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AMA: Boston College MA/PhD


philosophia14

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Hi folks! 

I happened to log on here after a few years to do some poking around and noticed some people had questions about Boston College's MA and PhD and that no one seemed to respond to them. 2016 folks who've committed to BC and 2017s who are considering applying, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. I'm a 3rd year PhD in the department and am loving Boston and all the adventures I've found at BC.

Philosophia

P.S. Apologies to those of you who asked questions and never got e-mails back. We've cleaned up the website in an effort to get questions for current grad students sent to the right liaison. :)

Edited by philosophia14
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Hey there! Thanks for the AMA--I'm gearing up to apply for PhD programs in the fall (I will complete my first MA in June 2017), and Boston College is one of the schools that I'm seriously looking into. I'm an English major with a deep interest in cognitive science, and how the two intersect. One thing that attracted me to this school was that it seems to be really flexible with letting people take their studies in the various directions that interest them. More than just about any other program, BC seems genuinely interested in letting students build their own plans of study, and see where their research takes them. I don't know if that is also the case in the Philosophy dept, but I imagine their must be some overlap. I've also hear something about how students are able to take seminars at the Harvard Center for the Humanities if they want to--is this true? Or is it a giant pain in the butt to get into one of those? What about travel opportunities?

Haha, sorry about the slew of questions. I was just very excited when I saw your post.

In addition, I'm interested in the particulars of funding. They say on the website that they can guarantee five years, and the teaching schedule looks pretty realistic. I know that you aren't in the English dept, but I can't imagine that the Humanities would be too different from one another in terms of dollar amounts--forgive the impertinence of the question, but if you feel comfortable could you share the amount you receive in stipend? And is it realistic to live in Boston with? I'm a west-coaster, and have never been to that part of the country--the way people talk about it here, you'd think it was like affording Dubai or something.

Thanks again!

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Hi ratanegra! 

Happy to help in what I can. I should give the caveat that I have no interaction with the English department. BC has been pretty flexible with me--I ended up changing my AOI significantly about a year into the program, and no one seemed to raise any red flags. :) Every department handles those things differently, but mine has been very hands off in letting me study what I want to study and follow what I'm interested in. As a general rule, I tell incoming students that they can take classes at any of the institutions in the Boston area except MIT and Harvard given our consortium agreements. Lots of us take classes at BU when they're appealing, and I've had friends take classes at Brandeis and Tufts. English may have an agreement with the center for humanities--that'd be a question for the department probably, but I know philosophy doesn't have agreements with MIT and Harvard.

I can tell you that PhD funding across departments differs very widely in the school between departments. Each department is quite autonomous with how it does things and the other grad students I have met from English have different service duties for their stipends than the philosophers do, so I'd imagine salaries would range based on the differences in those duties. I tend to not share my stipend amount with the world :) (and it's no impertinence to ask, no worries on that score!) but I can tell you I haven't starved on BC's stipend. Living in Boston is an adjustment cost of living wise and that is something to take into account for sure, but all of the doc students I know have found ways of making it work. I usually pick up a part-time job in the summers to make things work, but I also do a lot of expensive traveling during the school year, which makes my extra expenses quite high and puts a strain on my stipend. BC pays for at least one conference presentation trip a year, which helps on that side of things as well! Rent in Boston is high--it's a reality that you really can't escape unless you're willing to live way out in the suburbs and forgo the convenience of the city living. I don't live like royalty on my stipend, but I certainly live comfortably. My department also provides me with health insurance, so that expense is taken care of by the school. 

One more thing that I think few people think about when they're applying to PhDs--the undergrads at BC that I've taught are really stellar. That has made my job as a TA/instructor a lot more enjoyable and a lot easier. BC undergrads are motivated, and sharp as a tack. When you're juggling teaching, taking your own courses, research, and your personal life plus a thousand other things, having great students really helps keep you motivated and excited about what you're doing. My jaw dropped the first time I sat in on an undergrad class here. My students show up with the reading done and questions waiting for me--that alone makes the craziness easier.

Feel free to ask me any further questions!

Philosophia

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Thanks philosophia! That's actually really helpful--from what I've read, the English dept is similarly hands-off when it comes to letting you manage your own AOI. I'm glad to hear that the stipend is livable, too--I'm pretty low-maintenance, but I worry when I'm not sure. I'm glad you were not offended by the question! If I choose to apply (and I think I will), I will ask the DGS directly about stipend amounts in English.  

What you say about the undergrads is actually really cool--I'm working as a TA  right now teaching English 101 (college composition), and many of my students are great, but a whole bunch clearly see the class as a simple hoop to jump through. I love teaching, and it's depressing when they clearly don't care about the material. As you pointed out, when you're already juggling so much it can be hard to reformulate lesson plans in an attempt to entice them to learn :/

I have one more question for you--the program officially funds five years, but it usually takes six years to get a PhD. I know that there is a lot of difference between departments, but in general have you noticed the sixth-year students getting what they need? For example, are they able to continue teaching, or to apply for fellowships?

Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it :) 

 

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Good question! In my department, 2nd years+ teach a 1:1 each year (excluding the dissertation year funding, in which we don't have any service duties). I've seen some of our 6th year people win competitive university-wide dissertation funding, which gives them a second year of service-free funding. My friends who haven't won the competitive second year fellowship have indeed found teaching for our department. Usually they teach a 2:2 for about the same amount of funding that I teach a 1:1 for, since their department funding is over and they're now in the adjunct pay grade. Does that answer your question okay? 

And absolutely in agreement about undergrads. My students gave me the excitement I needed to power through my own research this past year, which often isn't the case. :)

 

 

Edited by philosophia14
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