Why I Went to Grad School and How I Picked My School

Why I Went to Grad School and How I Picked My School
by Cinthia Lee

"Allowing one's personal aspiration to fall victim to life's hardships may be a desirable solution, but also a costly sacrifice" - Anonymous

It takes perseverance, drive and passion to rise above the difficulties in life. But I believe a long-term goal always serves as a light at the end of the tunnel. When I applied for my doctoral program, my goals were simple and certain: intellectual enrichment and applying knowledge to better help those in need of a helping hand. My life experiences have led me to appreciate the value of this goal.

Perhaps, it was my father who inspired my thirst for knowledge. Born in a farmer's family  his father's early death forced him to give up a fantastic education opportunity at the foremost university in Taiwan, and plunged him into the job market right after high school. As the first son in the family, he was obligated to earn the tuition and living expenses for his younger brother and sister. 

A short while after that, he had to raise his own family, four girls and a boy. Being the youngest among his four daughters, I would not be surprised if he had given me up for adoption since the financial burden of the family was extremely heavy on him, and girls were not perceived as precious during the traditional Chinese era.

Nevertheless, I saw how my father worked his way up from a poor farmer to the president of a machinery company. Ultimately, he kept me. Not only that, my father was able to provide all of his five children with good education opportunities, a gift he valued so much yet was not able to enjoy himself.

Knowledge to me is like a bottomless gold mine. Through the years of my BS and MA study, I grew tremendously in the knowledge of special education, and gained invaluable professional experiences.

The graduate assistantship during my MA years allowed me to deeply investigate the field of educational research, administration, professional conferences, and specialized technology. Several professors in my program recommended I further dedicate myself in doctorate study.

The school I picked was consented among the professors as one of the outstanding special education programs in this country. Based on their professional advice and my personal research I felt confident in my ability to reach my goals of intellectual enrichment and experiential influence to special needs students.I was very interested in continuing the research I began in my MA program. 

My MA program touched upon the theoretical and practical problems  in the curriculum design  integrated with adaptive technology for inclusive education.  Among the five schools I applied to, University of Washington (UW) stood out among the top two, it had outstanding professors and publications in the research of curricula and inclusive education. In particular, the school provided an Experimental Education Unit (EEU) established by its Special Education program to provide inclusive educational services for kids in the community; DO-IT program is sponsored by the university to offer adaptive technology resource and assistance for youngsters. 

What these pieces of information suggest is that UW is most likely to offer the resources that are not only valid to my research interests and but enable the implementation of my research objective.

So, did I choose UW over others? Have I found my goals too idealistic to be achieved? Despited unexpected challenges, one thing has not depreciated the value of the pursuit of scholarship inspired by the hardship that my Father went through during his life.

Being a grad student is a treasured opportunity in life. Have you discovered that treasure yet? 


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