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Should I Apply to Grad School?

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When I was applying to graduate school, I operated under a number of assumptions about what it would be like to be an actual graduate student.  Here I take a look at some of those assumptions (which I think I shared with many others), with an eye towards establishing their veracity.  (Fact:  If you go to graduate school, you will, in no uncertain terms, write sentences like that on a daily basis.) 

*When I am a graduate student and afterwards, the words “business casual” will just seem like a sad memory.  Instead, I will wear all black and all of my friends will wear small jaunty berets and excellent scarves.

Fact:  Sometimes I still wear “business casual” cardigans and I have several in pastel colors.  I have never owned a beret.  Ever!
Fact:  People in graduate school do wear excellent scarves.

*Being a teaching assistant or a research assistant will be way easier/less time consuming/less crummy than my current job, which is killing my soul.

Fact:  Teaching is the hardest thing I have ever done!  It’s also awesome and doesn’t kill your soul. 
Fact: Research assistantships are hard to come by since graduate students do more and more teaching at the university level (which many would argue is problematic), but they are nice work if you can get it.

*I loved studying X in college.  Therefore, it stands to reason that I will be happy to study X in a much more detailed, in-depth way.  For at least five more years.

Fact:  College and graduate school, ideally, are very different. In college, you sample around and try things out.  The connection and investment that you will make in your area in grad school will become your constant companion.  Are you ready to be with Jane Austen every day, all day?  (If yes, please set a place at the table for me as well!).

*When I am in graduate school, I will have a ready-made cohort of like-minded individuals who have also read such-and-such book ten times, and believe passionately in such-and-such cause and who like to sit around for hours talking about such-and-such and existentialism. 

Fact:  Yup.  It is pretty amazing to wind up in a smallish cohort of people, many of whom share a lot of the same interests and beliefs as you do.  Bonus in that they all also wear excellent scarves.

Is being a grad student challenging and frustrating at times?  That’s like asking if that “Call me Maybe” song is catchy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWNaR-rxAic&feature=related).  Of course it is!  (Yup, I just did that to you.)  But if you are thinking about it, then that’s great news because it means you are about to start a pretty exciting process. 

What do you want to know about graduate school?  How to select a program?  How to position yourself for funding opportunities?  What to talk about in your personal statement?  How to make that tiny TA-stipend last through the month?  We sure can’t answer that last question, but we both have LOTS to say about the other ones.

Jamie Oldham is a college admissions coach for Just Start Applications, and a pretty great gal, too. While her interests are varied (she does have a higher degree in Liberal Arts, after all), one of her great life's passions is helping students and parents through the admissions process, doling out great college and graduate school admissions tips along the way. Check out her full bio here and contact us today to get her on your team.

Should I Apply to Grad School?

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Should I Apply to Grad School? Many students have a lot of misconceptions about grad school. Jamie Goldham breaks down the good, the bad, and the TA-ships.

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