Doubts – is it going to be worth it?


Doubt. This five-letter word can be a thief. It can steal hope, happiness and pride. Webster tells us that the word doubt means to be uncertain, lack confidence in or distrust. Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish something has had some degree of doubt. For graduate students and those considering graduate school, doubt can be overwhelming, and in some cases debilitating.

For those who are considering graduate school or who are currently in graduate school, doubt can be a constant companion, and must be managed. The correct management of doubt can lead to increased confidence in abilities that can permeate all areas of personal and professional lives. Everyone has doubts about something. 

While graduate students at Tennessee Tech experience doubts just like any others, they are finding ways to navigate doubts and turn uncertainty into success.

For graduate students, time versus money versus goals can spark major doubts. Students must define their goals and then decide which is the right path to take to achieve those goals. 

For those who just completed their undergraduate degree and are going to immediately begin graduate school, the doubt may be “can I afford to continue my education?” or “can I afford not to continue my education?”

At this point, there should not be any doubt about being able to ‘handle’ the academic responsibilities, as confidence in those abilities should be high.

Malory Heidelberg of Jackson, Tennessee, originally wanted to be a dentist, but changed her major two years into her undergraduate degree after realizing she wanted to be a dental hygienist instead. She redefined her goals. With the changing of her undergraduate major came the realization that she wanted to get her master’s degree.  

“After the decision to change my career path, I knew I wanted to achieve my master’s,” Heidelberg said. “My passion is healthcare. I knew I needed to pursue both my loves.”

Once she received her bachelor’s, she started researching master’s programs in Tennessee that would let her take classes remotely so she would be able to keep her full-time job. She decided on the Master of Professional Studies degree program with a concentration in healthcare administration at Tech.

“Completing a remote program takes a lot of drive and focus. It is 100% achievable when you have amazing faculty like the ones at Tech,” Heidelberg said. “If you consider any master program remotely, choose a university that will support the students and their success. Out of all the universities I have attended, Tech has allowed me to feel like my work matters. I am proud to be completing my degree at Tech.”

Rachel Patterson of Wartrace, Tennessee, is pursuing her masters in professional studies degree with a concentration in healthcare and she will be the first person in her family to receive a master’s degree. For that fact alone, one would expect some doubt, however for her, the doubt came from others.   

“I had a lot of people that doubted me along the way, but I have never been so proud of myself for pushing through and achieving my goals. It is an amazing feeling,” Patterson said. “There are going to be times when you will want to give up, but getting your master’s will make it worthwhile in the end. I feel like getting my master’s is going to help me reach the dream that I have always desired and that is making a difference in healthcare.”

For the person who has been out in the workforce for years and wants to return to pursue their master’s degree, there can be various doubts. The reasons they want to achieve their master’s degree may vary from wanting to advance their current career, to wanting to completely change careers or perhaps just as a personal milestone or check mark on the bucket list.  

Doubts for those individuals, while like those already mentioned, may now include the “am I smart enough to go back to school” or “can I handle the workload with my current workload, homelife, kids?”  Added into this one might be “can I afford it at this stage of my life?” or “will I get any return on investment at this stage in my career”?

Mollie A. Mahan, a Cookeville native and Tech alumna, is pursuing her Master of Science in Community Health and Nutrition degree after being out in the workforce for almost 20 years. Does she have doubts that she could come back and succeed at his after all this time?  Absolutely, but her ambition and drive are stronger than her doubts. 

“I have these moments when I realize that I am actually doing this, and I am succeeding at it. For me, beginning this program is exciting and scary. I don’t know specifically what my future holds but I know that I am ready to start this journey,” Mahan said. “My children and husband are excited to see me grow professionally and gain overall confidence in myself. It’s going to be a great experience but not without struggles. I’m excited to look back to see how I’ve grown academically and personally.”

When one has doubts, talk to someone.  It may be a career professional, someone who has been through it already, or maybe just a friend or family member that will let one ‘vent.’ Sometimes all it takes is to simply ‘bounce’ ideas, concerns, and even doubts off someone else for them to become less scary and manageable. 

Is it normal to feel doubt?  Yes, however, one shouldn’t let doubt keep one from attempting new things or setting high goals. Overcoming doubt can boost self-confidence and lead to further successes. One step at a time, one assignment at a time, one day at a time, this is what leads to the fulfillment of those goals. Will there be stumbling blocks?  Yes, when one remembers the desire they had at the beginning to complete a master’s program, to improve, enhance or change their life, they can be overcome. 

Did you have doubts about pursuing your master’s degree?  What specific doubts did you have and how did you overcome them?

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