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#59659 - 02/16/04 07:53 PM Graduate School
Masha Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 05/23/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Chicago, IL, USA

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As an offshoot of the discussion about partners' job searches, this thread is the place for questions, advice, complaints, and so forth.

I took out student loans for my M.A., which was probably a bad idea. When I went to apply to Ph.D. programs, I made sure that all my recommenders knew that I needed full funding, and a couple of them mentioned just that in my letters of rec. I knew that funding was a make-or-break proposition for me, and I chose my school accordingly.

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#59660 - 02/16/04 07:59 PM Re: Graduate School
Emily
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Registered: 10/01/03
Posts: 206

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My gloomy \:\) grad school post from the other topic:

The way it's usually explained is "In college you absorb/consume/learn, in grad school you produce".

Of course it depends on the program and the school. For me, I went into it expecting it to be like college but much more intense. Which would be really cool, by the way. But it's really more like an all-consuming, full-time job. You need ambition to know exactly what you want to do and the organization to actually pull it off without procrasting or second-guessing yourself too much. And you have to have the drive to spend all day, every day researching and writing and analyzing and reading. For the two years I was in grad school I spent every waking moment either working or feeling guilty for not working.

Which isn't to say that it's too difficult or not worth doing, not at all. It just doesn't have much to do with the undergraduate college experience. I wish I'd taken a little time in between to figure out what I really wanted and to gain some non-academic perspective.

On the other hand, I know one man who went straight from a very challenging undergraduate school to a low-key graduate program and he absolutely loved it. He even said it was relaxing in comparison. He's in engineering, not liberal arts, so the comparison may be apples and oragnes but still, every experience is different. Just don't feel pressured to make this decision too quickly. Good luck!

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#59661 - 02/16/04 10:45 PM Re: Graduate School
Marya
Ching Shih


Registered: 12/23/03
Posts: 273
Loc: Kentucky

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 Quote:
Originally posted by Emily:
I know one man who went straight from a very challenging undergraduate school to a low-key graduate program and he absolutely loved it. He even said it was relaxing in comparison.
This has been true for me as well - my undergraduate school was a fairly highly ranked liberal arts college and the curriculum and method of imparting knowledge to the students was basically on a graduate school level. I am now in a graduate program that in many ways is not as demanding as my undergrad work was - I find that what I did during those undergrad years at such a hard school more than prepared me for what I am doing now.

As far as funding .... that was a hard one. I stumbled around for several years, working as a bookstore manager, miserable that I could not afford grad school. I couldn't figure out how to swing it as a married person with bills to pay and only one car to share with my partner. We graduated from college with no savings, nowhere to live (had to move out of married student housing 4 weeks after graduation in the middle of winter)Though our undergrad school was tuition-free and we owed nothing in student loans, it took a couple of years for us to get financially stable. Fortunately for me, a part-time job at a local community college lead to a full-time position there and boom - all of a sudden I have tuition assistance. The college pays for me to take two classes a semester while I work, and that is how I am managing it. I also go during the summer, commuting an hour and a half away for four mornings straight then coming immediately back to town where I work teaching adults at night. Talk about exhausting. Talk about having no summer whatsoever.

BUT. I am only paying for books and gas. You can't beat that. Whenever I get down I tell myself that a few years ago I had no idea I would be able to work on a masters degree and afford to own my own house and two cars.

Plus I am enjoying this experience so much! Best thing about grad school: I can focus on what I love and am good at. None of that Natural Science bullshit to wreck my GPA! Yay!

Now, if someone can tell me how to get someone to pay for my doctoral work .....
_________________________
"I just want them to know that they didn't break me" - Andi Walsh, Pretty in Pink

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#59662 - 02/17/04 03:53 AM Re: Graduate School
goo
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Registered: 04/10/02
Posts: 459
Loc: London, UK

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I find the work much easier in postgrad as well. I am studying something I love, directly related to my work, and I can use work projects as assessment and vice versa. In addition, I don't have to worry about the 'mechanics' of studying - I know how to read effectively, how to write reports and essays and conduct research - these things are automatic. Well, except when I'm really tired, and I am yet to write my doctoral dissertation...

My employer also pays for my course, but if they didn't I could use all of the expenses as a tax deduction. This is usually quite difficult in undergrad as most students aren't working in a field related to their study, the main eligibility criterion for deductibility.

So far there hasn't been anything bad at all about postgrad - keep the alphabet soup coming.

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#59663 - 02/17/04 08:47 AM Re: Graduate School
dazey
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 941
Loc: Edinburgh, Scotland

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 Quote:
So far there hasn't been anything bad at all about postgrad
goo, really? I won't repost my tale of PhD woe from the other thread, but to me, there are so many bad things that I find that amazing.

