Cram Session

1 Nov

I started my Master’s program the fall after I received my Bachelors degree.  That was back in 2000.  After a year of coursework, I ended up getting a job and putting my MA studies on hold– for seven years.  My credits were only good seven years after I started the program, so at a certain point (and once I was physically back in San Diego, where the university is located), I thought, “holy crap!  I am too close to being done to not finish this degree!”  After that, I took one or two classes each semester, while working full-time, and finished at the last possible minute before my time was up.

Now, I don’t think of myself as a procrastinator.  Though it’s certainly true that I do better when I have more going on than less.  But I found myself in a similar situation recently with the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) process.  Getting your APR is often compared to the CPA process for accountants.  It’s rigorous and not everyone does it; also, you don’t have to be a CPA to be a good accountant in the same way there are plenty of people in PR who don’t hold APR but are quite talented.  To get your APR, you have to have worked in PR for at least five years.  Then you apply to the Universal Accreditation Board, a body made up of representatives from a variety of PR organizations (including the Public Relations Society of America, to which I belong).  Once your application is approved, you write 16 essays that speak to your experience/expertise in key areas and put together a portfolio.  A panel of people who hold APR review your essays and ask you questions, and you walk them through your portfolio, with them asking more questions.  If that goes well, you’re advanced to take the computer-based exam; more than 180 questions on the history of PR, ethics, the PR process, advanced communications skills, media law, etc.  If you pass (you have to get somewhere around 70% of the questions right), you are deemed to have earned your APR.
All that to say, it’s a long process.
Once you do your Readiness Review (the essays and panel) and are advanced, the clock starts ticking.  You have one year to take the computer-based exam.  In my case, that year flew by without my making any progress in studying for the exam.  I was happy when I got an email saying candidates could pay a small fee and get an extra six months.  I gladly paid and then… well, time flew again.  I realized about two months ago that my extension was running out and resolved to just take the darn test.  I did some studying but put off registering for the exam until about a month out.  When I did register, I did it for the last possible day– October 31, the day my extension expired.  I figured I would either end up with a “trick” or a “treat,” so why not do it on Halloween?
As it turned out, like my MA program, it worked out fine.  I passed the test and will soon be receiving official notice from the Accreditation folks that I’ve officially earned APR.
Maybe next time I go for continuing education or professional development, I won’t wait so long?  Nah.  Probably not.

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