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Preparing a fall-back plan


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Hey, everyone. So, I've made some posts before about my plans to move from my current location in San Antonio, TX, to Boston, MA, next summer. My mother lives in Boston and I've never had the chance to live near her, and I plan to study the historical archaeology of colonial America in grad school. Since I'm graduating this spring, a move to Boston for grad school just makes sense. My boyfriend of 6 years and his younger sister will be making the move with me (we've all lived together for a year, and my boyfriend and I 2 years before that, and get along great).

Here's where it gets tricky. I had a few rough semesters after a transfer to a new school, a move to my first apartment 3 hours away from my hometown, a new job in the new city, and a messy divorce between my father and stepmother. I shouldn't have let it affect my schoolwork, but it did. I transferred to my university with a 3.76 gpa, and now I'm at a 2.91 (yikes). I'm doing very well this semester now that I've gotten my act together, and if I keep it up and can get to roughly a 3.2 by the time I graduate in the spring. While this isn't terrible, it also isn't competitive.

To make matters worse, I didn't choose my anthropology major until last semester. I was an English Lit. major until I took my first anthropology course and fell in love. Unfortunately, I didn't learn about the importance of field schools and research assistantships until recently, and no longer have the time or money to do any of these things before application season rolls around.

So, here's where I stand. I've found several schools in the Boston area that look promising (Salem State University, UMASS Boston, and Simmons College to name a few). I don't want to take any time off of school between my undergrad and grad, and I can't really afford to start paying back student loans anyway. I'll be applying to these schools and a few others in January with my fingers crossed that I'll be accepted into at least one. However, I need to assume that I won't be accepted, and have a fall-back plan in place.

The plan: would it be a good idea to take classes at a community college or undergraduate program in the meantime? I was thinking I could always take a couple of language courses, or maybe even some more anthropology and history courses. I would do a field school or two if possible, and try to get some research experience. Does this sound reasonable?

Any help or suggestions are welcome, and thanks in advance for your help!

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How you do on the gre will be very important. Try to make sure your above 3.0 when you apply due to that being most magic number at least. Be prepared for no funding since most schools fund people off old gpa and gre's. Depending on how much student loans you have I would think hard about taking more. I know people with over 200k and I just feel bad for them. They will be paying it their whole lives and will struggle.

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I think your fall back plan should focus on getting research experience rather than taking more classes. If you're really lucky, you could get a paid research assistant job. However, that would be more likely to happen in your current location, where you have some connections. You can probably find a volunteer RA spot at one of the Boston schools. If you get some directly related research experience, you'll be more competetive.

A couple classes probably won't move your GPA much, you should do the math and see if it's worth the money and time (time that could be spent doing research). I think you have some good things to address in your SOP, and as long as your grade problems are limited to a couple semesters, it should be forgiveable. But it will be more easy to forgive if you have the research skills they're looking for.

This is actually what I've been doing during my gap year, volunteering in a lab. It's worked out really well for me, and I've gotten a great LOR from it. So, I might be biased.

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Thanks for the advice! To address some of your questions/concerns, I actually managed to get through my undergrad with only $17,000 in student loans, $15,000 of which is subsidized stafford loans. I was quite fortunate to receive scholarships that covered my first two years at a community college, and federal grants that helped a lot with the rest. Of course, I'd love to not take on anymore debt than necessary, but I've been fortunate enough thus far that taking on a bit more in loans for my MA wouldn't kill me.

As far as taking courses at a community college for my fall back plan, it was more to put off having to pay back student loans than to improve my GPA. I realize that it wouldn't really affect my GPA much, if at all, I just can't afford to start paying on my student loans just yet. I will definitely look into some research assistantships and volunteer positions, however, to help improve my resume.

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