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Some of my students, in spite of all the dire discussion and lack of full-time or permanent jobs available in higher education, still want to go to graduate school.  I do not necessarily see it as my job to either encourage them or discourage them.  Graduate school is for those who want to go to graduate school, to spend time deeply involved with the material, to be in an academic setting where the career is secondary to the process.  If you go into grad school for a job, or for the money, you are going to have a lot of stuff to go through before you get to that point, and it may not come to you.  Don't assume that a Ph.D. gets you a job like mine.  It may, but it may not, and whatever happens there are no guarantees.  And some of the coolest jobsare not the ones you expect.  

The first step for going to grad school is to apply, and I am currently deeply in the writing-letters-for-my-students phase of the year.  I thought it might be useful to have some advice for those of you thinking about this and to share some of our ideas about what we tell our students who are thinking about grad school.

First off, I loved graduate school, but not everyone is like me.  Some of my students think grad school is a way of extending undergrad experiences.  I have sat down with students several times to tell them I don't think they are good fits for an academic grad program (sometimes these are people who are good fits for professional programs, as they are ones who are interested in the utility of their studies, and want to have a job coming out of it -- I teach art history, and these students are sometimes the ones who should go into museum education or arts administration programs -- using their knowledge and learning how to apply it in a clear way along with apprenticeships/internships built into the program).  Sometimes I think they might be but their undergraduate grades are not high enough for easy admission.  In this case, I advise them to get some other experience (other than school) under their belts.  Someone who has either worked at or volunteered at (in a substantial way) a museum or an arts organization has characteristics and a track record that makes her or him stand out when applying to graduate school, and getting a letter of recommendation from someone other than a professor who can speak to responsibility, reliability, drive, and interest can help a great deal to offset academic concerns.  

That being said, undergraduate grades can at times be a predictor for graduate performance.  These grades (particularly in the major) indicate knowledge in the field, dedication to research and writing components required in a discipline, time management abilities, and wiilingness to push through in the hoop-jumping that is a clear part of graduate school as in any job.  And a letter from a professor who has had you in multiple classes is a good component of your application portfolio.

I write letters for anywhere between three and ten students a year.  And I am lucky that there aren't more.  I can thus talk about individual characteristics of a student.  I don't have a generic letter -- each student gets a base letter that is specific to the skills and desires and strengths and concerns I have for him or her.  If those concerns are so great that they prevent me from writing a strong letter, I will not agree to write one.  I have only once told a student after having written several letters that I would not write another one -- that was someone who seemed to suddenly find it difficult to complete assignments in a timely manner (as far as I could tell this was a response to stress, and that is a problem in grad school -- you have to be able to handle adversity and stress that is potentially beyond anything you experience in undergrad).  There was nothing I was able to find out by asking what was causing it (everything was fine, I was told) -- so I had to respond to what was in front of me.

So if I say I will write one, I will write a good one.  I will be positive but honest.  If you have a B average in my classes, I will not say you are the top student I have ever taught.  It is my word and my university's reputation on the line; if I misrepresent you, it is every student who applies to that university in the future that my recommendation affects.  I will, however, talk about specific details (papers, projects, interaction with other students, internships, research experiences) that make you particularly desirable as a graduate student in that program.  

To help me do this, I ask for at least one month's warning for any letter, and preferably a listing of all the graduate schools to which you are applying, organized by deadline, and a brief description of why you want to apply to a specific school, what program you are applying to, and information about a link or a method of submission of the letter.  I strongly prefer an on-line submission, and if necessary I will send a hard-copy one.  I will almost never agree to give you a copy of the letter to send yourself.  This is because I did that for students early on in my teaching, and one decided not to apply to one of the universities but did need a letter for a different one, and she told me about that by taking the letter out of the (sealed, signed across the seal) envelope, and attaching the open letter to my bulletin board along with a note saying "in case you forgot what you wrote, this will help you write me a letter to X university".  It was a confidential letter (positive, but confidential), and I was furious.  I wrote the letter, but since then have been really hesitant about handing a sealed letter to a student.

