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When Tayari Jones, author of "An American Marriage," spoke at UK on Oct. 2 about her book and experience in writing, I had already been questioning my options for graduate school. She had dropped out of one of my options, a Ph. D program, when she decided it wasn’t right for her. In her words, the program was teaching her how to be a bird watcher, as opposed to the bird itself. 

I’ve been thinking about graduate school for the past week because that seems like the best option for spreading my wings in the field of psychology. After being in K-12 for so long, taking tests that didn’t require complex thinking and classes that I didn’t want to take, I now desperately want the chance to soar instead of get dragged down. I had boiled it down to three options: Ph. D, Psy D or a Master’s in Social Work. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided on Social Work, but I’m still going to stick with psychology for undergrad.

I am already loving psychology even though I’m only in the introductory class, full of people only taking it to fulfill a gen-ed. This is the most fun I’ve had reading a textbook; I keep reciting facts from it, much to my friends’ dismay, and I’m already looking forward to the elective classes I’ll be taking later on.

After speaking with my psychology professor about graduate paths, Jones’ metaphor was confirmed: a Ph. D involves a lot of research and essay writing. Essentially I’d be observing people as opposed to working with them. A Psy D is more like being the bird, but it still takes many years and there’s less scholarship money in it. Debt can be a chain around candidates necks and decrease motivation. Social Work involves working with people early through three mandatory practicums, which are essentially internships. I won’t have the option of the one-year track since I’m not majoring in Social Work, but an extra year of doing something I love while also following a path to clinical psychology doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth like K-12 did.

Even though the Ph. D track is mostly paid for, the thought of not being able to “be the bird” terrifies me. All my life, my greatest skill has been thinking and imagining, but I didn’t know how to apply that to the real world. After reading about multiple psychologists in my textbook, I’ve found out that thinking can help you question norms that people have always accepted or overlooked. For example, the first well known psychologist, Wilhelm Wundt, asked people to look at random objects and say what first came to mind. Not to undermine the first laboratory experience, but only someone who thinks way too much would want to set up research like that. I may be one of those people, but I want to fly with others, not watch them from a telephone line by the street.

Some people say that the college years are the best years of your life. Since I’m already here, and I believe that this is the time for me to be who I am, I don’t want to give that up. The idea of being stuck in a cubicle somewhere or tied to a computer in a research lab makes me feel trapped. I need my education and work to feel like living. For me, that means learning what I’m interested in and being with people in the real world. The first step seems to be going well so far, and the second will hopefully happen soon through internships, studying abroad and the climax of my academic career: graduate school.