Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Why you should go to grad school

with 2 comments

by apini

As Peter mentioned, the constant stream of off-putting articles on grad school is annoying (enraging) for a number of reasons.  Although I’m sure it’s meant well – as a form of empathy with ‘our situation’ – it has the perverse effect of shifting the blame to our generation.

So this is a response: why you should go to grad school.
1) you should go to grad school because it’s an excellent place for developing your ideas in a more rigorous, fluent, and methodologically sophisticated way than undergraduate education allows.  This is true for both the arts and sciences, and is not only a good reason to go to grad school, but one that is regularly cited by grad students.  This isn’t just reading books, conducting experiments, and expanding your ‘knowledge’; it’s testing your creativity and critical thinking and exercising your brain.
2) you should go to grad school because you want to spend time with like-minded people. I know, grad school is serious business and academia is a lonely existence, but why should this career choice be different from others? Some people want to work in high-pressure, internally competitive, time-sensitive work environments like newsrooms or trading floors; others want to work in the ‘corridors of power’ in DC or Whitehall; others want to work with laidback colleagues with similar taste in music, or art, or with similar schooling or hobbies.  If you like the atmosphere, the colleagues and friends, it makes a real difference to the job.  This shouldn’t be considered a ‘bad reason’ for going to grad school anymore than ‘not knowing what you want to do’ is for law school (sorry lawyer friends!)
3) you should go to grad school because you like college and you like college (undergrad) students.  After all, you’re going to spend half of your time (at least!) teaching them! And dealing with the life of a university – that is, admin, faculty advising, mentoring, talking about and helping undergrads (and possibly more grad students).
4) you should go to grad school because you like research.  You like talking about it, you like doing it, you like writing about it.  Again, you’ll be spending at least half of your time doing this!
5) you should go to grad school because there will probably be some kind of job that uses at least one of those skills at the end of it.  Lots of people end up with jobs or careers that are different from what they’ve trained for, but they manage to use some transferable skills in their new jobs, or they cobble together a career that incorporates a few different skills, or they have to learn new skills on the job.  This shouldn’t be accompanied by guilt or a sense of failure or a sense of wasted time.
Good luck!

Written by apini

June 1, 2012 at 04:37

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. spot on Bronwen! all I want to add is that The Ting Tings’s song: “Shut Up and Let Me Go!” (to gradschool).

    Marta Sobur

    June 3, 2012 at 09:10

  2. I also went straight from unegadrrd to grad. For me, I changed my mind from what I thought I wanted to do (teach high school math) during my senior year in college to what I am now doing (working in higher ed). I had spent 4 years preparing for one path and not really thinking with purpose about the one I ended up on, so grad school seemed like a good path. After working some of the summer jobs that I did, I knew that I was supposed to work in some type of educational field; plus, I have always really liked learning! Grad school was a totally different college experience for me, both in terms of the institution and the types of classes I was taking. I also knew that, for the types of positions I would prefer in higher ed, a master’s degree was generally required, even for entry-level positions. And like the first Sarah commented, I have always been relatively mature for my age, so it hasn’t really been a problem. Even now with 2 years of professional experience, I am 4 years older (in most cases) than all of the students I advise. I do think it depends on the person, but I don’t see a problem with going directly from unegadrrd to grad school.


    June 19, 2012 at 15:52

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