Grad School: Is It For You? Choosing a School.
By Kathryn S
Last week, I warned you that the grad school application process is quite a time consuming effort. Well guess what folks? You’re going to need to put ample time into choosing your prospective grad schools too! Sure, this might seem a bit obvious, but this columnist doesn’t always think things through.
For me, grad school was a roll of the dice, and six possible schools came up for me: Georgetown, Rutgers, Ohio State, North Carolina State, San Francisco State, and the school I eventually chose, hereafter refered to as X University.I chose these schools on a whim. Georgetown was my “reach,” and the closest I could get to Ivy League while maintaining a glimmer of hope for acceptance. Rutgers was relatively close to my hometown (by close I mean a 5 hour drive); Ohio State is a party school notorious for it’s tailgating parties (I swear, that’s why I applied- don’t judge); North Carolina State was an hour from my only other friend attending grad school; and San Francisco just seemed like a cool city to live in, as did the location of X University.
Rule number one in choosing grad school? Don’t be superficial when planning your future!
Take your time to research graduate programs across the country. If you want to focus on a particular location, check out as many schools in that region as you can. Take notes. Google the faculty. Check out some of the courses being offered, and find out what the plan of study entails. Many grad schools have student ambassadors that you can email to get a current students’ point of view on the program. Seriously, folks, exhaust the freaking websites. Scour them like you scour Perez Hilton.
In college, you have a lot of room to change your mind. Changed your major? No biggie. Transfer student? Piece of cake. On the five- or six-year plan? Join the club. Masters programs, on the other hand, are only two years long. Stretching out the plan of study can raise flags when you are applying for jobs or PhD programs, and not only is transferring schools relatively rare, you’re likely to lose the credits you’ve already earned. Having transferred schools and changed majors in undergrad, I can appreciate the trial-and-error aspect of college. In graduate school however, you’re in it for the long haul.
In the end, my final decision was between Georgetown and X University. Georgetown= awesome school. X University= tuition waiver. I reasoned that completing a M.A. in itself would be an accomplishment. Where I got the degree wasn’t that important right? Let’s just say I plan on framing my Georgetown acceptance letter and hanging it above my X University diploma. Oh, what could have been.
I realized I was at the wrong school during my first semester, when the homework for a required course consisted of blogging about our experience as graduate students each week. That’s what Myspace bulletins are for! Though my friends and I drank away our frustrations that fall, it wasn’t until the following semester that I realized I would give anything to transfer to Northeastern University, a school that hadn’t been picked up on my original radar, but that I thought was pretty much the perfect school for me. I was shit out of luck.
Make a list of you want to get out of your education. Trust me, you’re going to be working your butt off in grad school, so it might as well be worth it. Take your time looking at schools, my friends. A few extra hours of your time now is much more efficient than two years of your life at a school that isn’t right for you.