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should I go to graduate school, or not? would really, really, really appreciate your advice.


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Hi there...

I am deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, and I would greatly appreciate your logic, wisdom, and sage advice.

I graduated with a BA (concentrating in both English and Spanish) about 2.5 years ago. Right when that happened, I had my heart set on becoming an academic for quite some time. Even given the state of academia, I was determined to be an excellent candidate for an academic career. I basically ignored most of the warnings about delving into academia, and focused on what would make me more likely to succeed based upon advice from professors/mentors: more jobs for early modern lit, so I'd concentrate there (supposedly, maybe you've heard otherwise), having a couple of languages under my belt, having unique research, etc...

With all this in mind, I set out in the summer of 2013 to make it happen. I chose to go for the English MA, because I figured I'd get my toes wet, see if it was going to be the right choice for me, going to graduate school.

I followed the typical instructions for making your graduate application as strong as possible: my letter writers received neat and tidy information about my goals and ambitions, and I received strong letters in return (I guess I must have, anyway) I re-edited an old paper and turned it into a great topic that had a focus similar to that of my proposed research, blah blah...

I got into four of the six schools I applied to. Of course, I wanted to go to my #1 choice, and figured I'd stick with that. But I was able to think about my options, and feel pretty good about my results!

Around that time I was also hired to a pretty decent position as a grant proposal writer. It was a position that actually used my degree to some extent, paid well, and promised future opportunities. I decided to defer my acceptance and wait it out...save some money.

About a year later, I have since quit that job (I worked for some dishonest folks, it turns out, but I was able to learn a lot about proposal and technical writing, which was pretty neat). I currently do freelance writing on the side (currently mostly editing but also some blog writing), tutor ESL, substitute teach. I basically make my own schedule and I LOVE that part of my lifestyle. I think I am pretty "self-motivated," but mostly, I love being my own boss. I sometimes wonder if I couldn't freelance write full-time. I'm definitely not exactly breaking the bank but I am actually working from home most of the time, and I think I can figure out how to make a lot more money if I decide to make freelancing my goal. But I don't know.

I am so disheartened about everything I hear about the academi job prospects following graduate school. It would seem that everything I'd (likely) have to give up---like being able to decide where I want to live, living near family, studying or teaching exactly what I wanted...has become more important to me than ever. As much as I do really enjoy early modern lit, I can't help but feel like resigning myself to studying/teaching it/being an early modernist forever doesn't really...fit anymore. It seems like I am giving something up---like I decided on early modernism because it seemed like the academic/job prospects were better, and I might find a job more easily. Not that I don't love that time period.

Substitute teaching is kind of fun, but I really don't like the uncertainty of it, and if I'm being perfectly honest, it doesn't really seem that far a cry from adjunct-teaching---the lack of benefits and overworking, anyway.

I've been really lucky: I've held a few jobs since I've graduated that have actually used some of the skills I learned from my degree, and I've learned that English majors CAN get jobs! I've started to fantasize about revamping/revising my post-graduation plans...and I can't believe I'm saying it---okay yes I can---I'm no longer interested in being a professor. I've watched so many graduate students become utterly jaded and mean and overworked. I've watched my professors fly from state to state, dragging their families along with them...

I know these are all realizations that I probably would have benefitted from digesting earlier in the game, but I'm just not sure if I should attend this English MA program anymore. Maybe if I hadn't had some decent jobs/opportunities this year I'd still be all about it. Have I simply ignored the realities of academia the whole time I've been planning to go to grad school? Sure...maybe mostly at the beginning of my application cycle. :(

These doubts have been wearing at me for a while. I'm hoping some of you might have some advice: I should probably just search for an alternative career, right? Maybe grad school will happen sometime in the future, in a different way? Maybe some small weird part of me thought that academia might fix itself a bit before it came to be my turn (I know, I know). I can't be the only person who has felt this way.

Advice??? Did you have a similar experience as me? Are you a freelance writer? Do you have an English BA, too? Advice??? Advice???? And if there's a better subreddit I should be posting this at / good resources for this dilemma...

Sigh.

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First: it looks like you copy-pasted this from Reddit, so it makes your post appear as a wall of text. It's difficult to read.