If the letters are to be submitted online, you need to get your application submitted a bit before the deadline because the online submission for letters of recommendation will often not be available to me until after your application is complete.  And there will often be technical difficulties.  This fall I did not get a letter submitted by the deadline because of this; I hope it is not held against the student.  She was annoyed with me (or at least that is the way I read her last email, and she never let me know that the application was complete or anything about how it had been received, and she did not ask for any other letters of recommendation).  I am sorry for the difficulty, but I didn't see it as my fault (nor was it hers), and I hope I do hear back from her eventually.

If I ask for a copy of your personal statement it means I want to see your personal statement.  It may be because you are applying to do something that is not a clear outgrowth of your undergraduate work, or it may be because I want to be able to write a letter that supports you in a way that builds off your stated interests.  What it doesn't mean is that you should send me a copy of your statement a month after the first letter deadlines.  The letters I have written by that point are of necessity going to be a bit more generic.  

As letters are written individually, the chance is that if you blow off the semester (usually the first semester senior year) it may be reflected in letters I write for you.  As you ignore deadlines, stop coming to class, and don't come to meetings that are scheduled, these things reflect on you and may lead me to adjust my evaluation in such categories as "maturity" or "dedication to the field" -- if you show me that you are mature and dedicated to the field, chances are those ratings will be high; if you lead me to question such things, the ratings are almost certain to go down.  Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances (health or yourself and your family, financial issues, etc.) but I can only evaluate what is before me, and that is what I base my recommendations on.  

Finally, I would like some acknowledgement of my writing the letters.  Thank you notes are nice, but not necessary.  What is really necessary, however, is an indication of where you got in (or didn't) and what, if any, financial/scholarship/assistantship offers were made.  It helps me to know where you go and why.  If you decide to not take any graduate school place, even though you have been admitted, I do need to know that, and why you made that decision.  If I have written 10-15 letters for you and you don't go to any grad school, then you come back to me the next year with a request for more letters, I need to know what is going on.  That you have decided one year not to go to grad school is fine, and it doesn't prevent me from writing letters.  But if you can't tell me a reason, it comes across as rather mercurial.  It may not be, but again, I can only evaluate you by the information that is in front of me.  And that evaluation is what grad schools are asking me to do in my letters of recommendation.

Oh, and one final final thing.  If you choose to complain in a letter to the university (such as to the dean, or in the equivalent of an exit interview) how the class you took with me was the worst experience you had as a university student, do not expect that I will not hear about it, or remember it three years later when you want a letter of recommendation to a graduate program.  And yes, that has happened.  I chose not to write a letter or recommendation for this student, who had only had the one class with me.  I said I did not remember her well enough to write that letter of recommendation.  I figured it was much better for both of us to leave it at that.  In other words, I was lying.  I do that, sometimes.  But I don't do it in letters of recommendation; in those I stand behind what I write.

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I got a scholarship to art school as an undergrad. (9+ / 0-)

    I left after a year, then transferred to another of the places that had accepted me the previous year, this time to study languages and lit.  Got my degree, then worked as a secretary.  Applied for and got a Fulbright to do research; spent a year in Mexico.  During that year I realized I wanted to go to grad school.

    If I had just gone straight to grad school out of college, I don't think I'd have been successful.  I needed to make a mistake or two and learn something about myself before realizing what kind of career made sense for me.  

    For sure, grad school is not a continuation of the undergraduate experience.  But even though it's a necessary step toward professionalization or in training for a certain career path, there's no guarantee that you'll get a good job in your chosen career even with the graduate degree.  There is so much personal, social, intellectual, imaginative, etc. strength required to shape oneself and forge a direction for oneself-- classes don't necessarily give you that, if at all.  

    When I write letters of recommendation for my students who want to go on to graduate school, I know that some of them probably should not be going at this point in their lives.  Right out of the B.A.  And it is difficult for me in most cases, as I recommend them on the basis of the one or two classes they've taken with me, to know anything about whether they've got "the right stuff" for a post-graduate forging.  I don't know what's in store for them in terms of the luck of the draw in the job market.  I pray for them, because I know that my letters are only a very small part of whatever it is that will end up being the direction they take.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:29:31 PM PST

  •  Bravo! (10+ / 0-)

    But a warning to letter seekers- not everyone subscribes to this philosophy. I have read letters that were totally useless and even a few that trashed the person. Check the reputation of the letter-writer before asking. Your fellow students will know who you shouldn't ask.

