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Hey guys, St. Andrews gave me a generous extension when I asked for one.

Also, can anyone help me out? At this point, I've pretty much narrowed it down to BC, St. Andrews, or Dartmouth's MALS program. 
Does anyone know very much about MALS? I'm very curious if the reputation will still be so great because it's Dartmouth, or if people won't take it seriously as a two year Masters in a subject. 

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Personally, I'd go BC. They have great exchange programs with other schools in the Boston area, particularly for gender studies, and I've found teaching experience invaluable in my MA program. Plus, competitive funding never looks bad on a CV.

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Hello everyone. I am posting in hopes that you will be able to offer some thoughts on the grad school decision process. This may be long, so I apologize!

 

Previously on... I applied to 10 programs, and was rejected from nine and wait-listed at another, Brandeis. I applied to Brandeis because it seemed like a good program, but they offered me a fee waiver and I honestly didn't think I would get in. Although the POI at Brandeis who contacted me about being wait-listed seemed to indicate that I was near the top of the waitlist, my wife and I made the decision to basically "write off" grad school for the fall. A combination of the job market and my being in school full time had led to us eating into our savings, so we thought it would be best if we both worked for a bit before trying the grad school process again. My professors at my undergraduate institution encouraged me to look for work at my undergrad school, because I could attend their masters program free of charge if I did so, possibly in the fall. I began applying for jobs, as did she, and she was able to find full-time work in her field pretty quickly. (My wife is only licensed in her profession in NY and NJ.)

 

Then, I got into Brandeis, with from what I understand is a pretty generous financial aid package (22,000/year fellowship for five years, medical, full tuition). That was on Wednesday. On Thursday I heard back that I'd made it past the first round for an interview at one of the positions at my undergraduate institution. 

 

Due to my wife's job, we would be living apart if I attend Brandeis, except in the summers when I could work. It also seems to me that commuting to Brandeis, even if it's every other week, would quickly eat into that stipend between rent and travel. That said, everyone I've spoken to at my undergrad institution or who have navigated through the process says that a) Brandeis is a fantastic program, particularly in English and B) 22,000 a year plus medical is a fantastic offer.

 

As I see it right now, I have these options (in no order):

 

1. I don't accept the offer.

2. I accept the offer, do a year or two at Brandeis and then transfer closer to NYC, where we live now and have worked hard at establishing a life here. (I was told that transferring is more common than it seems, but I would like, if possible, additional support for this.)

3. I accept the offer, and after a year or two, my wife gets licensed in MA and moves to the area.

4. I accept the offer and we do five years apart with the knowledge I'll be working summers.

5. I use this offer to solidify my future, either as an employee or as a master's candidate at my undergraduate institution.

 

I guess the biggest issue here is that I'm dealing with certainty vs. uncertainty. If I had heard back from some of the jobs, including  that I applied to, or I was a little more confident in the knowledge that I'd be able to start in the graduate program at my undergraduate in the fall or spring, then this would be a much easier decision. I would love to continue my education and relationship with my UGI, and continue collaborating/working with professors there. My other concern is that my test scores weren't great, and I worry that they could hurt my application for an MA. I think I'm just worried...

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On 4/3/2015 at 8:40 AM, BLeonard said:

Hello everyone. I am posting in hopes that you will be able to offer some thoughts on the grad school decision process. This may be long, so I apologize!

 

Previously on... I applied to 10 programs, and was rejected from nine and wait-listed at another, Brandeis. I applied to Brandeis because it seemed like a good program, but they offered me a fee waiver and I honestly didn't think I would get in. Although the POI at Brandeis who contacted me about being wait-listed seemed to indicate that I was near the top of the waitlist, my wife and I made the decision to basically "write off" grad school for the fall. A combination of the job market and my being in school full time had led to us eating into our savings, so we thought it would be best if we both worked for a bit before trying the grad school process again. My professors at my undergraduate institution encouraged me to look for work at my undergrad school, because I could attend their masters program free of charge if I did so, possibly in the fall. I began applying for jobs, as did she, and she was able to find full-time work in her field pretty quickly. (My wife is only licensed in her profession in NY and NJ.)

