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Should You Go To Grad School?

Should You Go To Grad School?

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Should You Go To Grad School?

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  1. Should You Go To Grad School?

  2. Only go to grad school if: • You know what you want to do and that you need a graduate degree to do it • You have a plan to pay for it AND • You feel ready • If not, wait! Try other things! Apply again!

  3. Grad school is a professional degree • It is training and a degree for a specific job • It is often a requirement for a specific professional license • It does not transfer easily to other fields

  4. Do not go to grad school if: • You are good at school and think you should keep doing it • You do not know what profession you want to be in • To learn more about a topic • To try out a new career • A program looks cool

  5. Instead • Decide what you want to do before grad school • Do an internship or volunteer • Interview people in that field about their jobs • Ask to shadow them • Try to get entry-level work in those fields • Take more undergraduate classes, online classes, or workshops in those fields

  6. Good reasons to get an MA, MSW, JD, MD, etc • It is a licensing requirement or a de facto requirement for a career you have already trained in, worked in, studied for, and still want • You have funding or are guaranteed a job that will let you pay back your loans

  7. Good reasons to get a PhD • You love independent research and big projects • You want to be a professor • Six years of classes and research sound really interesting even if you don’t get a job afterward • You know that the academic job market sucks and you’re ok with that

  8. Money • Look into financing before you decide to apply • Do not go to a program you can’t pay for • Avoid predatory or cash cow graduate programs

  9. Ways to finance grad school • Stipends and tuition waivers: • available to students who teach or do research with faculty • much more common for PhDs • Stipends amount to minimal cost of living • Best common way to pay for school

  10. Ways to finance grad school • Grants and fellowships • Available to students doing specific types of research or service, or from underrepresented groups • From the school, foundations, or governments • Usually have to apply 6 months to a year in advance • Can pay tuition and/or stipend, amounts vary • Best way to finance grad school, but hard to get

  11. Ways to finance grad school • Loans • Easiest way to quickly get money • Public and private sources, public usually better • Public: lots of options for paying back that tie to income, multiple loan forgiveness programs, but you can’t discharge in bankruptcy • Private: fewer limits, faster, you’re screwed if you fall behind on payments • Only take out loans if you are sure that the job you get afterward enables you to pay them back

  12. Money • Students almost always have to pay for masters and professional degrees; most take out loans • PhDs pay students stipends and tuition waivers; do not do a PhD without funding • The exceptions are shorter professional PhD programs in fields like audiology where graduates go into high income jobs immediately

  13. Money • Look into financing before you decide to apply • Finding money: Ask the schools • Meet with financial aid officers • Ask for teaching and research assistant appointments • Ask for scholarships and fellowships • Get a list of recommended external grants to apply to • Do this as you apply because many things take a year to apply to, review, notify, and start

  14. The Application Process

  15. The Application Process • It takes about a year • It costs money • It takes a lot of time • It is a good idea to take your time and apply multiple times • Try until you get the program you want and the funding you need

  16. Application timeline • A year and a half before you want to start: decide what you want to do and find programs • A year and a few months before starting: study for the GRE and start drafting your materials and asking for letters • 8-12 months before you start: apply • 3-8 months before you start: schools notify you, you may do fly-outs or interviews

  17. How to find programs • Go to U.S. News and look at the rankings in your field: https://www.usnews.com/education • Look at the top 50 programs, preferably top 20 • Then find a list of 6-12 that specialize in what you want to do • Go to their websites, look at the faculty, look at the program info

  18. How to find programs • Ask your professors • Ask professionals in your field • You will probably need to specialize (definitely if you are getting a PhD). • Look into specializations before grad school • Tell your professors what you want to do and ask their advice on specialization • Use this info to help choose a program

  19. How to apply • Most programs take applications for the following year in December-February, and start fall semester • Different schools have different applications; look at their websites. You can also call. • Apply to at least 6, no more than 12 programs (for most fields) • Most applications have a fee; this can be waived

  20. How to apply • Most programs require test scores: GREs, LSATs, MCATs • Study for AT LEAST a month before taking these • Study guides are very helpful, you do not need expensive tutoring • Cost money to take; several hundred dollars • Try to take it multiple times

  21. How to apply • Personal statement • Very important, often most important • Draft, draft, draft • Start early and show it to multiple people in your field • Demonstrate that you are a unique and interesting person who will contribute to the program • Demonstrate that your are good at and know about what you want to do (research, law, medicine, etc)

  22. How to apply • Letters of recommendation • Should be from people in your field; outside doesn’t count • Should be well-known in your field • Ask early, sit down with your recommenders, and send them all of your materials • Ask them if they will write you a strong letter

  23. Getting rejected • Acceptance at any one program is a somewhat random process; apply to many • If you don’t get into a program you want to be in, wait and apply again • Ask for feedback • Your application will be better next time • It’s better to wait and try again than to spend years of your life in a subpar program

  24. How to decide what school to go to • Hopefully you get multiple acceptances: visit and then decide • Make a decision with this criteria: Go where you’ll have • the least debt • the best job prospects • the best training • the best mentorship • where you want to live

  25. How to decide what school to go to • Negotiating • You can and should ask schools for more money • Use your other offers to try to get money from them • Ask them once, nicely, in an email or phone call

  26. What to expect • Grad school is hard: expect to work at it like a 60 hour a week job. • Grad school can be isolating: make new friends • Everyone around you will be really smart; learn from them

  27. What to expect • Get good at time management • Do not try to work another job and go to grad school • Get used to rejection and criticism • Ask for feedback and help

  28. If you hate it • It’s ok to realize that grad school isn’t for you • It’s ok to leave: 50% of people that start PhDs don’t finish • Figure it out sooner rather than later and go do something else • Good company: https://thoughtcatalog.com/cat-aleman/2014/06/after-3-years-i-left-grad-school-and-it-was-the-best-decision-i-ever-made/

  29. Extra Resources • Everything in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed • Lifehacker: https://lifehacker.com/seven-things-i-wish-i-knew-before-going-to-graduate-sch-1609488711 • More things to know about PhDs: http://danielmccormack.net/blog/some-lesser-known-lessons-from-academia/

  30. Extra Resources • Harassment and abuse in academia: • https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/dealing-abuse-grad-school • https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/10/when-will-the-harvey-effect-reach-academia/544388/ • https://tenureshewrote.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/toxic-academic-mentors/

  31. Extra Resources • People of color in academia: https://medium.com/@cmilanjones/grad-school-is-trash-for-students-of-color-and-we-should-talk-about-that-af672814b3ee

  32. Extra Resources • Mental health in grad school: • https://www.chronicle.com/article/Grad-School-Is-Hard-on-Mental/240626 • https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/mental-health-issues-among-graduate-students

  33. Comic Relief • http://phdcomics.com • http://whatshouldwecallgradschool.tumblr.com • (and whatshouldwecalllawschool, whatshouldwecallmedschool) • https://legogradstudent.tumblr.com