    Generally you are better off with a professor from an small upper-level class who might actually remember you rather than someone who lectured to 300 students in an introductory class. A letter that says that "X did well in my class and scored in the top 5%" is useless. We can read transcripts.

    Sometimes the hardass who never gives anyone an A is the best reference. If you worked your butt off and managed to get a B maybe you earned some respect. On the other hand, someone who gives out all As may not give a damn.

    In grad school my wife started out working for the cool guy everybody loved, but he was totally unhelpful. When she talked to the department chair, who terrifed all the students, he offered to be her advisor. He turned out to be a great advocate for her. Don't mistake low standards for sympathy.

  •  The old rule of thumb was: (8+ / 0-)

    Don't go to grad school unless someone else pays for it.

    The reasoning was that genuine potential was indicated by an institution's willingness to invest in the student.

    I tell that to some students now, but I'm not sure if it's true anymore.

    Beware the man of one book.

    by fiddler crabby on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 01:00:19 PM PST

    •  That does sound harsh (6+ / 0-)

      and I suspect it doesn't apply to all situations, but that's pretty much what we advised our son.  He applied to 5 grad schools (biomed) and the one that responded first with an offer of at least partial funding was the right place for him.  He flew out, immediately found a connection with his research department head and the decision was pretty much made.  

      I don't know about other areas, but there still seem to be worthwhile fellowships out there for engineering and the sciences.

      The truth always matters.

      by texasmom on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 01:18:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  still is the rule (5+ / 0-)

      In most humanities fields, fewer than half of graduate students will get tenure track jobs.  The lucky ones will never earn enough to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans.  So no, don't go unless you get a free ride.

      •  That's what I did. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman

        Full ride + stipend for an English degree.

        Without debt, I was able to take a job that didn't pay well, but suited my skills and personality, and provided an opportunity to engage in socially useful work.

        Twenty years later, I still love the teaching side of my job.

        That wouldn't have been possible if I'd taken on the cost of that degree.

        Now I'm working on a PhD at no cost -- one of the perks of my position.

        Beware the man of one book.

        by fiddler crabby on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 08:18:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, exactly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, fiddler crabby

      Nobody in the arts, humanities, or social studies will ever make enough to pay the full cost of a PhD unless they write a bestseller or become a media personage - and how any of those are there, really?

      If you're not good enough for funding, you're not good enough for the field.

      `Under my command, every mission is a suicide mission.`

      by Zwackus on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:57:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I paid for my graduate education (3+ / 0-)

      in the highly-monetized field of Printmaking! MFA in Printmaking! I paid for 3 of 4 years' out-of-state-tuition (for the 4th year I had a TA). The program was a long one and most students took at least 3 years to get through. I figured it was my last opportunity to be a full-time student at a university and decided to go all out, and the 4th year "paid for" with TA experience thrown in was a bonus. I would have paid for the 4th year anyway. I have no problem investing in myself.

      Of course that was in the late 80's when tuition wasn't quite as bad, but interest rates were sky-high! My "good" loan was 7% and my "expensive" loan was 9%. But of course even mortgages were 11% in those days and personal loans even higher, so in that sense I felt okay about it.

      I wouldn't advise my kids to do the same thing though. The whole "futurescape" has changed. My kids are science-oriented and when #1 goes to grad school, it'll be funded by the institution or she won't go, and that is her take on it, not ours. She's very practical.

      I had my grad student loan paid off within about 10 years. Altogether it was over $30,000 but I put together an "overpayment" schedule and it helped get me finished faster.

      While I am underpaid for what I do, I have one of the coveted tenured positions at a university. I teach web design. Something that did not exist when I went to grad school. However, I would NEVER be doing this if I had NOT gone to graduate school. My experience there shaped me in such a way that I was in a position to both understand the importance of the internet (as an artist) in 1993, and to teach myself to do it.

      So to sum up this TLDR comment, I went to grad school to better myself and inform my mind, not specifically to "get a career." I came out of it with an amazing skill set that got me ready to capitalize on things that did not yet exist.

