Seven Years in Graduate School

I am very happy to announce that after 7 gruelling years I finally earned my Masters of Science degree in Management/Information Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology. The fact that I pulled through after all these years shows a tenacity on my part in overcoming a major challenge, one that even I’m impressed about.

Here’s how it happened: since graduating with my Bachelors degree in 2005 from Touro’s Lander College for Men program, I experienced many personal firsts, for good or bad, where I was advised to cancel/drop classes. In 2005, I was already accepted to Stevens (the $55 application fee at the time was waived since I applied online at a specific date) and also started my first full-time job. I was thereafter advised by certain family members to wait a year to start graduate school as it was important for me to get used to working full-time and focus on my job first. Otherwise, I would get overwhelmed and fail in both endeavors. I took that advice and 8 months later, the company I started working at decided to lay me off. Sez la vie. That left me with no job and no start on graduate school.

7years

In 2006 I landed a job working full-time as a computer lab technician at my alma mater, Touro. Touro also was offering their inaugural Masters program in Information Systems (MSIS) at a competitive rate for employees – $400 a course. However, there was one caveat: due to a conflict in work-study scheduling, I was only permitted to take one class a semester.

In 2007 I made the decision to get married and move to Toronto. However, the option to continue my studies at Touro, especially at the reduced rate, wasn’t available as they didn’t offer any classes online. I thought of applying to a school in Toronto but I wasn’t able to a) register for the Fall semester as I needed to apply from the beginning, and b) take the GRE exam which was required of all foreign students. Since I already had been accepted to Stevens from before, I decided to register for courses at approximately $3,000 a course – almost 10 times what I was paying before. Due to the financial burden coupled with the inability for me to take out student loans from my location, I was forced to take one course a semester for a very different reason. Also, the fact that Stevens refused to accept my graduate credits from Touro really meant I had to start again from scratch. Thankfully I lost only two courses and not more – this happens. However, this also meant I lost a full year of schoolwork.

In 2011 I was asked at work to drop a semester in order to work on a daily deal website project that potentially could have brought in a lot of money. I didn’t drop anything, launched the daily deal site and still managed to somehow pass my classes.

Later that Summer, though, my wife and I had found devastating, much sadder, news that the child she was carrying – our second one – had a rare, potentially deadly heart condition known as HLHS. After my not being able to function for 3-4 weeks upon hearing such news, I took advice from family to not register for courses for a full year until the fetus’ potential second heart operation at 4-6 months was successful, as I would end up spending all of my time not being at work in the hospital. I took that advice and it was one of my smarter decisions as that schedule proved to be too stressful and time-consuming that I would not have been able to focus on anything else. Sadly, our son passed away at seven and a half very long weeks of life.

After the traumatic phase which essentially amounted to eight months of hell, my wife and I took the necessary time to grieve. Once that storm had passed, my wife and I agreed that it was time for me to finish my schooling once and for all. So, with three courses left, I registered for three straight semesters – Summer to Spring, with hopes that no more surprises would come.

Miraculously, a year after my son was born, my wife and I were blessed with our third child – a girl, born January 16th of this past year. It was at around this time that I was starting my 12th and hopefully final class at Stevens, at which point I emailed the professor of the final course I had to take about potential hiccups in my schedule. She kindly advised me to take a lighter course or drop this class because it might be too tough. While I understood where she was coming from, I didn’t feel so bad as I had gone through tougher and was determined to finish. Thankfully I was able to, with a respectable Grade Point Average (GPA) to boot.

stevens-diploma

Graduation_Cap_and_Diploma

Bottom-line, if I had listened to every person advising me to take off this semester, that semester, because of personal firsts or hardships, it’s likely that I would have dropped out a long time ago. We all go through personal hardships. However, the trick is to adapt and never lose sight of the main goal.

Just thought I would share my story. If you’d like feel free to share this with your colleagues and friends looking for reasons/excuses why finishing school is so tough. Money and scheduling is tough for everybody.

Wishing everyone an amazing summer,

-Rafi

  • Farrukh Alavi

    Wow – that was a very inspirational, and at time heart wrenching story. I am also in my 7th year of what was supposed to be a 2-year Master of Arts degree. It has been so long, and I have been advised to quit school and “start my life” by so many people, but your blog has really given me a boost today. Especially this part,

    “Bottom-line, if I had listened to every person advising me to take off this semester, that semester, because of personal first or hardships, it’s likely that I would have dropped out a long time ago. We all go through personal hardships. However, the trick is to adapt and never lose sight of the main goal.”

    My heart goes out to you and your wife over your loss, and thanks for sharing. It was really very helpful.
    Thank you so much!
    Farrukh Alavi
    Ottawa, Canada

    • Hello Farrukh,

      Thank you for reading this post and I am happy you drew inspiration from what I personally went through. Yes, if you are so close to finishing up your degree you should just get it over with and not lose sight. In a sense, while no knowledge is truly wasteful, it would be a terrible feeling upon realizing that your tens of thousands of dollars of hard-earned money went to waste since you didn’t end up earning your degree. My attitude is that if you started it, it only makes since to get it over with and complete it, “by hook or by crook.”

      Best of luck in you completing your degree in a timely manner!

      -Rafi

  • Orit

    Was there not also someone who told you NOT to stop?

    • Yes, Imma. You were the one that told me to continue, pace myself, and promise you that one day I would get it. That promise has been fulfilled 🙂

      Batsheva was a big supporter since, well I already started it so considering the exhorbitant costs I’d might as well finish it. It would have been more costly for me to drop out given the odds.

      • I think I also recall Arthur Budick, my instructor for English comp 102 and Literature, mentioning during the Landers graduation ceremonies that I should attend grad. school.