My situation now - studying part-time with two supervisors, one of whom is absolutely lovely - is probably as good as it gets. Still, it's a fairly horrendous thing to be doing: make up a subject, choose your own direction, and work to a three or four year deadline. You really have to be extraordinarily organised and motivated to do it well. It's not that I find the work hard - I'm studying something that I love, after all, and ideas are fun and exciting things to work with - it's just that I find it hard to see the work at all for all the floundering about trying to get started.

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#59664 - 02/17/04 09:18 AM Re: Graduate School
goo
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/10/02
Posts: 459
Loc: London, UK

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I've since read your post in the other thread, dazey - I'm sorry you've had such bad experiences. I've always had breaks from study, which I think makes a big difference - I had a break between school and uni (3 years), and then a break between undergrad and masters (1 year) and then 6 months between that and a PGDip. I've now had another break before starting a doctorate.

I also haven't studied full time since my final year of undergrad - I find it heaps easier to be motivated when I can link study to practice, and I find I am a better time manager the more I have to do (um, right...) I work in a field in which very little research has been conducted, giving me a plethora of topics to choose from, and the organisation I work for is fertile with fascinating research opportunities (a unique microcosm that should really have its own currency, it is so idiosyncratic).

edited to remove a silent 5

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#59665 - 02/17/04 09:49 AM Re: Graduate School
dazey
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/25/01
Posts: 941
Loc: Edinburgh, Scotland

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goo, that's funny, because for me the benefits of part-time are almost exactly the opposite. I work in a field that's totally unrelated to my studies, working with people and for measurable change (doing community involvement work), and study very theoretical, not-real-world-applicable stuff (psycholinguistics of gender). I find that when I want to run away from one, the other is just what I need!

I didn't mean to imply that I'm horribly unhappy with my studies right now, because I'm not. It's hugely satisfying to use my brain at somewhere near its full stretch, and to be doing brand new work in an area that fascinates me. It's just that I think I'll always find the isolation very hard, and the only alternative to that would be to move countries and find work in a lab with others with similar interests, which is simply not possible - and, in fact, I enjoy that now I can think up directions which really are different to what other gender/pronoun people are working on, because there's nobody to tell me that's not the way it's done.

My previous supervisor really was a disaster for me, but that was mostly because she enjoyed spreading rumours around the department that I had lost my mind. I don't think that's specifically a postgrad thing.

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#59666 - 02/17/04 10:31 PM Re: Graduate School
sunflow Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 1156
Loc: Brighton, UK

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Masha, good luck in your hunt, and please report back here about how the funding search goes. I made a similar decision to take out loans for my master's degree, and now I am so far in debt that I can't imagine borrowing more money. Right now, I am happy with my degree in education, and I plan to teach for at least the next several years. Even so, that PhD in English lit continues to tempt me, and I hate to think that I've borrowed so much that it's no longer a realistic possibility. Give me hope!
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#59667 - 02/18/04 08:09 AM Re: Graduate School
Masha Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 05/23/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Chicago, IL, USA

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Thanks, sunflow. I'm actually three years into my doctoral program now, still fully funded and supplementing my stipend with teaching at my university. I'll post more about my experience when I have a moment, but now I'm off to a mandatory pedagogy seminar--you know, to teach me how to do the teaching I've been doing for a year and a half.
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#59668 - 02/18/04 03:52 PM Re: Graduate School
cat
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/02/00
Posts: 1754
Loc: Northern California

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Oh, Masha, gotta love those pedagogy seminars, don't you? When my husband had his post-doc at the same institution where he'd been (and taught as) a grad student, he was forced to take a pedagogy seminar with the first-year grad students. Very irritating, esp. since he'd taken a similar one as a first-year grad student.

On the real subject of graduate school funding--I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the best advice I got about grad school was not to go anywhere for a Ph.D. that wouldn't pay my way. If you want to go into academics as a professor, you will be vastly better off to confine your search to Ph.D. granting institutions that have full funding--the job market is just too uncertain, and the harsh reality is that if you can't get into a school that can afford to fund you (at least in large measure), you are less likely to find a job on the other side.

I went to a school that completely funded all graduate students. I was lucky to come out of a Ph.D. program without a penny of student-loan debt; a lot of times the support will dry up the longer you stay, and I managed to finish in five years. But in English depts at least, most high-level programs have some grants, teaching opportunities, etc., which come with tuition forgiveness. Definitely don't count out a Ph.D. on economic grounds, and definitely do look for a place that will pay your way.

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