Campus in the early fall of 2016.
I consider attending grad school one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you’re thinking about applying to one, please think about what you want to do with your master degree. Do you even need it? How will it help you? Do you want to go on to a PhD program afterwards? Any type of degree above a high school diploma looks awesome on a resume, but keep in mind that you still need to put in a fair amount of work into landing a great job. You need to be pro-active, optimistic and willing to walk the extra mile in order to stand out.
Since it seems like so many are going for a bachelor degree these days, I find it a little surprising that not more people climb a little higher on the academic latter. Perhaps it’s the crippling debt. Perhaps they’re stuck in a three-jobs-minimum-wage hole. Perhaps they’ve started a family and it seems impossible to make the time for classes, essays and other homework assignments. Perhaps it feels daunting to return to school if completing one bachelor took more than four years. Perhaps they think they’re too old.
The fun thing about grad school is that there is a wide range of students: Young people like me who recently finished their undergrad and older folk who already have stable jobs or fully fledged careers. Some of them have children. The graduate courses tend to be a little more expensive than undergrad ones, but you don’t need to take nearly as many credits. More importantly, you don’t need to take a bunch of silly requisites that are unrelated to your major. You have more control and can tailor your master’s to your liking. If you’re busy and money is tight, you can always take your time. I plan to finish in two years (two classes each semester, plus one summer class this year), then there are others who have decided to work on their master’s over a 6-year span because of various obligations outside campus. For example, one woman I know has five children to think of and a demanding job, not to mention she also coaches a dance team (I think she said the girls are from middle school).
Just to put it out there, a bachelor’s isn’t worthless. The problem is that there are many people who have them. When an employer is looking to hire someone, they’re going to look at dozens and dozens of people with an applicable degree, who may be equally qualified. This means that once you have your bachelor’s, you need connections, unique skills and perhaps an internship or outstanding project. If someone is looking at 50 applications and three of them say “master’s in…,” they’re most likely going to toss the other 47.
Again, a master degree doesn’t guarantee success, and it’s up to everyone to decide for themselves what they want and need in their professional life. But it makes a difference.
In my case, it was needed. I had graduated from Central Michigan University in May of 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts. My major was creative writing and I also had a minor in journalism. I wanted to be like Rory Gilmore, a journalist, perhaps even a freelancer. (Yeah, yeah, laugh it off.) Not unlike that “A Year in the Life” special they released on Netflix, it didn’t work out. I worked for a newspaper in Mount Pleasant for two and half months, then got laid off because of budget cuts and downsizing. I could have continued chasing the journalist dream, but that meant moving (which costs money… money I didn’t have), taking risks (which I had done by taking that job), and scraping together passion for it (which wasn’t there anymore). Frankly, I’m just glad it didn’t take me 10 years to say goodbye to journalism.
The one dream I’m sticking to is becoming a full-time writer, like my idols J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and many others. In the meantime, though, I need a stable job and preferably an interesting one.
Currently I’m working on a master’s in communication with a focus on media studies at Oakland University. The past year has been incredibly exciting! I’ve read so many scholarly articles and book excerpts. Often times, as an extracurricular activity, reading folks such as Michel Foucault and various feminist scholars. This spring semester I had the wonderful opportunity to work as a graduate assistant, which allowed me to get to know the faculty better and I performed one-hundred (or at least close to that many) hours of research on their behalf.
The culture in grad school is radically different compared undergrad, which I like a lot more. My classmates are more adult. They’re truly there to learn and grow, not to get away from their parents or something to that effect. Unlike my undergrad, I’ve never found myself sitting in a classroom with 25-30 other people, thinking, “How did they get into college? My God, I’m surrounded by idiots. Please, end class early.” I don’t have to endure homesickness since I’m now living with my parents. There are no opportunities or incentives (at least for me) to stumble into a bad crowd in the desperation of “finding myself.” Partially because I commute, partially because I have found my center by now.
Not to undermine my time at CMU. It was an amazing experience that helped shaping me into the woman I am today. During those four years, I fluctuated between being a straight-A student, a writer who neglected everything for her art and – no bullshit – just stupid, hanging out with people who had a bad influence on me.
I surely met a buffet of people: batshit crazy roommates; easy-going, tea-drinking artists; radical, left-wing potheads; smug, charming douche-bags and creeps; better roommates who loved Disney movies and invited me to parties with their theater buddies; young women who loved expressing themselves through dance; fellow journalist students who have gone on to writing really cool stories at big newspapers; a myriad of writers and poets who inspired me; professors and mentors I still look up to; awesome friends who listened, supported me and made me laugh. Let me give you some advice: Stay in touch with the friends you make in college, make an effort to meet them sometimes, because they are more valuable than that degree you bring home.
Making friends in grad school is different as well, especially if the department of your choice is small. I will elaborate on that subject another time because this post has carried on for a bit longer than planned. Hopefully you have found this helpful if you’re thinking about grad school or if you’re wondering whether it was a mistake to get a bachelor degree. (I know I did the latter for a while.)
This series will continue till I graduate next spring so keep an eye out if you want more insight on my life at grad school.
Careers one can pursue with a master’s in communication:
University instructor, Community college professor, Communication & Marketing for universities or businesses, Athletic management, Human resources, Corporate communication, Account management, Public relations, Recruitment, Sales and Business development, Non-profit communication, Consulting, Change management, Editor/Writer