 

Then, I got into Brandeis, with from what I understand is a pretty generous financial aid package (22,000/year fellowship for five years, medical, full tuition). That was on Wednesday. On Thursday I heard back that I'd made it past the first round for an interview at one of the positions at my undergraduate institution. 

 

Due to my wife's job, we would be living apart if I attend Brandeis, except in the summers when I could work. It also seems to me that commuting to Brandeis, even if it's every other week, would quickly eat into that stipend between rent and travel. That said, everyone I've spoken to at my undergrad institution or who have navigated through the process says that a) Brandeis is a fantastic program, particularly in English and B) 22,000 a year plus medical is a fantastic offer.

 

As I see it right now, I have these options (in no order):

 

1. I don't accept the offer.

2. I accept the offer, do a year or two at Brandeis and then transfer closer to NYC, where we live now and have worked hard at establishing a life here. (I was told that transferring is more common than it seems, but I would like, if possible, additional support for this.)

3. I accept the offer, and after a year or two, my wife gets licensed in MA and moves to the area.

4. I accept the offer and we do five years apart with the knowledge I'll be working summers.

5. I use this offer to solidify my future, either as an employee or as a master's candidate at my undergraduate institution.

 

I guess the biggest issue here is that I'm dealing with certainty vs. uncertainty. If I had heard back from some of the jobs, including  that I applied to, or I was a little more confident in the knowledge that I'd be able to start in the graduate program at my undergraduate in the fall or spring, then this would be a much easier decision. I would love to continue my education and relationship with my UGI, and continue collaborating/working with professors there. My other concern is that my test scores weren't great, and I worry that they could hurt my application for an MA. I think I'm just worried...

 

First, congratulations for getting off of the waitlist, even if it has created a quandary of sorts for you. 

 

My two cents:

 

I know there must be a bazillion thoughts running through your head right now as is reflected in your post, but my attention zoomed in on that sentence in the beginning where you said that you and your wife made a pretty firm decision that you would "write off" Brandeis. That, to me, sounds like your decision.

 

The other options you present---variations on the theme accepting and attending---all seem unattractive, seeing as how you would be apart from your wife. And it seems, at least from the facts you've presented, that the reason you would accept Brandeis now would be because it's just "too good to pass up"/you're not sure whether you'd be able to get into a program next year. 

 

And just to play the devil's advocate, I'm not sure how easy it is to transfer. It's one thing if you're talking about professional schools where relationships with professors don't make or break careers. But going into a PhD is much like signing up to be the apprentice to your advisor's master, and from everything I've heard about PhD programs is about the importance of the advisor. How do you think your future advisor will act upon you letting him/her know of wanting to transfer for issues you knew to have existed before you accepted your offer? 

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If BLeonard has a good relationship with their current advisor, perhaps even lets them know that they could serve as the outside reader because of how much he values their guidance, and has a good reason (not, "well, I realized I was much more Columbia material"), which he has, then I wouldn't think the advisor would be too upset. But there's always the risk that you don't get into schools you want to be at if you transfer, so that's something to consider. 

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As far as I know, transferring isn't really an option. That's why, when you look at grad program websites, there's no info about transferring. You would have to reapply to NYC schools and be considered alongside all the other applicants, and you'd likely have to start over. Just think about it: why would Columbia want to give someone its stamp who did most of their coursework elsewhere? Programs want to train their scholars from start to finish, which is why you'd likely have to start from scratch in a new program. Maybe you could transfer in a semester or two of coursework, but I can't imagine much more.

The only other time I've heard of people transferring is akin to insider trading: an advisor gets a new job and brings her student(s) to the new program, or maybe, a professor goes out of his way to bring in a student he really wants to work with (I've never heard of the latter, but theoretically, it could happen).

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Thanks for confirming my suspicions regarding transferring. It seemed very odd when the person I've been doing a lot of scholarship with at my UGI mentioned that that was an option. 

