Grad School, Opinions, Special Projects

Five percent means one of us

When I applied to grad school, 5% wasn’t even a thought on my mind. Five percent? I hate numbers. I failed math in high school and then again in college. I had to fight to pass statistics with a C, and even then, I was told not to bother. Five percent? I’m not even sure I have $5. I’m not even sure what 5% of anything means.

But, yes, 5%. That’s the percentage of Latinos in the U.S. who hold a master’s degree. Every 1 out of 20 Latinos in the U.S. managed to make it through the “don’t bothers” and came together to make just that…5%. I happen to be one of those 20 people in-progress. And though I’d like to think so, there’s really no guarantee I’ll be part of that group. Other numbers – the loans in my name, miles commuting, my GPA, the unemployment rate, my income, the recession – dictate the probability of my success. My face is merely a side on a 20-sided dice.

But, yes, 5%. Though I’ve made it through the door, I have to be honest – graduate school is very draining. College costs are insane, commuting is expensive, and housing is scarce. Plus, the amount of hours you work limits the time you have for homework and rest. We must constantly be dividing our hours to make it through another day. And despite all these efforts – isn’t the master’s degree the new bachelor’s? How do we know the job market will like us any better?

But, yes, 5%. I can’t speak for anyone – I can hardly speak for myself. I’m still figuring it out in the midst of my program. I know that I love learning German and Russian and reading the corresponding literature. I know that I’ve made connections, gotten involved on campus like I wished since I got accepted, and became the first in my family to attend graduate school. Most importantly, I know that I’m learning a lot about myself, as a student and person, and preparing for my future career in publishing. Still, will I graduate? Will others like me graduate with me? I wish I could calculate the answer to this question.

While I often fail numbers, I don’t want to fail this one. But, should other Latinos be up for it, they are the number that I’ll always be rooting for. They’ll be my 5%, and I hope to someday be theirs.

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