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I'm deciding largely between 2 MA programs in English:

Wake Forest, tuition fully funded, but no stipend

Duquesne, tuition funded and 15,000 stipend

 

I care about finances and still have undergraduate loans, so I am leaning towards Duquesne, but I feel like Wake Forest would have more prestige to help get into PhD programs. Of course academic fit matters some, but from what I've heard, it's not as important for MA programs. 

Any advice would be appreciated!

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Does prestige really matter in MA programs? I feel like the quality of the work you produce in the program is far more important, and that will be highly impacted by a) having reduced stress about money and b) being in an institution that is truly wanting to invest in you.

Good luck and congrats on your acceptances!

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23 hours ago, kendalldinniene said:

I feel like the quality of the work you produce in the program is far more important, and that will be highly impacted by... being in an institution that is truly wanting to invest in you.

Kendall says it perfectly here.

I don't know that I'd say that MA prestige doesn't matter at all, but I am skeptical that it matters enough that you should look more favorably upon Wake over Duquesne. I mean, it says something that there's no US News and World Report or similar ranking index for MA programs. The thing to remember about MAs is that not everyone goes into them to then get a PhD; plenty of folks go in because they want some professionalization experience that undergrad couldn't give them, or because going back for an MA might mean getting more likely pay raises down the line if they teach at a place where MAs are rewarded in that fashion. Because not all MA students end up going for the PhD, the question is: how do you make yourself competitive with other students who are coming out of MAs and going into PhD programs?

To me, the things that will make you a stronger candidate if you want to get into PhD programs are the things above and beyond the "credential" numbers (e.g. GPA): teaching experience, potentially conference or even publication experience, and strong letters of rec from faculty who have seen you do graduate-level work. Those things are more likely to happen at a place where you not only have tuition relief but also are getting paid to do work that will make you a more appealing applicant for PhD programs, which is the kind of stuff that comes with an assistanship. 

To me, there's no choice here, especially if you do want to go on to the PhD after the fact: in one place, you're getting what is undeniably a good education (a friend of mine did her Comm MA at Wake), but you're either going to have to work outside of school or go into debt, which will decrease the time you have to spend building the CV components which will make you a strong PhD applicant. In the other, you don't have to worry much about finances (though I don't know what living is like in Pittsburgh), and you'll get the chance not only at advanced study but also employment at a university. Barring any better offer, Duquesne seems to me the clear winner.

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Okay, thanks so much! I’ve definitely been leaning towards Duquesne, but people I know in real life (who don’t know much about academia) have been pushing towards WF or NYU, though funding is worse. I appreciate these perspectives!

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as someone who completed a fully funded MA recently, i can't imagine doing it without a stipend and being as successful without becoming a mean, bitter asshat of a person working way too many hours and drinking way too much coffee and tequila.

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15 hours ago, wildsurmise said:

Okay, thanks so much! I’ve definitely been leaning towards Duquesne, but people I know in real life (who don’t know much about academia) have been pushing towards WF or NYU, though funding is worse. I appreciate these perspectives!

If these people don't know much about academia -- particularly the intricacies and nuances of graduate programs and their rankings, which differ from the prestige of schools in general, the kind of prestige that the average layperson perceives -- then you can take most of what they recommend with a grain of salt. We're talking about humanities degrees here, which means going into substantial debt should be avoided at all costs. The NYU MA is unfunded, and an easy way to get into six-figure debt during a time in your life where you won't be making much money to pay off the principal.

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I'm currently in a fully funded with stipend MA program and turned down offers from other MA programs that offered funding on a competitive, yearly basis from universities that could be considered more "prestigious" than my current institution. The stipend and the teaching experience that come with it are invaluable in my opinion because you will have worry less about money and by getting to teach a college class early on in grad school you can get to see what a job teaching at a university may look like. When I was looking into MA programs funding and the programs placement into PhD programs were what I mainly looked at, but I actually, in retrospect, see that it was kind of weird to look into PhD placement for MA programs because even if a program has a good track record of placement into top programs that may not be because of the program and could be because of any number of reasons (too many to list). Place is also important because so much of your grad school success is dependent on your happiness so consider that as well. There is this weird idea that people in grad school should isolate themselves and study constantly, but that is a genuinely unproductive (and unhealthy) idea. Sure, grad school is a lot of work, but it is also life.