  •  perhaps the best advice (5+ / 0-)

    should be about asking whether the undergraduate has actually met the persons with whom they would be working, so that any future interpersonal issues have at least a chance to be sampled prior to all parties making a final decision

    Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ "We're like a strip club with a million bouncers and no strippers." (HBO's Real Time, January 18, 2013)

    by annieli on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 02:28:40 PM PST

    •  It is a good thing to visit if possible (4+ / 0-)

      It was something that I never thought about when I applied 30 years ago, but particularly for students from a lesser-known university it can make a big difference.  One of the students applying from my department this year is taking advantage of the College Art Association meetings in NY to make appointments with the east coast schools she wants to attend to meet with faculty there.  She is also working as a facilitator/room monitor/projectionist at the conference so she will meet graduate students from around the country and hear their stories.  I think it will potentially be a life-changing experience for her.

  •  Thankfully I get asked to write fewer letters than (3+ / 0-)

    Thankfully I get asked to write fewer letters than you do. When asked, though I usually tell the student generally what sort of letter I feel I would be able to write for them. Something like "I am happy to write you a letter (actually a lie) but keep in mind you got a B- in my upper level class and in my opinion that grade was an accurate reflection of your work in the class. I always try play up an individual's strengths, but if there are other professors who might have seen more of those strengths than I have...." Sometimes they still want the letter, sometimes they don't.

    In my field, if you don't get into one of the top 25 or so programs in your sub-field, there won't be a tenure track job on the other side. Even students from the top 3 schools have no guarantee of ever finding tenure track jobs (much less ones at good schools or at least bad schools in good places). Definitely not worth it to go into debt at all. In fact, you could probably sit in on the seminars for free and hire an advanced grad student to tutor you if you are just interested in the subject.

  •  I warn everyone away that I can (3+ / 0-)

    Grad school was the most miserable time of my life.  I know my experience was not entirely representative, but I still believe that it's a big mistake for the majority of people, and I feel it is a duty to scare as many of them away as I can.  If they're scared off by the rantings of a bitter quitter, then they shouldn't be there to begin with.

    Why?  I am of the opinion that academia is corrupt to its core. I think the biggest problem is the way in which the "job" of faculty member/scholar has been constructed, and the role it plays in the overall university.  Modern universities are run as money-making enterprises, where the professional administrators (who have little/no background in scholarship) choose all policies to maximize their income, and then spend that income on themselves, while starving faculty and research facilities of their needed funds.  The modern university has a variety of income streams, such as state funding, student tuition, alumni donations, gouging the students for food, etc.  One of the lesser-known income streams is faculty and student grants.  Whenever a student or faculty member gets a grant for research, the University takes a 25% to 40% cut, for "administrative overhead" and whatnot.  As far as the school is concerned, this is the primary role of the full-time faculty - beg for grant money, and turn it into publications.  Anything that gets in the way of this (especially teaching) is discouraged, and shunted off to the non-tenure-track faculty, the poor adjuncts and lecturers.  Adjuncts and lecturers get somewhere between $300 and $1000 per quarter/semester/term per class, and are restricted to 2 classes a term per school.  This is a ridiculously low and unlivable wage, but the surplus of unemployed PhD's is so great, and the burning desire in the ranks of the unemployed to stay in the market and find a tenure-track job is strong enough, that they are willing to work at slave-wages for years, in the hope of finally reaching the promised land.

    But it gets worse.  Tenure-track jobs are pretty crappy, too.  The thing is, until you reach the hallowed ranks of the tenured Full Professor (damn hard to do nowadays), you work on a series of 2-3 year jobs with a near 100% chance of being fired at the end.  Theoretically, any associate professor could go up for tenure review, and upon successful completion of that review, get a permenant job.  The fact is that many schools NEVER grant tenure to anyone, for any reason.  Theoretically, tenure decisions are supposed to be made within the department, but fellow faculty members.  But in fact, such decisions are almost entirely made by the upper administration, and are almost entirely financial in nature.  But as there is always that tiny glimmer of hope, young faculty members are willing to kill themselves with overwork, doing all kinds of stupid volunteer committee work for the school and the department, in addition to grant-writing and research - even if they KNOW, for a fact, that they will never get tenure at that particular institution.  Most faculty members have to go back on the job market over and over.  Each time, it's a round of cross-country travel (at their own expense), giving job talks at new schools and hoping, praying there is even one position, anywhere in the country, where their skills and qualifications might be relevant.  Being an academic is a bit like being in the army - you never have any control over where you live and work.

