Beyond the Time of Your Life

Posted on November 20, 2011 by

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Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about things to do after you earn your degree other than just searching for a job. I made a terrible blunder by not including perhaps the most obvious possibility: graduate school. So in the spirit of good will, I will be devoting an entire entry to graduate school, in hopes of enlightening people on the scary world of <em>more</em> school.

First off, graduate school should be carefully considered, not simply decided upon because you have nothing else on your plate. It is expensive, often more expensive than the tuition for undergrad degrees, not only monetarily but time-wise as well. Graduate degrees, Master’s, Doctorate’s or just a certificate or two, are almost always accompanied by a high amount of original research, usually culminating in a thesis paper or dissertation, all on a single, specific subject, something like “The Communist Influence in Mid-Twentieth Century Feminist Literature in Mongolia’s Capital Ulan Bator,” and other kooky ideas. As Ronald Azuma <a href=”http://www.cs.unc.edu/~azuma/hitch4.html”>writes </a>” Success in graduate school does not come from completing a set number of course units but rather from successfully completing a research program.”  This includes subjects outside the liberal arts, such as law school, medical school and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), though their dissertations tend to be more career-related in that they often go into careers that those schools are designed for, whereas a Master’s in English, history, or philosophy doesn’t always mean you’ll be entering academia to teach the subjects.

Next, let’s talk about good ol’ IUSB. Our school has quite a few postgraduate programs itself: <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~sbmls/”>Liberal Studies</a>, <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~sbeng/ma.shtml”>English</a&gt;, <a href=”http://www.cs.iusb.edu/applied_mcs.html”>Applied Mathematics and Computer Science</a>, and <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~sbpols/graduate_program.shtml”>Public Affairs</a> from the College of Liberal Arts and Science; <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~buse/grad.shtml”>Accounting, Business Administration, and Information Technology Management</a> all from the Business school; an MS in <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~edud/depts/SF/”>Education</a&gt; or <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~edud/depts/PES/CHS/index.php”>Counseling</a&gt; from the Education department; <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~socw/”>Social Work</a>; and even more from the <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~sbarts/”>Raclin School of the Arts</a>. Of course, these are fairly limited in terms of the rest of the programs in the world, and can only serve a limited student base that are interested. However, it’s always something to consider as opposed to uprooting yourself to a wholly new town for two years if you are interested in the listed programs.

Like I said, grad school is expensive, but there are ways to get help with it. First and foremost is Grants. Grants essentially mean that you are given money to do your research. Of course, this research often must merit worth from the governing body of the grant. If your research proposal doesn’t make it, there’s not much else you can do except look for other grants. I say this because many universities offer institutional grants, money given by the university to the student, but there are also programs and groups outside of universities that give grants, and these can usually be applied to any university so long as the research is of interest to the group. IUSB has their own <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~graduate/graduategrant.shtml”>grant program</a> if you plan on staying in town for your studies, otherwise it is up to you to seek out the grants from other schools. There are also scholarships. Many of you may already have experience with them for undergrad degrees, but there are also scholarships specifically for <a href=”http://www.iusb.edu/~scholar1/paperapps.shtml#grad”>graduate students</a>.

Another way to help pay for graduate school is through assistantships. These are positions in which a full-time grad student also assists a faculty member with classes. Often times it involves helping grade class work and papers, holding their own office hours to help students in the class, or even leading discussion sections. These can sometimes lead to more permanent positions such as teaching introductory courses (like Eng-W131 for English grads) and being given a partial reduction in tuition costs, plus a stipend, or even a full salary. This of course is great experience too as you get the chance to teach courses if you are planning on teaching at the college level or lower. If that’s not your plan then you still get plenty of public speaking and leadership to throw on your resume.

All in all, graduate school is a great, albeit very challenging and expensive, alternative to the immediate career path. However, it’s a serious decision, and you should only commit if it’s truly what you want from your education. If you go into it half-heartedly you’re much more likely to not only find it less enjoyable but also more likely to drop out with debt and no degree. So think it over, and if furthering your education, or perhaps really getting to the bottom of a researchabe problem is something you’re actually interested in, then you have a great opportunity with Graduate school.

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