Graduate School: Blessing or Curse?

Pros and ConsI finally finished all of my graduate school interviews two weeks ago, and I’ve since received responses from all of my programs. I am extremely fortunate to have been accepted to eight doctoral programs (I’m not sure how I managed it). Oddly, the more acceptances I received, the more anxiety I’ve had about making a decision. I’ve  caught myself wishing I’d been accepted into just one program (which I realize is an absurd and ungrateful wish). It has been an extremely drawn out and stressful process to get into these programs, and yet its completion lacks any sense of relief.

Ultimately I’ve narrowed my choices to three programs, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Here they are:

University A
Degree: 5-year Psy.D in School Psychology
Where: 3 hours away
Funding: Full tuition remission + $7000 stipend.

University B
Degree: 5-year Psy.D in School Psychology
Where: Home
Funding: Potential for full tuition remission (highly likely but not guaranteed); may not find out before I have to make decision.

University C
Degree: 5-6 year Ph.D in Educational Psychology
Where: Home
Funding: First year free, work-study and adjunct opportunities in later years.

It seems like an obvious choice if I’m just considering finances: University A. However, the stipend would cover living expenses and not much else. At home I have no living expenses, and I really believe I’d be happier at home. University A was my undergraduate school, and I feel strongly that four years there was enough; it’s not a place I want to settle down or begin to live my adult life. Still, it has the only guaranteed funding.

For University B, fellowships with full tuition remission will be awarded within the next two weeks. After that, I’d have to accept the offer in order to find an assistantship (which I’ve been told are abundant at this school) to cover most or all of my tuition. Though it’s likely I’d find an assistantship, it’s a $30,000 gamble, but it’s the school I’d like to be at most.

For University C, a public university, I would have the first year covered and no guaranteed funding after that, but a bunch of work opportunities. The tuition is also dirt cheap because it’s a public school (5 years of tuition at University C equals ONE year at University B). It’s also a different degree type (Ph.D vs. Psy.D) which may help me to find jobs in academia, but my desired career path really involves working for school districts, not teaching at universities.

Based on this extremely limited (but vital) information, what might you do? Would you be concerned more about the financial aspect of graduate school, or where you would be happier? A degree with a wider range of job opportunities, or one that trains you strictly for the job of your dreams? For those of you in grad school or with graduate degrees, did you face a similar choice?


4 responses to “Graduate School: Blessing or Curse?

  • Teacher Girl

    It sounds like B is where your heart is, and if you are going to be spending the next 5 years of your life doing something, you should love it. Good luck!

  • Deidre

    I’d go with B. I spent four years in college hating every second of where I was (and a lot of money…ahh…college). It took me a long TIME to recover.

  • E.C.

    Graduate school is a blessing, but it would seem to be much less so for you folks who aren’t in the sciences. It’s nice to be in a field where programs don’t accept students they aren’t able/willing to fully fund.

    The information you’ve provided is extremely limited. Other factors I’d want to weigh include: If you went to a school where you weren’t fully funded, how would you pay? Do you have any debts now? How sure are you of your career choice? Is there a difference in prestige among the different schools, and if so, will that matter for the types of job you’re seeking? How does the research component of the Ph.D. compare with that of the Psy.D. and how do you feel about that?

    In any case, if your schools all respect the common April 15 deadline to choose, I’d definitely wait until then in the hopes of hearing back about the fellowship. Funding is a very good thing, and if you’d end up having to borrow without it, take a long, hard look at how debt repayment would affect your life after graduation before deciding.

    Oh, and congrats on getting in to programs you like!

  • Piled Higher and Deeper. « The Postgrad Agenda.

    […] Back in March I posted about the three universities I had to choose between. I selected University C, which put me square […]

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