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Preparing for graduate school (Film Studies).


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I know there are a lot of threads on these, but I'd rather not hijack one.

I'm currently a freshman, Critical Studies (Film Studies) student at USC and thinking ahead of my path post-grad. I'm currently interning with a film company right now and my experience hasn't been the best. This experience, however, has led me to another internship at a bigger film studio, so I explore the technical aspect of film post-production for Spring semester. Interning has led me to the conclusion that I'm much more geared toward the academic field of Film Studies, but I would love to research and work for a film advertising company, or possibly manage, teach & write.

If I do decide to go to grad school, I'd love to study in a program with a rigorous, philosophical approach to film, as opposed to the technical approach (like USC). I'm really interesting in pursuing the topics of queer cinema, composition, and industry business of film. I know University of Chicago, Columbia, and University of Wisconsin-Madison have some great film studies department. I know for sure I'd like to go to graduate school away from the west coast, since I was born and raised here (not in LA, but I'm familiar with Washington, Oregon and California). I think it would be enriching to explore the country and experience change for once. My first semester here at SC went well...not great, but good. I'm probably going to end up with a GPA of 3.3-3.5. I know I can do much better and get around a 3.7+. I'm still trying to balance internship, work-study, commuting, paying for my own rent/bills, etc. I'm confident I will do much better in the following years.

In the meantime, is there anything else I can do to prepare myself for grad school? I'll probably end up studying for the GRE around my junior year, so I really don't want to stress over it now. Are internships valued at graduate school? Observing the workplace environment at both small to big film organizations have influenced me a lot in what I want to study, too. Ideally, what kind of stats do these graduate programs seek for? I'm not asking for chances, just any inputs and advices. Thank you in advance.

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Hi Darin,

If you wanted to work in marketing or management (not academia), that would be a pretty different path than if you wanted to research/write/teach. I'm currently in a PhD program in film/media studies, so I am in a good position to give you advice on pursuing academia:

The things you mentioned would mostly be bonuses on a grad school application, not essentials. What matters for grad. school admission are your letters of recommendation, your statement of purpose, your writing sample, and last, your gpa and gre scores (mostly for funding). So what you should be focusing on is READING as much as you can in the field (seriously...READ, READ, READ...everything), learning to write well, doing research, and getting tight with professors in the field. Maybe senior year try to get permission to take a graduate seminar and/or present at a conference (as a side note, you could try to attend some of the academic conferences/colloquiums they have at USC).

Let me reiterate, because it is important - get to know professors in the program you are in (professors with PhDs, more than lecturers). Take as many classes as you can with professors in the field, go to office hours, research with them (this is important); once you build relationships with them use them as mentors throughout your time in undergrad. Tell them that you want to pursue graduate school and let them guide you through the process of applying, as well as help you understand more broadly what it means to pursue academia. This field is small, and the programs that accepted me for grad. school told me that my application stood out because I had very great letters of recommendation from people that they knew. You are in a good position, being at USC, because most of the professors there are well-known in the field. You should also get to know a couple of the PhD students at USC. I did this as an undergrad, and they also helped me understand what it means to be a graduate student, how to prepare for graduates school, and they helped me through the application process.

And to answer some of your more specific concerns:

Get your gpa as high as possible, but know that my gpa and gre scores were mediocre, and it didn't hurt me at all. In all honesty, grad schools won't care that much about your internships, but you should keep doing them anyways -- it's good to keep many doors/opportunities open. Research is more important though. And no need to worry about specific programs now. Be aware though that because of this field's competitive job market, location often has to be (and probably should be) one of the less important factors in choosing a grad program.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions (or feel free to PM me).

Edited by ci1717
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