Abridged timeline:

  • September 2003-February 2004: Apply to 5 graduate schools.
  • March 2004: Receive news that I was admitted to all 5 graduate schools.
  • April 2004: Decide to attend UCLA for graduate school.
  • September 2004: Begin first year of graduate school.
  • May 2005: Take doctoral screening exam, and pass.
  • June 2005: Earn MA in Education and decide to participate in graduation ceremony. Only my brothers attend, everyone else couldn’t make it.
  • September 2005: Begin second year of grad school (or year of engagement). I end up being more disengaged than actually engaged in my coursework and work.
  • Summer 2006: Grapple with the question, should I stay or should I go?
  • October 2006: Begin third year of graduate school and decide to stay.
  • June 2007: Complete coursework.
  • September 2007: Begin fourth year and start meeting with study group for qualifying exam.
  • November 2007: Take qualifying exam. Earn a passing grade on 2 of the 3 papers, so I have to retake the exam.
  • December 2007: Retake general question for the qualifying exam.
  • January 2008:

    Dear Cynthia,

    I am pleased to inform you that the faculty of the Department of Education has reported that you have passed your written qualifying examination leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Yay. My parents asked me yesterday what this means. Well, it means I’m eligible to start working on my dissertation proposal. The proposal will be the plan for my study on Latino science students in college.

For the unabridged version, complete with excerpts from blog posts from the last 4 years or so, click the link below.

September 4, 2003
I’m supposed to be applying to graduate school, but I have yet to even look at any applications or even think about writing my personal statement. I need to talk to professors about potential programs I’ll be applying to and research the ones that I know I will be applying to in further detail. I can’t put this off, if I do I’ll end up doing a half-ass job on my applications which I can’t afford.

November 25, 2003
I have a serious case of writers block and anxiety over graduate school applications. I’m sorry for boring anyone who reads this. Who wants to know that I’ve almost completely overhauled my plans for graduate school? I’ve finally figured it out. I don’t want to do a program in counseling. What do I need to do that for? I already know enough. And yeah, I do enjoy counseling and working one-on-one with students, but I know that my long term goals are more than that. I want to be an administrator, decision-maker, policy analysis, professor, and researcher. Lofty goals, I know. I can’t do that with a degree in counseling, well not just with that. I need a PhD (and I will get one).

December 15, 2003
I walked over to Moore Hall, just up the small hill from my new office. I enter the building and walk down the long hallway to room 1009. I hand my application in the manila envelope to the HEOC student advisor. She opens it up while I ask her about submitting my GRE scores. She tells me to just bring the copy of the score report the ETS sent me and she’ll make a copy. So, I do just that. I leave Moore the same way I enter and on my way out I run into professor RR, one of the professors in HEOC I met with during the last two weeks. He recognizes me and says hello. As we exit the building, he asks, “You’re applying to HEOC right?”

March 17, 2004
I’m still walking on air today and tons of thoughts are swirling around in my head. I doubted I would be admitted to the doctoral program here [UCLA] simply because of the nature of the program and the competitiveness of the application process. I assumed I’d be rejected and then I could go do a master’s program at a school out of state. I’d earn my MA and return in a year or two to enter into the PhD program at UCLA.

April 7, 2004
I’m not going anywhere. UCLA is the place for me.

June 3, 2004
The truth is, I haven’t really thought about it [grad school] much, because when I do I get headaches and I feel mild anxiety attacks coming on. I know that I’m ready for it; the intensity of the coursework doesn’t scare me. I’m much more nervous about the thought of finances.

September 30, 2004
The bad attitude about school is all a ruse. The truth is I’m really excited about starting this program, my classes, and the research I’ll be helping out with. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I think the past two years as well as a restful summer have prepared me to take on this new role.

October 8, 2004
Hey, you want to know something? Graduate school is hard. Well, it’s not really the reading and the classes. So far, that has been okay…

So, classes aren’t too tough. The tough thing is work. It’s not even the hours, but the type of work. I feel like I’m hearing them speak in another language, but I know it’s English.

November 9, 2004
I don’t like graduate school. I take all that stuff back about missing school and looking forward to learning and research. I lied.

February 23, 2005
I’m beginning to get those feelings of self doubt. Did they make a mistake in admitting me? I swear, my GRE quantitative score was a fluke and my GPA was in two so-called easy majors. I never worked to my potential and always slacked off. I don’t have that luxury anymore.

