Grad School: Not exactly another two years of college
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?