted on my Facebook page):

I came out of class tonight
With the rush to find a ride home in mind
“Beb!” someone shouted
I turned and there he was
With his big smile
And a bag of Mcdo takeout on his side

He’s such a sweetie. ❤ Sometimes, the simplest gestures are the most romantic. 🙂

Back to the workshops, the first one was Algebra, which I did not take due to the last minute announcement of schedules — announced Friday, first day of workshop Monday. I had too much workload, and I just couldn’t immediately ask for a half-day leave. So the week before the test, I asked boyfie — who, if you don’t know it yet, is also a Math-major graduate — to teach me techniques on word problems.

On the other hand, I did take a half-day leave on my first day of Accounting workshop. This was so I could have enough time to process the registration for all the workshops. The rest of them, with boss’ approval, were done with early-outs (about an hour and a half) from work during weekdays. Which was unpaid, by the way, and took a chunk off my payroll. Huhu.

But the workshops were worth it.

Accounting, most especially. It answered a lot of questions and helped me understand more about my work. The whole learning experience was fun too. Credits to our professor, of course. Also originally posted on my Facebook page, here is one of our funny experiences during the workshop:

During class, non-verbatim…

Prof: That’s *insert topic*. Our next topic is…
*Students start packing their things.
P: Teka lang, may 15mins pa ko. Our next topic is…
*Students continue packing their things.
P: Sige na nga, let’s call it a day. Uwi na kayo!

Hahaha. Thank you, sir! 😂😂😂

Statistics was a refresher. It felt wonderful to be able to solve equations again. I still hated Probabilities, though. Haha.

Math of Finance was all new. I didn’t understand most of it. Well, I understood that there were formulas to use and how to solve them. But I did not understand the whole concept of those formulas — you know, like why were they using these formulas in such ways for such things? I guess the workshop wasn’t enough for me to understand it all.

Morning of June 03, 2017, we took the test. Most of it were just repeats of the first. I took the ones I needed to take easily. In fact, I was unbelievably confident. EXCEPT for Algebra.

The Algebra test was a word-for-word repeat. I should have easily answered them. But I got nothing. I remembered next to nothing. Mental block. Blank. Well, I answered a few, though unsure. Oh, and did I tell that the test was a fill-in-the-blank test? Gave you more reason not to guess the answer, yes?

Anyway, I failed. Yes, you read right. I failed.

The results were released June 16, 2017. Two weeks of waiting in nervousness. I knew I wouldn’t make it because of Algebra, but I had that small hope. But the results were the result. I failed.

I admit it was disappointing at first. All those efforts. All those time. All those money. For nothing. But I only felt that for a while.

After, I just felt relief. Because I got to keep my usual time schedule. Because I wouldn’t have to worry about money (I still have some out-of-town trips for next couple of months too, you know).

But you know what’s best? I saw myself improving at work. I may have failed, but I brought knowledge and experience with me — enough trophies, if you ask me.

There’s still next year, though. I may apply for Grad School again — if I’m still up for it, that is. 🙂

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