    But to get to that level, first you have to finish grad school.  Really, this means a PhD.  Masters degrees are useless.  Nobody cares about them.  There are too many unemployed PhD's for a mere Masters to have a chance at pretty much any job, even a chance to teach a single course at a community college.  Masters degrees are what High School teachers get during their spare time in summer break.  I have two of them, and they mean absolutely nothing.

    So, a PhD.  I was enrolled at the U of Michigan, one of the top-tier schools in History, and THE top school in Anthropology.  Yay.  At Michigan, the standard time to completion was close to 10 years.  Why is that?  You're only allowed 2-3 years of coursework, and you'd be lucky to get funding for more than a year of research.  So, what 5 years should be enough, right?  Well, that's what admin thinks, and they allocate funding accordingly.  But what happens, then?  Why do people take so long?  Grad school nowadays is a constant game of one-upsmanship.  One must do more research, cite more sources, and deal with more trendy theoretical ideas than the next aspiring scholar - otherwise your work simply isn't up to the high standards of the school.  In all honesty, it's rather hard to come up with any sort of objective criteria for whether one piece of research in the social sciences or humanities is "better" than another, or even "good enough."  This, combined with the jockeying between schools over prestige (it looks bad if one's graduates can't get jobs, so you better make sure they can get them on the strength of their dissertation and job talk!), jockeying between top faculty members (it looks bad if the student one guides can't get a job, so you better make sure they can get a job based on the strength of their dissertation and job talk!), and jockeying between the students themselves (So-and-so has 500 sources in her bibliography, AND wrote on the trendiest topic to date, and still couldn't get a job!  I need to do more!), has produced a system where it's more and more impossible to finish in a reasonable time.

    So, for all that time, people are living the grad school life, which is quite honestly miserable.  Every moment is a moment that could have been spent studying.  Your future is cloudy, at best.  You can't live your live, you can only prepare to live it in the future.  For the first year or two, you're doing classes with others and meet people, and there's a real sense of camaraderie.  Then everyone splits off to do their research, and one is alone.  Painfully alone.  Further, the work is hard.  It's really, really damn hard.  If it's not, you're not doing it right, and everyone will tell you as much.  Doing good research, and writing it into a coherent, on-topic, and sufficiently trendy piece of writing is REALLY HARD.  For everyone.  Now, some people do grow to enjoy it.  Anyone working professionally in academic enjoys research.  I didn't, which is one of the reasons I quit.  I like reading and synthesizing, and am really excellent at it, but original research was just not interesting.  That said, the fact is, many students go through a kind of breakdown or collapse around the 5-7 year mark, and at least partially withdraw from academic life.  Isolation, over-work, stress, uncertainty, self-doubt, and the painful fear that they just aren't good enough take their toll.  They move somewhere else, get a job, and go on "detached leave" for a while.  Many never come back, but some finally get their stuff together, move through their issues, and in a finally spurt of work get their dissertation finished.  And then, the real fun begins.

    `Under my command, every mission is a suicide mission.`

    by Zwackus on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:54:43 AM PST

    •  Hey, Zwackus, I feel your pain. (0+ / 0-)

      I really do--I'm now eight years out from defending my own U-MI Ph.D in the humanities.

      The points you raise here are all important considerations, and I think you've done the thread and the diarist a service in doing so.

      I do have a correction to offer, however. Adjunct teaching is indeed badly paid, just not quite as badly as you say. I think the national average is about $1800 per course, at least in English, and not all institutions limit teaching to 2 courses per semester. U-MI itself has a salary floor (at the Ann Arbor campus) of $36,000 for full-time teaching--2 semesters per year, generally 3 classes each semester. That's not great, but it's something.

      Perhaps I'm still beholden to the belief that having good evidence and a strong argument will help carry the day, but I think you do your case no good by overstating how bad prospects are.

      Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:04:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  At my university it is $3000/semester (0+ / 0-)

        and the grant contribution to the university is not as high as you indicate.  I am sorry you had such a rough experience.  And in a way it lines up with what I tell my students -- you have to feel grad school is worth it as it is or you shouldn't do it.  Aiming for a job at the end isn't the reason to do it. But I loved grad school and the friends I made there are still close close friends, even though some are no longer in the field.  I did hit the hellish phase at the 3 year mark, in the last year of coursework and the summer after that, when my planned topic fell apart, but I made it through and I am glad I did.  But I was lucky, and the job I got has grown into the job I wanted, and the university has become the university I want to be at.  Our administrators are superb scholars, as well as being good administrators, but it depends very much on the university, and there are still far fewer adjuncts than is the average nationwide.  Again, it depends very much on the university you are at.  Mine has a very good reputation (top 20 best buys) for undergrad education, but it is in a lousy location for many people and is not prestigious to teach at.  Hardly an Ann Arbor or a Madison.  But it is a place I am happy and proud to work at, and it still has a few tenure track hires each year.  Even one in Anthro last year.  

  •  Advice on grad school does depend on the field (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, Arctic Belle

    I agree that grad students shouldn't expect faculty positions waiting for them in most fields today.

    On the other hand, if a student wanted to do grad school in a growing and well funded area of science, academic career prospects may be pretty reasonable for them.  It's definitely a good idea for students to talk to faculty in their field of interest, especially those who know the current state of the job market.

    There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. -Thoreau

    by Frameshift on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 06:35:53 AM PST

  •  I wrote an article about how to get a PhD (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    it is here

  •  If this is all the guidance you offer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    your students, then you are failing them.

    I can appreciate your position that you should not necessarily encourage or discourage them about attending graduate school--though to some extent you do that implicitly anyway by writing them letters, or not.

    However, it would be completely appropriate to give them resources to inform their decision. The Inside Higher Education articles to which you link are nice, as far as they go, but they require a fair amount of context to be able to make good use of them (which one can see by reading the comments).

    One of the very first considerations nowadays for professional success in an academic field is the level of entrepreneurial aptitude or at least inclination. Will your students prepared to create their own jobs someday, in or out of academe? Secondarily, will the graduate program they choose to attend foster the development of such skills?

    Do your students know the field and the programs well enough to pick them based on the research interests they want to pursue and the mentors with whom they want to work? Academia is still very feudal, and the people/program with which they affiliate will shape their future prospects if they seek a permanent job within post-secondary ed.

    All your grad school applicants should be asking their prospective programs about their dropout rates, time-to-degree rates, availability for funding after the promised stretch of time, and placement rates (as well as TYPES of jobs found) post-degree. These stats are not routinely kept, I realize, and there's a bad reason for that: most programs don't do well by their students.

    Every undergraduate considering graduate school should read at least one, if not all, of William Pannapacker's essays in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the subject. Starting with this one, Just Don't Go, will help lead a reader to others.

    I also highly recommend this website and its creator's insights (and resources), for those either contemplating grad school or already immersed in it. Kelsky is brilliant, sensible, and kind. I wish I had had the benefit of her guidance 15 years ago. The Professor Is In also has a great follow-up to Pannapacker that is worth sharing with your students.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:58:08 AM PST

  •  I'd like to go to grad school, but I can't afford (0+ / 0-)

    it. Or more specifically, I finished college with a sub-2.5 GPA (because I was burned out), and I don't have enough money for a few semesters somewhere like American Public University to demonstrate that I have the academic chops for higher ed so I can get into a school that might pay my tuition.

    They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

    by Ponder Stibbons on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:00:31 AM PST

    •  Why do you want to go to grad school? (0+ / 0-)

      That is the most important thing to ask yourself.  The burnout rate of graduate school, even for very motivated students, is incredibly high.  And then you should be prepared to answer what a graduate school would gain by admitting you.  What unique skills do you have for a graduate program that would make it worthwhile for them to take a chance on you.  You don't give any context here.  Community colleges offer specialized courses that might provide  you with different enriching academic experiences and they aren't that out of line in costs, if you do one course at a time.  But professional experience in your field can show your ability in a different way than academics.

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