Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Four Reasons You Should Go to Grad School

Most kids know about college. It's where you go after high school so that you can spend four years trying not to sleep, eating enough pizza for an entire football team, attempting to write 10-paged research papers in a single night, and saving up to buy soap at Walmart when you eventually have time to take a shower. And all this just so you can get a job.

As an alternative to immediately joining the workforce following college, you can go to grad school. What is grad school? Should you go? People don't understand what it is unless they've actually attended, and even some who have survived grad school have trouble explaining it to outsiders.

Ask your cousin Mildred, who did a five-year combined master's-Ph.D. program in Geometric Calculus First Methodist Geology Differentiation, and she'll blink her pale blue eyes behind her binocular-like glasses and stutter, "Don't...send me...back there. I... just want to sleep. Just want...a desk job. Just want...Mommy..."

So don't ask cousin Mildred. Ask me. Without further ado, I present to you...

Four Reasons You Should Go to Graduate School:

1. They say that if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.  If you attend grad school, you will never be the smartest person in the room. 

Your Mass Media professor, Dr. Xenogh Xu, M.S., M.D., M. Div., Ph.D., who has published 179 research studies and has been working in his field for 48 years, will ask you a question like: "How can we characterize the passivity of the receiver when we examine the aftermath of 911 through the lens of second-level Agenda-Setting when taking into account Neo-classical perspectives that negate any possibility that priming will not occur following a crisis divergent from the personal narratives held by individuals of Muslim descent?"

Your response will inevitably be: "Um, I think I hear the fire alarm."

Then some 2nd-year Ph.D. student will supply an answer that sounds like chapter 17 of a textbook called Mass Media Theories for People Smarter Than Albert Einstein right off the top of his head.

2. You won't have to join a gym or go on a diet because you won't have time to eat anyway.
You will rise at 6 a.m., pack 17 hats into your bag, and show up at the office. You'll spend all day grading undergraduate papers, meeting with your advisor, attending 2.5 hour long classes, teaching a freshman earth science class, answering emails, fighting ninjas, and meeting with your supervising instructor. Once you get home around 6 p.m., you'll read hundreds of pages of articles for class, read Google Scholar like there's no tomorrow, and try to work on one of the four 25-paged papers you have to write this semester.

Around 2 a.m., you'll realize you have to get up in four hours, but your stomach is eating itself. So you'll raid the fridge and eat corn on the cob, heat up some expired Easy-Mac, and fall asleep next to your bowl of stale Wheaties before the Easy-Mac is ready.

The next morning, you'll consider buying Life cereal next time because of the irony.

3. It's a great conversation-starter with people you haven't seen in a while.

Person you haven't seen in a while: "So you graduated from college, right? What are you doing now? Churnin' up those profits on Wall Street?"

First of all, Person 1 doesn't even remember that your undergraduate degree was in history, and the only thing you know about numbers is that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

You: "Actually, I'm in grad school."

Person 1: "So you couldn't get a job?"

You: "Um, actually I wanted to go to grad school. It's kinda hard to get in."

Person 1: "So it's like... going to college again?"

You: "No, it's a lot harder, actually. I evaluate tier 1 research projects and sift through the related literature for gaps so I can make my hypothes—"

Person 1: "So are you going to do anything cool like Indiana Jones? Like raid tombs or something? Should I call you Dr.?"

You: -_-

4. You'll be challenged in ways you never imagined, work harder than you ever thought possible, and accept that you know almost nothing—and that is okay.

You might be asked to teach an undergraduate class including students who are only a year or two younger than you are. You might be in the same class—both as students—with one of your former professors from your undergraduate university. You might have to deliver a 40-minute presentation on a topic about which you know next to nothing before an audience of 2nd and 3rd year Ph.D. students. You might have to learn how to balance working 30 hours per week and taking a full load of graduate school classes while figuring out how to pay bills, grocery shop, and cook all your own meals.

You might learn that you know very little and that you have to ask for help a lot, and that is not just okay—it's ideal.

Basically, don't go to grad school unless you really, really want to. It's not something you do just for the heck of it. But if you do want to attend, GO FOR IT. It's awesome, and I wouldn't have wanted to do anything else with the last two years of my life.

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