Because I imagine Audacity Oven’s readership falls within the Grad-School demographic, here’s a little crash course on the grad school game.
First a little background. I, AO’s resident film reviewer, am a 3rd (and final) year part-time Film and Television Studies Master’s student at Boston University. I work full time at the school, and get my education almost entirely for free.
It is with this in mind that I’ve stayed at BU for undergrad and grad school, have taken 30-plus classes in the same basement screening room of the COM building and have worked with every professor so many times that they’re probably getting sick of me.
But I think, because of this experience and my new role as a hopeful PhD student in the throes of application season, I can offer a few bits of helpful insight to anyone looking to get into the higher higher (higher?) education racket.
Go to school for free
Maybe this is where I’ll lose the majority of my readers, but I think it needs to be said. Graduate school is EXPENSIVE. Maybe more so than undergraduate programs. Adding monumental debt on top of already existing monumental debt is not a good idea. In my opinion, you shouldn’t go just for a Master’s program if you have to pay. There are a few ways out of this: you can work for a University that offers tuition remission(like me!), you can work for a company that will pay for you to get continued schooling (perhaps a rarity in today’s job market), or you can go somewhere that wants you so badly they’ll give you major scholarships.
Skip the Master’s and get your PhD- They’ll pay you!
Another option is foregoing a stand-alone Masters for one of those fancy programs that will give you both a Masters and PhD in one condensed block of years (decades). The lovely thing about PhDs is many programs will fund you for multiple years, giving you a livable stipend in exchange for your research and teaching help.
Do well on the GREs- somehow.
The GREs are a somewhat arcane test, like the SATs. Some of it feels useless and silly, but I will say that if you can’t do the paragraph-analysis portion of the GREs (determining the purpose or argument of certain passages), they you’ll likely drown in Grad School anyway. But this test matters. Schools will look, and many could dismiss you immediately if you don’t meet their minimum standards. So study, take a class, do whatever it takes to get through this behemoth.
DO YOUR READING
Newsflash, friends. If this blog post looks like a dauntingly long list for you to trudge through, and the sight of five or more lines of uninterrupted text in a row makes you nauseous, just don’t do grad school. Don’t do it. The amount of assigned reading is remarkable. I consume at least 100 pages a week and I only take two classes at a time. We aren’t talking casual reading, either. We’re talking engaged, focused, note-taking, fully comprehending reading of the type only Law students can sympathize with.
Love what you learn or get a job
Lately, graduate school has become an escape some students use to remain students instead of becoming adults. I find this irksome and frustrating. Just because you CAN stay in school forever (in the case of some post-docs, I’m not even exaggerating) doesn’t mean you SHOULD. This level of education was created for people who care deeply for the subject they’re exploring. These people have so much devotion to their respective subjects that they learn during their free time. They can talk about their subject for hours and delight in conferences where it is encouraged. If you don’t live and breathe your subject matter, might I suggest giving a real job a chance? It may be mundane, but you’ll be among similarly uninspired peers rather than bringing down the passionate intellectual drive that keeps grad school alive and exciting.
Overall, it really comes down to that final point. You will get into a good program and you will gain an enriching education if you care about what you’re learning. If you make the choice to give it a try, feel free to reach out to me. I won’t sugar coat the truth for you, but I’ll do my best to support and advise.