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Just chiming in to say that I have a good friend who was able to transfer from a Ph.D. program at Boston College to an equivalent Ph.D. program at Ohio University. Granted, it is more in the realm of a business Ph.D. than the humanities, but if you would like me to find out more information on how it worked, feel free to PM me.

 

As to the rest, the spousal component does complicate things, and my wife and I were facing a similar dilemma had I gotten in to a Ph.D. program elsewhere. One X-factor is that New York and Boston are relatively close -- about a 2 - 2.5 hour drive, no? In theory, you could just rent a room near campus for three or four days per week, then return to New York on weekends. Option 3 is also quite viable, in my view, if your wife is amenable to living in Boston.

 

Personally, my wife and I were willing to live apart for the five years if we had to. She would have looked for work in her field wherever I was located, but we were prepared for the possibility of "summers and weekends." There are some people who could never do that, and with damn good reason, I might add. Since my wife and I have had to live apart by necessity for months and years in the past (I immigrated to the U.S. to be with her), we knew we could do it...but it's certainly not the ideal, and not for everyone. In our decision-making process about Ph.D. programs, we decided that me getting a Ph.D. would be the best for both of us in the long run. "Short term pain for long term gain," as the saying goes.

 

So I would be going for the Brandeis option, myself, with the hope that your wife can get licensed in the state in the next year or two. It's truly a balance of personal and professional in your case, and there's no great solution. But you did apply to Brandeis for a reason, and it's a great program with a very good funding package. I just think that, if your ultimate plan is to get a Ph.D. regardless, you may wind up regretting a decision to reject a guaranteed offer now when you have NO guarantee of an offer in a couple of years...especially in a shrinking discipline.

 

Either way, you have my empathy. It's a tough one, and I wish you the best of luck in making your decision! As mentioned, feel free to PM me.

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My concern with travel is this -- neither my wife nor I drive, so unless I get licensed and find a car before August, we would be relying on buses and trains. I would have to run the numbers and figure out whether the cost of gas and insurance would be less than the cost of train/bus trips every week/every other week. 

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My concern with travel is this -- neither my wife nor I drive, so unless I get licensed and find a car before August, we would be relying on buses and trains. I would have to run the numbers and figure out whether the cost of gas and insurance would be less than the cost of train/bus trips every week/every other week.

There are super cheap buses between NY and Boston, and you can travel overnight (if you don't mind being a bit tired when you arrive). Amtrak is more expensive; even the Northeast Regional is about $80, but you can get a student advantage card which gives you a discount. But...travelling the NE corridor is literally the most productive place I have found to do work, so...it might not be too bad! Edited by wreckofthehope

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My concern with travel is this -- neither my wife nor I drive, so unless I get licensed and find a car before August, we would be relying on buses and trains. I would have to run the numbers and figure out whether the cost of gas and insurance would be less than the cost of train/bus trips every week/every other week. 

 

I commute between NYC (where my partner is) and New England (where my program is), and actually I have to say taking public transport, for me at least, is far preferable to driving. I take the bus, which is super cheap and surprisingly reliable. And I just spend the 3 or so hours reading, so it doesn't feel like it massively bites into my work schedule. If you drive on the other hand, that is essentially dead time, so you're writing off the best part of a work day every time you do the trip. So if I were you I'd look into cheap public travel options and see if they're feasible rather than worrying too much about not being able to drive. Just my two cents...

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22,000/a is a pretty nice, steady income for 5 years! Congrats! :)

 

I'm not sure if I missed it in your original post but you mentioned that you applied kind of on a whim because of the fee waiver. I guess I'd ask... do you like the school enough? Is there a strong fit? I know it's a very strong program, as I've heard from people attending, but do you know that you'll have POI to work with, you'll have the resources you need to do your research, etc?

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Yeah, they offered me a fee waiver, but I guess I didn't apply "on a whim," more like the fee waiver led me to consider the school when I hadn't before. There are a lot of positives about the English department there and I think I could do good work/explore the kind of scholarship that interests me, both at the school and in other schools in the Boston area. 

