Finding one’s niche can be a daunting task. It certainly was for me. As a student who is much older than most of my cohort members AND close in age to many of our professors, I struggled to find my place here at Indiana University. Further complicating things, Continue reading
I just recently retired my 6 year-old Apple Macbook (RIP buddy) and traded it in for a new Macbook Air. Since the beginning of tech time, there has been an eternal tech war about Macs vs. PCs. I had that battle myself Continue reading
Engaging graduate students in a discussion about long term financial preparation and success can be difficult. Who has time to think about retirement when I have a dissertation to write, rent to pay, and conference registrations?????
I am lucky enough to have a graduate assistantship that is grad student centered. Working with Indiana University Human Resources and TIAA-CREF we have developed a survey instrument to ask grad students what is important to them financially. Hopefully with this data IU can develop seminars focused on financial issues to better prepare graduate students for when they graduate and accept those amazing post-docs, tenure track professorships, or jobs in the public or private sector.
As a graduate student that has completed a Master’s degree and now in the dissertation stage of the PhD, I can say that it is difficult to plan long term when I have to address more immediate financial concerns such as student fees, rent/housing, other miscellaneous costs, and looming student loans. I am learning that I should still be saving for the FUTURE.
AMPATH is one of the main reasons that I chose a doctoral program in Epidemiology at IU. AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, was established in 2001 as a partnership between Indiana University School of Medicine, Moi University School of Medicine, and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH). Continue reading
I graduated from undergrad when I was 22. I graduated from my master’s program at 24. I am currently 26 and in the third year of my doctoral degree. I am the definition of the dreaded “professional student” who has skipped the workforce and has continued to matriculate through numerous degrees WITHOUT a single break. You may ask why I chose to not enter the workforce or take a break, and there is really one simple answer.
Each time I applied to a program, there were funding opportunities available for me to attend school tuition free, with fellowships, and with stipends to top the deal. For me, it was a simple decision. I continued to go to school because I was able to do so financially. Although funding was a big part of the decision, I should have considered all the pros and cons of skipping the workforce. Now in hindsight, I can share the good and the bad.
-School is exhausting. I’ve not given myself anytime between degrees to just let things absorb mentally and release all of the stresses that come along with higher education. At times it can be very tiring. It may have been good to at least take a semester off.
-Plenty of time to transition into academic life. I plan to finish before I’m 30, this will give me plenty of time to make decisions about my academic future, whether I decide to teach or do research, and I even have the option of taking a break once I’m finished. I feel like I’ve given myself a cushion to make crucial decisions concerning my future.
Ultimately, any route you take to higher education should be based on your own wants and needs. Take the time to consider the pros and cons. If your considering going back for your Ph.D and you’ve been in the workforce, I strongly encourage you to do so! Especially if there are readily available funding opportunities Honestly, looking back on it now, I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
Fighting out of the blue corner : Graduate “Smarty Pants” School
Fighting out of the red corner : Full Time “Dollar Bills” Job
The blue corner came out swinging in my case. I knew that I wanted to at least get my Master’s right away. Coming from a private university where my upper level classes in Spanish and Gender Studies were small and intensive I wanted to keep the conversation going. Before there could actually be a legitimate ruling for the blue corner win, I sought out different internships and part-time positions in the fields I was most interested in. I worked and interned at health centers, non-profit organizations, and university offices. I also traveled during my summers so I could experience studying and working abroad.
The red corner made some gains as I dreamed of steady paychecks, set work schedules, and most of all NO MORE EXAMS AND PAPERS, but I knew that I couldn’t stop…at least not yet. With the support of my family I explained that graduate school was the necessary step in my academic journey. I spoke with professors, advisors, and internship supervisors to have a better idea of my options, but ultimately the decision was mine to make and I decided to apply and explain to different programs the importance of my future research.
Did I know exactly what I wanted to do? NO…but I had a general, yet lofty idea. That idea not only required a MA and PhD, but also work experience. From the B.A. -> M.A. -> Ph.D. (in progress) you could say I am a professional student, but I would have to disagree. While earning each degree I was a collegiate athlete (work), graduate assistant (work), or currently a research assistant (work).
Unfortunately, the decision, options, and circumstances are different for each person as to whether they should pursue full time employment after college or immediately apply to graduate school.
WINNER after a 10 second count : Graduate “Smarty Pants” School
A PDF of the post can be found here: Blog Post 1 – Grad school vs workforce
A shot from Waikiki Beach during a Hawaii recruiting trip in Fall 2011. Photo taken by Stephanie Nguyen.
I remember asking this question to different people–alums, faculty, and advisers– when I was a senior in undergrad. Each answer I received was different from another. In other words, there isn’t a right answer to this question, and it really depends on a few factors:
- The industry/field you are interested in actually NEEDS people with professional/higher degrees.
- If you want to teach in college.
- If you want to contribute original academic research.
- How burnt out you are from school (and yes, this is a factor!)
So the best answer for me was entering into the workforce. I had a great time in college–I double majored (marketing and piano performance); I studied abroad; and I was very involved in clubs and student government. But by senior year, I was a pretty burnt out. To me, the idea of doing two to seven more years of school was as dreadful as getting my teeth pulled at the dentist.
I worked three years for my alma mater as an admissions counselor, and boy, did I have a lot of fun! A few things I loved about working:
- There’s no homework!
- You get paid for your work!
- Saving (or spending) your new found paycheck!
- You can focus on your hobbies!
- Traveling on the company’s dime!
- Meeting new people!
Besides having fun, I learned professional skills like supervising, advising, and budgeting. Most importantly, I learned more about myself both as a person and as a professional. Personally, I used my free time to become a half-marathoner runner and to volunteer in the community. Professionally, I realized that my passions lay in interacting and advising undergraduate students as well as understanding the process of running a university. So, with the help of my current boss at the time, I decided that I was ready to apply for a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs.
So, I am a big proponent of working before going to graduate school. To summarize, working for a few years will help you find direction in your life. It will help you figure out if you truly want to go back to graduate school, and possibly help you figure out which academic field is the best fit for you. Also, taking a few years off from school will help you appreciate academics more when you do go back to school. Of course, having a paycheck doesn’t hurt as well! Ultimately, though, this is a choice you must weigh based on many different factors of your life and your career goals.
Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about the work/life balance that we all hear about in graduate school. At this point in my life, I’ve realized that I’ll always be one of those people who has to tell myself to take the necessary breaks in my work schedule. Coming up on the TG holiday, I’ve set aside some time (not much, but some) for family, friends, food, sleep, etc. It will be interesting to see if I’m able to stick to my “scheduled relaxation” or not (yikes, that doesn’t sound good when it’s typed out!), given that there’s always more to do. That said, there’s real wisdom in taking that break if you need it. But, as many of you already know, achieving that work/life balance is always tricky in graduate school. I think it’s a critical life skill–and one that I’ve certainly not perfected yet. But, I’m getting better with age.