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You won’t regret it.

Robert S.
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
University of Missouri – Columbia, 2009

I am the youngest of four children. My parents each have college degrees, and by the time I was in high school, all three of my older siblings had gone to college, so it seemed natural for me to put myself on the same track. I began college as an undecided major, then I switched to a business major, but the field didn’t click with me. Finally, after two years of college, I knew I had to make a real decision, so I thought about what I really liked to do. I enjoyed helping people, and I loved English in school, so I decided to be an English teacher.

I went to a “directional” college, Northwest Missouri State University, and graduated with a comprehensive bachelor of arts degree in English/journalism, secondary education. I taught for three years and decided that it was time to work on my master’s degree. I went to another directional school, Southwest Missouri State University, which is now called Missouri State, in Springfield. I first got my master’s degree in secondary education, then after taking a semester off, I got my specialist degree in secondary administration with an emphasis in superintendency.

Two years later, I applied for and was accepted into an educational doctorate program through the University of Missouri – Columbia. This program required students to be on campus for four weeks each summer, then we took classes at several outlying places around the state. I took my fall and spring classes at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. It took two years to complete the course work, and then it took me two more years to finish my dissertation. I didn’t work as hard on the dissertation as I should have at first because I fell into the trap of convincing myself that I was burned out. Had I gotten right to work on the dissertation, it could have easily been completed in one year.  Don’t procrastinate with your education; it’s always advantageous to get it done faster.

The University of Missouri offers an educational doctorate program that is cohort based, meaning you work with the same group of students throughout your program, doing projects and taking classes together. This was ideal for me since the new cohort was scheduled to start the same year I got a new job as a principal of a high school with 1,500 kids, and I could count on help and offer help to other people who were in the exact same place of their educational program as I was.  You’ll often learn as much from your fellow students as you will from your professors.

There was a lengthy application process that required a philosophy of education, as well as three letters of recommendation from professional sources. The application process was just as involved as applying for any job I’ve ever had.

The next part of the process was an onsite interview. The year I interviewed, the cohort had gone from 70 people to 110. There were probably at least twice that many people there to interview for those slots. I felt intimidated because I didn’t know what to expect; I was just over 30, and there were several people with much more experience than me. In retrospect, I can see there was nothing to worry about. Just like all interviews, this was a chance for me to sell myself. If you are a good fit, you’ll get in; if you don’t get in, then that particular school and program probably wouldn’t have been a good fit for you.  Don’t forget that you get to ask questions and interview the school to make sure you’re going to get everything you need out of the program.

I was accepted into the program. For four days a week for four weeks, during two summers, I had to live in Columbia, Missouri, and take classes on that campus. One of the difficult decisions for me was leaving my wife with two small children at home. We decided that if I was going to get a doctorate, this was the time. Our children were young enough that they wouldn’t have any memory of me being gone those two summers. For us, it was the right decision.

I cannot deny that there is a little bit of a snooty feeling about getting my degree from the University of Missouri. There are at least two other private universities in our state that offer doctorate programs, but they cost twice as much and don’t have as strong academic reputations. I am glad I was willing to work harder and pay less, and I believe learn more (or at least as much) for my degree.

I went into debt about $15,000 to get my degree. However, I am now a superintendent, and I believe my doctorate was a big part of this promotion. With federal student loans, I only have to pay about $150 a month for a degree that has given me knowledge and confidence in the field of education. I wouldn’t change a thing.

EduTrek Comments

  • Carefully weigh the decision of going to school and taking on debt to how your education will affect your career.  Robert went into about $15,000 of debt, but used his education to advance his career and was able to keep his monthly repayments low.
  • Take advantage of learning opportunities and the insight of fellow classmates; your professors aren’t the only ones who you’ll get your education from.
  • Interviewing can be an intimidating process; remember this is your chance to sell yourself and also to interview the school to make sure it’s a good fit for you.