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Just echoing what other people have said here. I'm from the Boston area and currently live in NJ on the transit line. It's very feasible for me to visit my family on the weekends - a round trip (from NYC to South Station and back) on the megabus is 50 bucks (25 each way) and you get there in a little over four hours. That's definitely cheaper than gas and tolls, and you'll be able to work during transit. It's obviously still a time commitment, and I'm guessing a financial commitment, since you'd need a studio or something near campus. But the transit options are plentiful and really cheap. 

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I second these people - I'm a Bostonian who did plenty of commuting to NYC to visit my boyfriend. It was very manageable! Its certainly a long bus ride at around 4 hours, but not a bad time to do some reading or get work done, and it's usually pretty affordable! Just book your holiday weekends early.

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Thanks for all the advice! I really appreciate it. 

 

My other question, I guess, is this, and would require a bit more research on my part, but my other concern is that if I am commuting/arranging my schedule so I'm on campus a couple days a week, that I wouldn't get as much out of the grad school experience as I should. It seems like networking and being available for reading groups, panels, presentations, or just hanging out with people in the program is a big part of any grad school and vital to getting employment after graduation. Should I consider going home during the weekends only because of this? If I commit to a program, I want to fully commit and participate in as much as possible. I worry if I have to be concerned about getting back to New York all the time, that will cut into that. 

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Hey guys, St. Andrews gave me a generous extension when I asked for one.

Also, can anyone help me out? At this point, I've pretty much narrowed it down to BC, St. Andrews, or Dartmouth's MALS program. 

Does anyone know very much about MALS? I'm very curious if the reputation will still be so great because it's Dartmouth, or if people won't take it seriously as a two year Masters in a subject. 

 

Not sure if you've made a decision, but my two cents anyway. If you plan on pursuing a PhD English beyond the MA, then from a branding standpoint, I say BC. It makes life easier if adcomms know how to categorize you. I do have a friend who did the MALS and is now in an English PhD program, but his interests are spread between English and other media. If English is your primary focus, BC will serve you better.

 

Ivy does not automatically = superior in this case.

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Just chiming in to say that I have a good friend who was able to transfer from a Ph.D. program at Boston College to an equivalent Ph.D. program at Ohio University. Granted, it is more in the realm of a business Ph.D. than the humanities, but if you would like me to find out more information on how it worked, feel free to PM me.

 

As to the rest, the spousal component does complicate things, and my wife and I were facing a similar dilemma had I gotten in to a Ph.D. program elsewhere. One X-factor is that New York and Boston are relatively close -- about a 2 - 2.5 hour drive, no? In theory, you could just rent a room near campus for three or four days per week, then return to New York on weekends. Option 3 is also quite viable, in my view, if your wife is amenable to living in Boston.

 

Personally, my wife and I were willing to live apart for the five years if we had to. She would have looked for work in her field wherever I was located, but we were prepared for the possibility of "summers and weekends." There are some people who could never do that, and with damn good reason, I might add. Since my wife and I have had to live apart by necessity for months and years in the past (I immigrated to the U.S. to be with her), we knew we could do it...but it's certainly not the ideal, and not for everyone. In our decision-making process about Ph.D. programs, we decided that me getting a Ph.D. would be the best for both of us in the long run. "Short term pain for long term gain," as the saying goes.

 

So I would be going for the Brandeis option, myself, with the hope that your wife can get licensed in the state in the next year or two. It's truly a balance of personal and professional in your case, and there's no great solution. But you did apply to Brandeis for a reason, and it's a great program with a very good funding package. I just think that, if your ultimate plan is to get a Ph.D. regardless, you may wind up regretting a decision to reject a guaranteed offer now when you have NO guarantee of an offer in a couple of years...especially in a shrinking discipline.

 

Either way, you have my empathy. It's a tough one, and I wish you the best of luck in making your decision! As mentioned, feel free to PM me.

