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  1. Hey all, It has been a long time since I've been to this forum, but I thought I would write this post to share my experiences as an anthro major in undergrad to getting my MA through the MAPSS program at UChicago, and where I am now, in case any of you are wondering if it's worth it, or are just looking for some perspective in a field that is only getting more difficult to make something of, both academically and professionally. Please note that this review/perspective is from someone who decided *NOT* to pursue a PhD, but instead chose a non-academic career path. Maybe you can relate to this feeling, but when I was in undergrad, friends and family smirked when I told them I was pursuing anthropology. "What will you do with it?" and all other questions ensued. I myself wasn't too sure what I was going to "do" with it; I believed college was for pursuing what made you feel whole, and the "job" aspect of it was only an afterthought. Immature and naive, especially for a student going some $25,000 into debt at an unremarkable California State University. I did it, and considered going into the Peace Corps and made it through the final interviews, but ultimately didn't go. I was working in customer service at a tech company, answering phones all day. Personal things in my life made me move from NorCal to SoCal and I was in my second round of applying to graduate school after being rejected by the seven programs I had applied to the year prior. That second cycle I was only admitted to UChicago's MAPSS program and after a month of anguish over whether I should take out more debt (I had 50% funding), I decided to do it. I'm not really a strong proponent for MAPSS. I had spent hours and hours researching the program, talking to professors before I accepted, to educate myself on what my day-to-day would be like there. I found that the experience did differ pretty significantly from what I was told. It really was a grueling time, but that isn't to say it wasn't worth it. Lowlights / Highlights of the Experience -While I wouldn't call the program a "Cash Cow" program like so many LOVE to quip, there were aspects that made it feel that way, like the forced "Perspectives" course. That was far and away the most useless university course I've ever taken. It is a surface-level course that goes over different major concepts/canonical works of the various social sciences. It's bad enough we had to waste 2.5 hours of our lives once a week in the dreadfully boring lectures, but to make it worse, the grading for the midterm/final is so severe that it is set up for students to fail. Out of my cohort of about 240 people who were forced to take the class, only 17 people received an A or A- on their midterm, and the figure was lower for the final. I was told that anything less than a B+/B in graduate school is considered to be failing, so a B+/B is considered a C or C- in terms of GPA. I have no idea what the program's logic is to forcing you to take a class and then taking a blow to your GPA right out the gate. Seriously. ????? The fact that students are forced to take this course makes it feel like the program does it just to make more money off the enrollment or something and then kicks you while you're down on top it all. -The MAPSS cohort is sadly what many have described. Most MAPSS students are not very intellectual--that's not to say they weren't "smart" in their own right, but they did not compare to the level of the other graduate students in terms of how intellectual they were. You could tell right away who was a MAPSS student in your classes versus PhD students. MAPSS students weirdly tend to have a sort of braggart, or pretentious, way about them when the things they would drivel on about were inane topics that you might find a newly-minted freshman undergraduate might talk about. I knew many MAPSS students who thought they were just so smart and would constantly, CONSTANTLY whine about the workload and how everything was so 'unfair'. It was insufferable to listen to because no one forced them to do the program, and the workload, while difficult, was not impossible (and, I had a part time job!). This being said, I made no friends at MAPSS. They lacked the maturity that I seem to find in PhD candidates or even some undergraduates. -I did very well academically only because I lived and breathed the program. I had a part time job, but I was able to work from home which was a huge part in why I could dedicate myself wholly to the program. I spent almost all of my free time in the Regenstein library and it got to be depressing sometimes, but I found ways to make it somewhat positive (like always treating myself to hot tea or coffee and taking little breaks to draw). I think to be successful in MAPSS you have to be very independent and self-motivating; otherwise, it will be easy to lose sight of what you're doing/why. I think others have mentioned this, but do make it a priority to go downtown and explore the other neighborhoods of Chicago. I would "treat" myself to a bus/El ride and just go anywhere, to see something new, to see something that wasn't UChicago. It helped immensely. -I had read about the difficulties of finding an adviser/establishing a relationship early on with a potential adviser, so in my first quarter I zeroed in on the faculty member I really wanted to work with. I made sure to take at least one class of his every quarter, participated in all discussions, did all the readings, and did very well when it came to group projects. He would take smoking breaks and I would join him, or I would walk with him to his office after class. I didn't ask him to be my adviser until much later; I just built a relationship with him and got to know him and his work, and allowed him to get to know me. If you aren't a go-getter in this way like I was, I think finding an adviser is very difficult. I knew many people who had to have preceptors assigned as their advisers because they couldn't find anyone willing. -One of the saddest moments I had in the program was during the office hours with said adviser of mine. He told me that he didn't expect much in terms of quality from MAPSS students, but was sympathetic to their plight (earning a master's and doing fieldwork//research/composing a thesis in 9 months) and sort of graded based on that, which was very disappointing to hear. I had hoped I would be treated like any other PhD student who was completing the MA portion of their candidacy, but that's not the case. He also revealed to me that he knows of some professors who ban MAPSS students from taking their courses because of the inferior quality of discussion that MAPSS students bring to the table, which was heartbreaking to hear as well. -While all of these things are really disappointing about MAPSS, I will say that the academics of UChicago seriously changed my life. I am also someone who takes academic matters seriously, so maybe this isn't saying all that much, but the classes I took were some of the most amazing and beautifully taught courses I've ever taken. I was exposed to wonderful academic literature that will stay with me forever. If you are someone who appreciates knowledge and academic inquiry for its own sake, I think you will be hard-pressed to find a more rigorous university than UChicago. If MAPSS is the only option you have at this moment to experience that, I would say it's worth it for that alone. Where I'm at Now All this being said, I did well and graduated in Spring with only 20% of my cohort (the rest graduated in August). I earned an A on my thesis, but it likely was inflated because of my adviser's sympathies to the MAPSS program, which I struggle with when listing that as an "accomplishment". After graduating, I worked full time for a bit for the company I had been working for during the program, and took 3 months off to live in Hungary. While abroad I interviewed for market research positions/firms and landed a position at a very prominent global market research firm, I'm 25 years old and my starting pay is 75k which exceeded my hopes and expectations for earning potential as someone with a "useless" undergraduate and graduate degree in anthropology. I will be able to pay off my student debt and live decently on that income, which is what I personally could only have hoped for in taking such a huge risk to pursue what I loved, anthropology. This is just one experience among many. I'm nothing/no one special, but I did work very hard in the program and I worked hard to secure a job that is related to my degrees and research interests. I did not "like" the program in the least, but I don't regret doing it. It was the most difficult academic year of my life and I did have to seek counseling in the Winter quarter which helped a lot- the student mental health services are very easy to access, so please avail yourself of that if you need it. I hope this review helped!
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