My Grad School Experience (so far...)
Ahh, University! The large institution that praises itself on substantial educational attainment and developing the youngest minds of our generation in preparation for a future full of success. But, with all the glitz and prestige that comes from saying, "yes, I go to University," what do real students think of the whole experience? Now, if you're reading this then either a) you're considering applying to graduate school in the future, b) you're currently in the process of applying and want to know the scoop or c) you're just nosey, and if so then hey no judgement, I'm nosey too!
Let me give you a little educational background on little ol' me. I started out at Montessori at the age of 2 and loved every minute of it. I had the best teachers, learned my 12's times tables by the time I was 6, and could read and write by my first day of grade 1. Fast track to elementary school, I went to Catholic school, made some awesome friends, and then went on to high school...My high school experience was one I would not like to relive. People love to say high school was the best time of your life, but not for me and that's okay. I went to a high school that demanded perfection. Getting an 80% on a test or assignment was never good enough, and I pushed myself way beyond my limits to prepare myself for University expectations. Although I learned a ton from that experience and it helped me prepare for University, you really aren't ready for the pace University demands. I completed a 4-year undergraduate Honors BA in Psychology and Sociology at Western University in London, Ontario and decided to pursue my Master's degree immediately following my graduation in June 2017.
Let me tell you something...graduate school applications are no joke! The prep work for an application was equivalent to my class work, and the cost of even submitting a single application was ridiculous. Not to mention, the stress of waiting for a board of admissions advisors to decide your fate constituted for the worst experience of my life on record. It's not for the faint of heart people! I applied to 3 graduate school programs, 2 of which were through a brick and mortar University (Laurier and Western) and 1 was an online program. OMG online program, what?? You can actually do that?? Yes, you actually can! (shocking I know!) Since my patience was running out and my anxiety was through the roof, I decided to do some research on some online grad school programs that had been mentioned to me by a family friend. I came across Yorkville University and was thrilled to see they offered the exact same program that was being offered at Western! After doing some research, talking to some program advisors, and weighing my options, I finally put in my application, and within 2 weeks I was accepted into the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program! Although Yorkville is known for their online undergraduate and graduate programs, they also have campuses in New Brunswick and British Columbia so I will be looking forward to travelling to one of those provinces for my graduation next year!
Yorkville's MA in Counselling Psychology program, otherwise known as MACP, is a 2.5-year degree that is completed entirely online with an in-person placement in the last 7 months of the program. What I loved most about this program was the work experience I would be getting, something that a brick and mortar University currently did not offer as part of their graduate psychology programs. Work experience is crucial in the field of psychology so the more experience you have, the better the chances you'll have! I started the program in September 2017 and am now 6 months into it. So far, the learning experience has been great. I have learned SO MUCH in the past 6 months and have really connected with all the material, which makes me excited to start working in the field soon and preparing for the future of my career. However, it hasn't all been a smooth and easy transition. Going from a traditional University setting with lectures, class notes, and exams to an entirely online environment took some getting used to. I dealt with a lot of social isolation at first and felt as though it affected me negatively at times. The inability to get together with peers or talk through issues was something I had to get used to and learning 100% by myself was challenging. But, I have managed to adapt and have been finding great success so far with a 4.0 GPA in all my classes so far! With the start of my second trimester in January, I also decided to double up on my courses and complete my degree 8 months sooner (graduation is expected for April 2019). Although this requires so much work, time, and dedication to what I'm learning, I have been managing well so far and I am excited to be learning knowledge about psychology and developing skills in therapy.
Now, I've created a list of some pros and cons of my grad school experience so far to give you a summarized idea of what I have enjoyed and what I haven't so far throughout my journey.
-Convenience to learn online and on your own schedule
-Learning content at a quicker pace
-Work experience through placement opportunity
-Ability to do your work when and where you want to do it
-Set your own academic schedule
-Ability to buy online textbooks (PDF copies) for a fraction of the costs of hard copy texts
-An amazing community of Yorkville students on Facebook that have helped me tremendously and have given me the opportunity to make friends with people from across Canada and around the world!
-Learning from a great team of professors from around the world and getting so much insight into psychology abroad!
-Degree offers many work-related opportunities post graduation in schools, hospitals, and private practice (ex: registered therapist, psychotherapist/psychologist, school counsellor, addictions counselling, marriage and family counselling, suicide prevention, etc.)
-High cost for convenience with fewer advantages (no insurance, health coverage, student benefits, or student services)
-Lack of instant accessibility to professors or advisors when needing clarification
-100% independent learning (this was a pro for me but could be really challenging for individuals who need more direction)
-Technology glitches can become annoying
-Professor expectations differ significantly
-Assignment instructions are vague and unclear at times
In recent news, I recently accepted a position to do my placement at a local private practice in September 2018 where I will be offering FREE counselling sessions between September 2018-April 2019 in London and Woodstock. If you are interested in trying therapy for yourself or you know of someone who is interested, please feel free to contact me for more information. I will also be posting an update closer to the Fall to open up my sessions to anyone who is interested.
I hope this has given you some basic insight into my grad school experience so far and has encouraged you to pursue higher levels of education! If you have any other questions about my experience that I haven't touched on or you would like some information on the program or about my free counselling sessions in the Fall, please feel free to reach out!
UPDATE (Feb. 2020): I have written an updated blog post about my Yorkville experience, including some FAQs I have received in the past year since graduation. Please click here to read that post! Due to the number of email requests inquiring about what I have indicated in this post, I will no longer be responding to messages pertaining to my Yorkville experience. Thank you for your understanding!
Nicole (aka: registered psychotherapist-in-training)