Student Experience: Transitioning from MA to PsyD

Many of the MA students at MSP decide to apply for our PsyD program after only a few months of the MSP student experience.  Here, one MA student reflects on her experience as she considers one program ending and another about to begin.  

I recently went to dinner with some undergraduate students who belong to the research team I used to be on at Saginaw Valley. They talked about their summer classes, and how they looked forward to graduating soon. And, of course, the stress of applying to graduate school. I told them not to worry, and while this experience is hard, they would be okay.

I tried to explain to them how much I love the school I go to, and how amazing my graduate experience has been, but it didn’t seem quite right. I left thrilled having met new people, but feeling as though I had not told them enough. I didn’t explain it well enough.

On my long drive back to my apartment, I tried to think of what I missed. I tried to think of what this experience has really meant. As I thought, I reminded myself that I needed to apply for graduation the next morning. For the first time since I began this program, I had to consider its ending. Almost exactly two months from when I am writing this, my cohort, among others, will be graduating. That’s it, master’s degree complete. And while some of us will be moving on the PsyD program and not technically “leaving,” this still marks a significant end.

I came to MSP eager to learn and experience graduate school. I had worked so hard to get there, and now that I was, I was going to take every opportunity that came my way. I walked into the atrium with fresh eyes, focusing on every microscopic detail and appreciating it for its place. I volunteered for what I could, took notes as fast as my hand could write, I worked with my first clients, and I drove home after class knowing I was doing something that made me feel whole.

My roommate and I decided to start a weekly “adventure Thursday,” where we go somewhere or do something we have never done before. Eventually, we made friends and they joined us on our Thursday adventures. We all continued to live our busy lives, all the while sitting in a room together for at least 12 hours a week. Somewhere between acclimating to the new environment, remembering to have fun, and remembering to do homework, I stopped slowing down and appreciating where I was. I think that is why something felt off when I described my graduate school experience to those research students.

Even though I love what I do, and I consider myself among a lucky minority that have found something that makes me feel fulfilled, I still need the occasional reminder. I need to remind myself of what I did to get here. I need to remind myself of the sacrifices I have made to chase this dream, like living apart from my husband, and seeing my sister and parents once every two months. I need to remind myself that MSP really has encouraged me to embrace and respect the person I am, and to be equally proud and humble.

I am happy to remind myself of the amazing people I have met, inside and outside of class, and how unique and vibrant they all are. I am honored to remind myself of the professionals I have encountered who care so greatly about my personal growth that they interrupt their day just to chat.

So, now that I’ve had a moment to think it over, I still don’t think I can say what it means to be where I am. I can say that it feels peaceful to know where I belong. I can say it feels uplifting to learn and understand the lessons taught in class. I can say its invigorating to be a part of an intense class discussion. But all of those are such personal experiences seen through only one lens. And as I have said, it’s not hard to lose perspective.

The most encouraging part of all of this to me, is that you can reclaim experience and perspective. Make the choice to do so, and the light comes flooding back. Appreciation is work, and happiness can be a choice.  

Michelle Justice is currently finishing up her MA at MSP.  She was accepted into the PsyD program and plans to begin this September.