Having done it many times, I can safely say that Boston - NYC is NOT a 2.5/3 hour drive. It's like a 4/5 hour drive. *shrugs* and it adds up if there's traffic... which there always is!

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Not sure if you've made a decision, but my two cents anyway. If you plan on pursuing a PhD English beyond the MA, then from a branding standpoint, I say BC. It makes life easier if adcomms know how to categorize you. I do have a friend who did the MALS and is now in an English PhD program, but his interests are spread between English and other media. If English is your primary focus, BC will serve you better.

 

Ivy does not automatically = superior in this case.

Thanks for the input! That's a good point - I'm kind of doing the masters because I'm not entirely sure if I want to study drama in a theater or English department. Dartmouth might give me the option to continue to do both (as I did in undergrad) and BC will be sorta like - you do the English coursework and if you like it, you go English PhD - if you hate it, go theater. 

But yeah, I appreciate the idea! I'm trying to gauge how heavily the Ivy would be weighted. I think I would prefer to go to BC, but again I don't want to just turn down an Ivy without at least putting some thought into it... and I'm from the Boston area so I really have no idea how people perceive BC outside of greater Boston. 

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Thanks for all the advice! I really appreciate it. 

 

My other question, I guess, is this, and would require a bit more research on my part, but my other concern is that if I am commuting/arranging my schedule so I'm on campus a couple days a week, that I wouldn't get as much out of the grad school experience as I should. It seems like networking and being available for reading groups, panels, presentations, or just hanging out with people in the program is a big part of any grad school and vital to getting employment after graduation. Should I consider going home during the weekends only because of this? If I commit to a program, I want to fully commit and participate in as much as possible. I worry if I have to be concerned about getting back to New York all the time, that will cut into that. 

Obviously you're the only who can answer that question. I was in a long distance relationship for my last year of college, with my boyfriend 3 hours south of me. We would see eachother about every other weekend, so two weekends a month out of four. We would try to swap - he would come up one weekend, and I'd come down the other. (Well actually, he came up more, but that's because we had lots of friends on campus.) 

But anyway, I found that arrangement to be very manageable. I was still able to have a social life during the week and weekends, while only losing one weekend a month to being out of town. The weekend he came to me, we'd still go out and spend time with friends. And seeing one another every other weekend wasn't too bad. 

But if that's not enough time for you, or she wouldn't be able to come out and visit you, etc, etc - that wouldn't necessarily work.

Oh and just to note - as a frequent Boston>NYC traveller, it is about a 4/5 hour drive, and close to 5 hours on a bus. It is never a 3 hour trip (although I wish it was!)

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An MALS will not be regarded as particularly prestigious to PhD programs--even if it's from Harvard. A fellowship or stipend from BC will be viewed much more positively.

From Dartmouth, actually, but yeah. Do you have any idea why people don't think it's as prestigious as other programs?

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Right, I meant that even Harvard has a Master of Liberal Arts, and even that isn't prestigious. Why they aren't prestigious: high price/no funding; nearly open enrollment (no GRE, correct?); less stringent program requirements (any language required?); etc. It's fine for what it is--a program for teachers to earn additional qualifications, hopefully paid for by their employers, but it isn't a traditional departmental graduate program. Really, these things seem to be a way for prep schools to add credentials to their websites and trick unsuspecting parents.

Sorry, if I'm being harsh, but I do get irked when people get blindsided by a name instead of the reputation/quality of a program. I've worked in prep schools for years and seen administrators fall for the glamor of a Columbia MA in fields where an MA from Arizona or a BA from Cincinnati would be more impressive. The people who do this for real--the professors on adcoms--know the field and know that an MAPH from Chicago is different from an MA from Chicago. (And I would say an MAPH is probably more respected than an MALS.)

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Should probably have clarified - the three and a bit hour bus ride I mentioned is to Providence, not Boston. And that's on a good day / times when there isn't a lot of traffic - if you hit rush hour it can be over four. So yeah, for Boston I guess you'd be looking at more like 4 - 5...

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