Finish the dissertation, because you can’t put “Almost PhD” behind your name

This morning, my husband and I were talking about my upcoming day as a co-facilitator for the PROMISE Dissertation House (co-sponsored by PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP and The Graduate School at UMBC) and the numbers of students who are even calling my cell phone to ask if they can participate in the activity. I was up at 7AM fielding phone calls this morning! At the same time, I was saddened,  thinking about the numbers of students who have made sacrifices to be in a doctoral program, but then aren’t taking advantage of opportunities that will help them to finish the degree. My husband mentioned the line that I’ve used as a title for this post: “You can’t put ‘Almost PhD’ behind your name.” Similarly, whether you’re in graduate school or not, that theme can be applied to other situations.

If a job requires a high school diploma, it’s not often that one would be hired with almost a high school graduate” on the resume.  If a bank requires a $100 deposit to open a savings account, customers can’t expect the banker to open the account if they are  almost at the point where they will have enough money. One may receive sympathy about an almost situation, and even encouragement to continue to try harder, but it doesn’t change the fact that almost means not yet.

Why is this important? It is important because we live in a competitive world where there are plenty of people who are beyond almost. They have already completed their tasks. When I lived in the Chicago area and was a graduate student at Northwestern, Dr. Hycel B. Taylor, the late pastor of the church that I attended in Evanston, gave a famous sermon about people being stuck between the “no longer and the not yet.” He talked about the desert wanderings of the children of Israel in the Old Testament of the Bible, but also mentioned that people in our present day often wander in areas of discontent for far too long for a variety of reasons. In some cases, people wander for extended periods of time because they don’t take the advice of people who have traveled along the same paths. Others may feel that they need to try their own way first, and then they will use the tried and true methods that others have used. There are also understandable extenuating circumstances, e.g., financial, family, health, time, that represent roadblocks. However, view blocks in the road as temporary, and refuse to let “fear” be an apparition that looks like a stop sign in the desert. Even detours can be structured such that one still reaches the destination.  If there are obstacles that are blocking the path to completion, examine them and figure out what needs to be done so that each almost in life can transition to already!