May 3, 2005
I met with my advisor today. Among other things, she basically told me that I’m not meeting her expectations and she wonders what happened to my ganas. Everything she said was right. My job bores me, and I feel like I’m just tolerating the quantitative research because (1) I need a job, and (2) telling a superstar professor that I didn’t want to work at her illustrious research institute would not be good for my academic career.

May 14, 2005
Dear fantabulous fellow bloggers,

I got a question for you all. Do you have any idea where the hell my ganas disappeared to?

I’ve been looking for them since yesterday at 9:45 am when I picked up my [doctoral screening] exam questions. I searched for them at work, the internets, some blogs, flickr, under my bed, in my closet, around my desk, a few higher education books and old course readers, and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Venice and Motor. Pero nada. My ganas have vanished like those phantom WMD’s.

May 28, 2005
Dear Cynthia,
I am pleased to inform you that the faculty of the Department of Education has reported that you have passed your doctoral screening exam at the doctoral level. You now have official doctoral standing in the Department, and may continue working toward the PhD degree with a specialization in HEOC.

June 2, 2005
I decided today that I’m going to graduate. Well, that I will participate in the GSEIS graduation ceremony since I’m earning my MA. I asked my dad if he thought I should go through the ceremony or not. “Yeah, I think you should. It’s a milestone, right?” Yeah… it’s a milestone. Plus, my roommates and ex-roommate are graduating from their Master’s programs in education/teaching and social welfare.

October 17, 2005
We’re going through this mid 20s slump. We both feel uncomfortable in academia. He dislikes it even more than he did last year, and I’m struggling to keep up my motivation after I found out that my funding situation this year sucks. We decided that we need a support group. Last year, he was one of my main sources of support. Later, I got to know and trust a few others in the department, but he’s been one of the most consistent friends.

May 22, 2006
I’ve been generally very unmotivated in my studies since the year started. This is something that goes beyond just being bored with my classes. I’m working on it and have talked to my advisor about my problems. It felt really good to let her know what’s going on with me. Prior to a couple of weeks ago, she had no clue and I just avoided her.

May 23, 2006
I decided on Saturday afternoon that I want my parents to see me graduate again. Maybe that will help me get back on track with this thing called school.

October 4, 2006
I wrote out some of what I needed to tell my advisor on Tuesday night. I was less sure of my earlier decision and knew I couldn’t drop out without talking to my advisor and getting her feedback.

On Wednesday morning, Erica called from ~2,000 miles away. “You know, I’m on the stay in school tip, but I also want you to be happy,” she said. Our conversation was more like a counseling session and it was just what I needed. A few hours later, I spoke to my advisor. She was supportive, helpful and said everything I needed to hear.

I took me four months, but I made my decision last week. I’m sticking it out. Some day, you all will get to call me Dr. Cindylu.

November 22, 2006
You know what happened when I was doing all this reading and writing at the last minute (I still need to work on that bad habit)?

I was glad friends convinced me not to leave the program. As much as I grumble and claim that PhD programs are for suckers, I’m still a nerd deep down inside who thinks that research is fun, loves to write and can’t get enough of the methods section in qualitative papers.

September 11, 2007
Of course, I don’t want to fail [my qualifying exam]. I want to be prepared so that when I see the questions I’ll be set and know exactly how to answer them.

November 16, 2007
If you know me outside the realm of this blog, please call or text or email or IM to check in on me. I probably won’t respond, but it will be nice to know I have people behind me. And if you don’t know me outside the realm of this blog, you can still email or leave a comment. Just tell me to get back to work [on my qualifying exam]. Or just pray.

November 19, 2007
I turned in the exam a few minutes before the 11 am deadline…

I don’t feel too confident that I did well. I feel about two-thirds confident (there were three questions). And don’t tell me I did great, ’cause I know my work. I’m done with the crying and I think I’m okay with messing up or even failing. As Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley sings, “everyone fucks up, it’s gonna be okay

December 20, 2007
November: take qualifying exam. Doesn’t go so well. Have to retake one of three questions.


19 thoughts on “Retrospective

  1. dr. pz says:

    Hi Cindy,
    I am so proud of you and so very happy that you stuck it out. We need you…I need you on “this end.” We can start our own dr. chicana clique! 🙂 I promise it is well worth it!!!

  2. Beatriz says:

    Congratulations Cindy! It’s exciting news to here that you are one step closer to your goals. Best Wishes!

  3. First and foremost…
    You make me proud to be latino!!
    We may not be from the same “hood” but as a fellow latino I take great pride in knowing that someone I’ve met over this blogsphere has accomplished what most of us only wish we could do. I’m sure everyone is extremely happy for you, as I am.

    Congratulations Cynthia (

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s