 

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On 3/14/2019 at 11:19 PM, silenus_thescribe said:

If these people don't know much about academia -- particularly the intricacies and nuances of graduate programs and their rankings, which differ from the prestige of schools in general, the kind of prestige that the average layperson perceives -- then you can take most of what they recommend with a grain of salt. We're talking about humanities degrees here, which means going into substantial debt should be avoided at all costs. The NYU MA is unfunded, and an easy way to get into six-figure debt during a time in your life where you won't be making much money to pay off the principal.

I also want to second this. People you are close to (who may be well meaning) who are unfamiliar with how graduate study in the humanities works will just see a university that they know is good and therefore must have a good grad program in English. These people are also usually unaware of how precarious the job market is (even for people with degrees from elite institutions). I had to have a lot of conversations with well meaning people who care about me about why I wasn't applying to elite school x or y, and instead was applying to universities that they were less familiar with (or completely unfamiliar with). These conversations always stressed me out a lot because they are usually with the people who care about you the most and therefore think that you should be going to a "prestigious" university.

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Not to be too negative, because obviously these people mean well, but there's nothing like talking to someone who knows nothing about how lit/rhet/comp academia works, and fielding questions like, "Oh, so you're getting your PhD in X city! Will you try to get a job in X city when you leave?" 

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I'll throw my 2 cents in too. Go to Duquesne. I did a free but no stipend MA in Berlin, it was great. But I'm exhausted, being able to not work would have been a dream. Prestige doesn't really matter for MA. Just the work and that is going on to be better if you focus on it. 

Also, as someone who knows about English/lit/comp grad rankings but not a lot about school rankings for undergraduate I can honestly say I had never even heard of Wake Forest until the scandal broke over the last week. Maybe this is also being from the opposite coast. Maybe this is just my ignorance. Just saying that prestige is so relative. I have like fifteen anecdotes about the illusions of relative prestige. If you want a few I'm happy to share. :)

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I'm also going to throw my two cents in. I'm currently at Winthrop University for my MA. One of my friends from the program that graduated last year transferred from Wake because she didn't feel like it was a good fit. Fit does matter, in my opinion at least, in each stage of graduate schooling so that way you feel like you are actually making progress. It is easier to go to the faculty and other students for help if you feel connected to them.

I will also say that my MA program gives a small stipend and only pays for half of my tuition. If you can get in somewhere that is fully funded and gives you that good of a stipend, I say take it. Your work will speak louder than the name of the school it's coming from. Take the chance to go to conferences, try to see if you can get some publications in, and use that time that you would be using working to pay for rent or food or what have you at Wake to make yourself more competitive for the Ph.D down the road. I am absolutely exhausted having to work extra side jobs on top of everything else.

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Thanks for all this sound advice. 

So as an update, I was pretty much committed to Duquesne especially after reading all this, but then Wake offered me a $10,000 stipend... And after talking with students there, no one seems to be going further into debt, and they have time to work part-time jobs to make ends meet pretty comfortably. Duquesne is still offering more money, but the program seems more rigorous at Wake (based off of my perhaps faulty one day visits). There are professors I like and share interests with at both places.

Oh the conflict!!

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I think that if you have at least a year or two of experiencing working PT while in school FT (although undergrad intensity might not measure up to grad school intensity), and that if the thought of working for the entirety of your studies at WF is somewhat exciting rather than daunting, then go for it. Sometimes it is energizing to have more on your plate/to have responsibilities outside of school/academia, but only you know what kind of energy you want this next stretch of your life to bring : ) 

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