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Grad School: Not exactly another two years of college

January 19, 2012

As we approach my last semester of my MA program, I’m starting to feel I am credible to speak on The Graduate School Experience.  So here are some hypothetical questions and actual answers that I imagine folks may have.

A degree in Communication? So, like, broadcasting?

Well, in high school, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and that’s what initially got me interested in Communication.

What’s your schedule like?

It’s actually pretty great, but you have to have epic time management skills to see how great it is. Last semester, I taught three days a week in the afternoons and I took two of my own classes in the evenings. This kind of schedule is not necessarily conducive for Annoying Morning People like me, but I’ve learned to make the most of it. I got to school around 8am, hit the gym, and then get to work in the office I share with 15 other teaching assistants until class time.  Sure, it means two days a week I’m at school from 8am to 9pm, but those are my productive days.  At the end of the semester, my weekends are spent writing, so it doesn’t feel like I ever have a weekend, but I guess that also means it doesn’t feel like I ever have a Monday, either. The bottom line is I get to work on my own time and set my own schedule (aside from class time). This semester, my commuting is a bit lighter as I only have to be on campus three days a week, but the work is more rigorous as I prepare for my comprehensive exams.

What kind of stuff do you write?

I’ve discussed this before, but last semester I wrote a paper on the global movement of the Iron Chef format, a review of Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, and my thesis.  My thesis is a critical analysis of life-coaching blogs and image aggregators (think: Pinterest) and the proliferation of postfeminist ideology in social media. I’ll probably post snippets of it on the blog if there’s any interest.

What do you want to do with your Masters?

I’ve applied to Ph.D. programs and am waiting to hear back. Big dreams include being a professor, writing a book, and traveling to conferences.

Would you recommend going to grad school?

It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s right for me. I am passionate about learning, thinking critically, discussing, and reading. Grad school provides the opportunity to do this at a level I didn’t think possible.  And it’s catered to your specific interests… no need to take biology or religion ever again. But you have to really want to go to school. The choice to go into a graduate program, especially in the humanities, shouldn’t be “Because nothing else is working out.” The choice needs to be deliberate and because you want to go. Be prepared for a lot of hard work, a lot of stress, and little immediate gratification. If you don’t feel like a total failure in your first year, you’re doing it wrong. But if you stick with it, you may begin to actually enjoy it, and then you’ll know it’s the right choice.

What’s been the best part about being in grad school?

Being around curious, inquisitive, like-minded people is my favorite part. I can argue with dear friends whether or not objectivity is possible in research, why exactly I prefer Leslie Knope to Liz Lemon, and the social construction of race.  In fact, at this precise moment, my peers are discussing Aristotelian enthymemes in rhetoric. Yup.

My friend went to grad school. She said it was just like another two years of undergrad.

It’s not.  It’s more like a job than it is school, especially if you go full time. I don’t stay up late like I did in undergrad, I don’t party like I did in undergrad, and I’m a billion times more focused than I ever was in undergrad. I’m much more responsible in every aspect of my life now that I’m in grad school.

Any other questions?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2012 1:26 am

    Sometimes people assume that because I’ve dedicated so much of my life to grad school that I think everyone should go to grad school, but actually I share your opinion that you should only do it if it is really what you want. I received the advice early on that I shouldn’t get a PhD unless I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I can actually imagine myself doing something else, but at a certain point I knew that it was absolutely what I wanted. Even if I end up doing something else and just have a really expensive piece of paper, it will have been worth it to me. And, yeah, I absolutely wanted to quit a million times in the first two years, but something kept me here!

  2. January 20, 2012 10:14 am

    I’ve thought about grad school, but for me it would be totally different, I’m a nursing major. I’m contemplating going to a form of specialized grad school to become a midwife, but it’s different from normal nursing school grad school. I just don’t see myself ever wanting to do much research or teach, so grad school would only be worth it if I want to be a nurse practitioner and at this moment in time, I don’t. PLUS they are changing the laws and by 2014 I would be required to get a Ph.D, not just a graduate degree.

  3. Ashley permalink
    January 20, 2012 12:44 pm

    As a grad school survivor (2.5 years in remission), I completely agree with everything you wrote. I thought back to my experience in grad school as I was reading this, and was able to pick out the people who treated it as another two years of undergrad, who are doing it because nothing else seemed to be working, or, as was popular in my program, corporate runaways who were in danger of getting laid off because there were younger, cheaper, versions of themselves vying for their positions (and needing to make a midlife career change because of that). It was somewhat painful being in class with this group of students because they were not as passionate as those of us who loved grad school were about the subject matter, or helping people change their lives for the better (I have my master’s in Social Work- that may be helpful…)- they just saw it as a means to an end. They didn’t realize the point that grad school is an entirely new way of thinking and living. I supervise interns now who are in the middle of the program I completed, and this is the first year I have someone who falls into the means to an end category, and it’s frustrating. We don’t have the ground-breaking, eye-opening discussions that I’ve had with interns in the past, and I feel like it’s my fault. I know now that it’s my job to help Intern understand how to get the most out of what is being paid for, and I credit this blog post for that “ah-ha!” moment. Thank you!

  4. January 20, 2012 4:11 pm

    I AM SO INTERESTED IN YOUR THESIS.

  5. January 20, 2012 7:11 pm

    “If you don’t feel like a total failure in your first year, you’re doing it wrong.”
    Yes, yes, YES. I could kiss your face for that.

    Also, what Doniree said 🙂

  6. January 20, 2012 8:58 pm

    It’s weird, but my grad school experience seriously is nothing like what you described here. I wish that it was, I really do. Your schedule, while hectic and a lot of work, was what I wanted, but didn’t get. The college I went to didn’t really focus on Education and so our classes often got cancelled and then taught as “independent study,” a euphemism for: “read this book, write a paper on it, e-mail it to your professor, done.” I am really interested in your thesis. Oh, and I am almost done writing a powerful woman monologue that I need to send you! Just need to figure out a way to wrap it up. Great post!

  7. January 20, 2012 8:59 pm

    *experience was seriously nothing like

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