Tag Archives: graduate school

Part One: Summer 2010


This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

From the day I declared my major, every conversation about it has gone something like this:

“So, what’s your field of study?”
“Communications.”
“Oh, like TV and radio?”
“No, that’s Media Communication.
I’m in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication.”
“Ohhhh.” (Accompanied by a politely confused countenance.) “What do you do with a degree in that?”
“…” (At this point, I look around nervously, as though I could spot another topic. Any other topic.) “It’s very broad.”

It was only three months after I graduated from Brockport with a B.S. in Communications, and two months into my very first retail job that I came to grips with reality: I have no idea what one can do with a degree in communications. To this day, I could not tell you what one might be able to do with a degree so ambiguous as Interpersonal/Organizational Communications.

During the fifteen months following my graduating, I have made my way through twenty-three audio books, eight part-time jobs, two apartments in two different cities, and one potentially life-changing career test. But let’s start at the beginning.

I didn’t attend my graduation. While the rest of my graduating class was waiting to hear their names called, I was already unpacking boxes at my parents’ house. I wasn’t worried about finding a job or what I should do next as a college graduate. Something would happen—some opportunity would present itself, just like always. I had loose plans for fall. John, my boyfriend of one year, was to begin his graduate work at a school in Glens Falls. I would move from Utica to be with him. It wasn’t a difficult decision for me; we had already been living together for five months in my college apartment.

I toyed with the idea of attending a graduate program. I was accepted at two schools, and would certainly have attended if a scholarship were in the cards for either. But I could not justify spending more money and accumulating debt to continue down a path that I was not sure I wanted to be on in the first place. To have no career goal in mind during undergrad is one thing; to attend grad school with no desires—or even vague notions—of a potential profession is quite another. So I scrapped the grad school plan, much to my family’s dismay. I would be moving to Glens Falls with a clean slate, a world of possibilities, a promise of new and exciting opportunities ahead.

But first I had to make it through the summer. After four weeks of bumming around the house, myparents insisted I get a job. So it was off to work at a bargain basement store. “Bargaintopia” was my very first retail job. It was fun for a couple of weeks, but the novelty quickly wore out. Soon, I was counting the hours until moving day. We packed up the U-Haul with all John’s furniture, my kitchen necessities and our combined collection of books. It was a Monday when we moved, one week before John was to start classes. The following five months were stressful, to put it gently.

CHECK BACK THIS WEDNESDAY FOR PART TWO!

Post-grad Bugaboos


This article was written by guest writer, KB.

As I approach a new semester, I’m usually bedeviled by the consternation regarding the difficulty of new classes and the imminent cessation of sentience outside work and school (if you’re confused by the precocious, albeit ridiculous, utilization of advanced “lexicon,” I’m studying for my GRE). At this point, however, senior year seems tantamount to child’s play. It’s no longer a question of finding my academic niche or proving myself competent in the mathematics department. With a proclivity for worrying about the future, the most pressing trepidations are related to what’s going to happen subsequent to my receiving a bachelor’s degree.

I know what would ideally happen. I’d get into the graduate school of my choice, get my PhD in mathematics, and someday start my career as a professor at a reputable university.

Since I’m not ignorant to the less-than-ideal workings of the real world, I can’t ignore my post-grad bugaboos.

Bugaboo: (noun) an object of fear.

Bugaboo #1: Failing the GRE

Yes, I know technically, you can’t fail the GRE. That won’t stop me from feeling like a failure if my score is insufficient for getting me to where I want to go. There are three sections of the GRE, much like the SAT: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Since GRE scores are required by the majority of graduate schools, if you’re considering a master’s or doctoral program, GRE test prep is probably in your future. My advice is to take it slow, and start studying what seems like way too early.

Besides going through life as my normal information-sponge self, I’ve focused on two areas to prepare for the exam. A major portion of the Verbal section requires having a “college-level vocabulary” so, for the past month, I’ve been studying about 500 words a week from the reputable Barron’s GRE word list. From what I hear from other test takers, brute force memorization is the easiest and most effective strategy. You’ll need to recall definitions for the test, but likely never need to use these words again.

The most important targeted study area is the math subject test, which is separate from the general GRE. Four years of college math in one test;
pretty exciting, I know. Coming from a state school where a high GPA doesn’t hold the same weight as a high GPA from an Ivy League school, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on this exam and prove I know my stuff.

