Tips For Success – GMS

Alumni Perspective: Aarón Villarreal on “Being an Inaugural Scholar”

Aaron_Villarreal

Being a Gates Millennium Scholar has afforded me numerous opportunities.  I am currently completing my third year of doctoral studies, and am concurrently writing my dissertation.  GMS has positively impacted my educational endeavors in numerous ways.  First, they have assisted me financially and academically.  Through the scholarship, I have not only obtained my Bachelor’s degree, but have also obtained my Master’s, and am about a year away from completing my doctorate.  I know that without the unlimited services and resources provided by GMS, my successes academically would have been restricted.

As a scholar, I frequently reflect on the University of Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies Scholar, Practitioner, Leader Model (SPL).  This innovative approach to learning assists me in developing as a Scholar—a leader who enriches the world, starting with my community.  Additionally, the learning is coupled with contributions focusing on supporting lifelong learning (scholarship), social and workplace contribution (practice), and the ability to exert positive influence (leadership) in my academic, professional, and personal life.

This past Spring Break, I was one of about 60 scholars who participated in the Alternative Spring Break in Portland, Oregon (see pictures above and below).  This experience was empowering and uplifting; it was something that I needed to get me through the dissertation stage.  It felt great convening with other scholars and the experience challenged me in a multitude of ways.  It was great giving of my time to give to others that are in need.  As stated by Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  Through GMS, I have been able to explore other cities, and participate in the attendance at various conferences, such as the Institute of Teaching and Mentoring.

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The goal of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential.  I can certainly affirm that I am near the intended goal set forth by GMS.  I will soon obtain my doctorate and will put forth theory into practice.  I am a testament of the wonders GMS has provided.  #IAmAGatesScholar

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As the Senior Relationship Manager for the Alumni program I often get questions about graduate school. I get these questions from brand new alumni, as well as alumni who have worked for a few years, have been on deferment and are now considering going back to school, both funded and non-funded areas. I hope to answer some of these questions in my next few blog posts.

When I applied to graduate school it was after much deliberation with my mentors but very little understanding of the process. The process itself can be very confusing and so I wanted one of my first posts to the community to be about this process. I will be sue to write a separate post just in the graduate program inquiry form and the Gates portion of that process, but I wanted to give some helpful tips on where to start and what to do.

First, where are you in the process? Are you a recent grad and have you gained work experience in the field you’re interested in studying? Have you decided in the specific field? What made you choose this field instead of something similar? Have you looked into schools or programs? Have you spoken to advisors, faculty members or admissions people in those fields?

After you’ve decided on what you want to do (which is often the hardest part) the next step is developing plan for getting there.

What is your action plan? Some of your action plan will be decided for you. Depending on the type of program, you may need to start studying for standardized test. Whether that is the GREs, SOPHAS, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT or another, you want to give yourself plenty of time to not only take the test, but potentially retake the test if your not satisfied with your score. If your applications are due in January 2017, you should AT LEAST been studying by January 2016 and many advisors recommend taking the test some time in that spring, planning ahead for a retake that summer, if necessary. Some schools average scores while some take the highest score. Find out what your top choice prefers.

Often, applications require personal statements and recommendations. I will go into more detail about these in another post, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked for a recommendation and had to say no. With my schedule, I can’t write you a decent recommendation with only a week notice. The most common mistakes I see mostly revolve around poor planning. Give your recommender at least a month and help them help you. More on this here: http://www.gmsalumni.org/p/bl/ar/blogaid=22.

Overall, the graduate school process is stressful. Help GMS help you. As you apply for your graduate schools, if you are trying to get GMS funding, you should be submitting your graduate program inquiry form at the same time. This is a form that allows us to evaluate whether the core curriculum of your program truly fits into one of our seven funded fields. We reach each of these individually, so please narrow down your search and submit no more than (preferably) 5 programs.

And last thing I will leave you with: picking a graduate program is all about best fit. When I applied to school I got into a graduate program that was s 2nd in the nation for education at that time. Although it was a great program, it was clear across the country. The program that I was looking for was specifically Higher Education Administration and Counseling Student Personnel. The program I chose was top 5 and top 10 in both and provided a better financial package. I couldn’t have been happier with my decision because it was what was best for me.

Looking forward to talking and discussing those very important topic with you all. If you’d like to follow my blog, please click the heart on the top left to favorite the blog on the www.gmsalumni.org online community and be sure to follow me!

If you’d like to be part of our blog team, let us know also! #GMSLOVE

Why College Is Worth It

Many high school students think of college as the ticket to a bigger salary, and statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show a strong relationship between a college degree and earnings. But higher potential earnings are only the beginning of the benefits. Surveys show that people with a college education enjoy a higher quality of life and have increased personal and professional mobility. A college education lets you choose a field that truly interests you and earn a living doing something you love. Doing what you’re good at and what you love will provide you with contentment that money can’t buy.

Gain Skills to Last a Lifetime

College also teaches you how to think critically, an ability that’s worth its weight in gold. Mastering this art means having the ability to examine things from every angle before arriving at a conclusion. You’ll be trained to analyze any problems you encounter and decide the best ways to resolve them—a skill that will pay off for the rest of your life. Smart conclusions lead to smart decisions, whether you’re figuring out which car to buy, wrestling with a personal problem or weighing the pros and cons of a job opportunity. At the same time, the improved written and oral communication skills you gain in college will help you express yourself effectively and make a good impression anywhere, in any situation.

Be a Better Person

Other benefits of a college education affect your heart and soul as well as your intellect and wallet. Being part of a college community can help you develop your code of ethics, strengthen your tolerance and sharpen your sense of responsibility. Also, the more knowledgeable you become the more confident and comfortable you’ll feel in any situation and with any group of people. These characteristics are incredibly important in today’s global society.

A Wide-Angle Lens on the World

College gives you the “big picture” of the world, and your point of view will no longer be bound by the limits of your experience. You’ll explore multiple areas and you’ll become well-rounded—not just the “science-wiz” or “bookworm” you may be now. And of course, with all this newfound wisdom, you’ll gain self-confidence, enabling you to tackle virtually any situation or problem you confront with a can-do attitude.

Put it all together: You owe it to yourself to get a college education in any field, at any college into which you are accepted.