 

Second: I have a BA in English and Classics, an MA in English, and am doing a PhD in English. The choice between applying your skills to the "real world" or academia is a difficult one. Worrying about the academic job market as a prospective MA student is probably not worth the stress, to be completely frank. That's something you'd need to think about before getting a PhD, but the job market is so bad that an MA just isn't enough to get into academia, except in community college settings. Even there, though, the surplus of PhD's is making that use of an MA start to become more and more uncertain. What an MA does do for you, however, is make you more competitive on the regular job market in a way that a BA or PhD does not. An MA is a BA+ in today's market, because of the proliferation of the BA.

 

If you have a funded offer, I say go for it. There's no reason you couldn't still freelance while working on your MA. If you like it, then maybe you'd want a PhD later, knowing all the risks that such an endeavor entails.

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Thank you for your response. As you might imagine, I wanted as much feedback as possible, so I did actually post this to reddit. However, I find that editing posts here is super glitchy and weird. I realized it wasn't terribly readable, and I think my browser is preventing me from seeing where you can edit the posts. I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong, since I've never had this issue before.

 

Anyway...I appreciate your advise. I'm not sure if I have the stamina to go through this MA program AND then the PhD, given the job market. My offer isn't funded--so I've got loans to consider to boot. I'm really leaning toward the negative side of things, here. I don't know if I could really do 20 hours of freelance work on top of the MA. Based on my personal tendencies, I know that would be really hard for me.

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I'm in a completely different field but I think that you should be very certain that it's worth it before jumping into a ton of doubt. This isn't a now or never decision... If you aren't certain that you want to do the MA then I would keep doing what you're doing which you seem to enjoy and apply again in the future if you decide you want the MA. Maybe with the additional experience you'll be able to land a funded offer in a few years.

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Looks like you did the right thing in posponing your MA: you now realize that there are lots of options out there which might actually work quite nicely for you. Generally I think that if you have doubts about grad school - don t do it. It s usually very hard, therefore difficult to overcome and enjoy unless you are sure it s to get a dream job. (Anticipating critical word picking: I mean unless you are sure that Professor is your dream job)

Imo you should not do master s unless it can bring something to you as a professional writer as well. If you re paying, might as weĺl be something useful, right?

Edited by random_grad
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My degree isn't English-related but I do have advice. Never do an unfunded graduate program. Ever. The return on your investment just isn't there. It sounds like you're doing great with your BA. All a master's degree will get you is debt. If you can find a funded offer, even from a lower ranked school, I would defer to the advice given by Between Fields. 

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Yours is a very personal decision and no one on a web forum can tell you the right answer, they can only give you their perspective, which may or may not align with yours. I'm entering a grad program that makes no economic sense whatsoever and many people on this forum tell me that I must reject grad school for this very reason (not to mention people in regular, real life). But I'm doing it for love of the subject without any rose colored dreams of the future. Whether you want to do the same or not is for you to decide what is right for you. I do have 5 years of funding which should be enough to cover my whole stay, I wouldn't do it unfunded since that is well into the 6 figures of pure debt.

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I agree with eyepod that this is a personal decision that depends on your priorities and goals. I think you need to know why you want to attend and what exactly you will gain. Know what you're getting into.  If you decide that it's worth it to you, all things considered, then go for it.  But if you aren't sure, I wouldn't take the risk.  Like bsharpe269 said, you can re-apply in the future if you aren't positive this is the right decision for you now.  I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this type of question; it's your life, so you have to decide what you want to get out of it.  

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Thank you for your response. As you might imagine, I wanted as much feedback as possible, so I did actually post this to reddit. However, I find that editing posts here is super glitchy and weird. I realized it wasn't terribly readable, and I think my browser is preventing me from seeing where you can edit the posts. I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong, since I've never had this issue before.

 

Anyway...I appreciate your advise. I'm not sure if I have the stamina to go through this MA program AND then the PhD, given the job market. My offer isn't funded--so I've got loans to consider to boot. I'm really leaning toward the negative side of things, here. I don't know if I could really do 20 hours of freelance work on top of the MA. Based on my personal tendencies, I know that would be really hard for me.

 

 

Not having funding changes my advice: Don't do it. 

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