Bugaboo #2: Rejection letters

Feeling like I’ve worked very hard during my four years of college and being told that it wasn’t good enough: I imagine that would be a depressing experience. No one likes rejection, which is why I’m trying not to set my heart on one specific graduate school. Sometimes the key to happiness is
low expectations.

Bugaboo #3: Financial qualms

No matter what your post graduate plans are, we’re all living in the same economy with the same worries about our financial futures. With plans
to go straight to graduate school, I had my concerns about not entering the job market soon enough. It turns out the only expensive part of graduate school will be the application fees. As is true for most graduate programs in academia, mathematics PhD students are guaranteed financial support for at least five years as long as they remain in good academic standing and teach one or two undergraduate classes. These teaching assistantships provide on average a full waiver of tuition and a very generous living stipend, in most cases anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Therefore, putting myself through graduate school won’t be the kind of financial burden I imagined.

Bugaboo #4: It’s never going to end

With qualifying exams, graduate classes, dissertations, and oral exams, the pursuit of my PhD seems daunting to say the least. After 17 long
years in the American education system, it is none too comforting to know at least another five lie ahead of me. I know I’ll leave graduate school with some kind of PhD: Permanent Head Damage.

What are your postgrad bugaboos?

Businesses That Won’t Bounce Back


By sendmeonmyway101

I was unnerved when Borders went bankrupt.

Well, not as unnerved as a Borders employee should have been. Mostly because I would be graduating and leaving the store for greener post-grad pastures (seems my pastures are as green as Borders future).

Don’t misread – especially any of my fellow borders alum. Because I loved my job – it was by far one of the most pleasant work experiences I have ever had. Everyone got along with each other; the majority of the customers were sensible and fun people (same could be said for my fellow employees). If every Borders store operated the way our store operated, I don’t see how they could have declared bankruptcy.

Our store survived the initial batch of closings because we were small, and we were a staple in the community. The only other bookstore in town was a Half-Off-All-the-Time mess, in a closet of a store. Our Barnes and Nobles competitor was more than half a mile outside of town. We were it.

Now all of the Borders stores are closing, and a lot of good people are losing their jobs. And Borders isn’t the only one – following a merger with First Niagara, HSBC recently announced their intentions to lay off 30,000 people. And these 30,000 people are being laid off to make room for 15,000 people in the emerging markets. What does that mean?

Emerging market = Asia, Brazil, Argentina and … Mexico? No comment.

The point is that with chains such as Borders or Blockbuster downsizing or closing, we college grads are facing more competition from experienced members of previous generations than they themselves faced. Not to mention how little a Bachelor’s degree actually means anymore.

I’ve been out job hunting, and the majority of jobs are seeking candidates with more years of experience than most people will get just from sitting in a classroom. I consider myself very lucky, in that I had two professors urging me in all the right directions, so I received experience while I was in school. But hey – I’m still unemployed, and finding employment is by the far the most frustrating, exhilarating, and mind-numbing experience a grad can face.

I don’t know the science behind it, but I am aware that four out of six of my friends (or two out of three, if you want to simplify things) are either registered for grad school, or planning to attend after graduation. OK, so my friend pool is relatively small, but it doesn’t change the fact that the growing trend is to attend grad school. Which means more student loans – fueling an already loan-centered, debt stressed economy. And let’s not even go into how grad students will be paying more in their loans following the recent debt deal laid out by Washington.

To break things down – economy is bad. Companies close. Good people out of jobs – competing with inexperienced college grads. Grads return to school hoping to graduate again with a more stable economy and job market. Student loans and the high cost of education support a society’s poor decisions to buy first, and pay later.

Now, before you start firing your keyboards and accusing this blog of inaccurately depicting social events, American society, or even financial situations, I have to point out that I know nothing about finances (I prefer to leave that to the people who know what they’re doing … of course, the people who know what they’re doing have already failed in preventing all the things they were supposed to prevent, so maybe they’re as knowledgeable as I), and everything mentioned here is only my impression of what’s happening.

A sign of market end times for future students and graduates? Or a time for change? You be the judge.

(Check out Mustang Daily’s article, Graduate school: to go, or not to go?)

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