Category Archives: Graduate School

Unfortunate News

I’ve been M.I.A. because I’ve recently gotten some unfortunate news about my program. A little over a week ago, the whole program was urged to attend a last-minute meeting, for which they even cut classes short. We were told that our university would be suspending funding, and therefore admissions, to our program, as the budget did not allow for it. Our program is particularly expensive to maintain because we need to maintain accreditation by the important organizations in our field. This news was extremely discouraging (I was looking forward to ushering in new first-years), but it didn’t stop there. We are due for a site visit by our accrediting body in 2013. Without funding or any special agreement, we will almost certainly lose accreditation following that visit. Seeing as how I won’t be graduating with my doctorate until around 2017, this presents a major dilemma.

The students’ initial reactions were that without accreditation, the degree would be useless. We have since learned that this is not the case, though it does limit our options a little. In this state, an unaccredited degree will present no problem in getting hired at a school (schools frankly do not care about psychological accreditation), nor in sitting for the state licensing exam in psychology. This is good news to many of us, as most students in school psychology prefer to work in such applied settings. The beauty of the Ph.D., however, was that it also allowed us to teach in academia and conduct research, both of which apparently value an accredited degree. So although the most important options are still on the table, this news has knocked a few off that list.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still awful news, but no part of me (nor many other students, I believe) has the energy or desire to transfer programs. This happened as a result of a budget crisis, and does not speak to the quality of the program that we’re in. I’m still proud of the program that I’m in, and barring even more traumatic news, I’d really like to stick it out here. As far as I’m concerned, I can still do what I want to do with this degree.


The lead faculty are also doing what they can to arrange a “phase-out” of accreditation, which may provide a few additional years of accredited graduates (not likely me, as I still have a long way to go). The decision is tough, but ultimately I have no where else to go right now. If I do change my mind, I wouldn’t be able to apply anywhere until the fall. So at this point, only time will tell where I’m headed.


Piled Higher and Deeper.

This has been my life for the past four months. Six to eight hours a day, three days a week. My days off are usually spent completing work/reading, though occasionally I find time to keep up on my shows. I do, however, take off one complete day per week. It’s always nice to have that day and not have to think about school, though it’s often impossible not to when there is always something to be done.

Ricka-ricka-rewinddd. Back in March I posted about the three universities I had to choose between. I selected University C, which put me square into a 6-year doctoral program for a Ph.D in Educational Psychology. I chose a Ph.D because of some clear advantages over a Psy.D (Doctor of Psychology), which include a wider scope of skills, research experience, and ultimately job options. It was the right choice! Though I’m not conducting any research yet, I’ve found myself surprisingly intrigued by the research side of academia. I came into this program with clinical intentions (hence my initial interest in a Psy.D), and though I haven’t yet made the switch, I am certainly interested in research. I won’t begin my own research for another year or two, when I started thinking about my dissertation, but that is all too far away at this point. I am, however, trying to get a jump-start on potential dissertation topics, which I’ll raise in my next post. Lastly, the program is located right in the heart of the greatest city in the world, and there is a vibe to the city that I love. Overall, I was sold. I can’t deny that I received an amazing financial package three hours away from home, but this one was comparable (when factoring in living expenses) and I truly believe there are greater things in store for me here.

Fast forward. I’m approaching my first finals and everything seems to be going well so far. I’ve been working under a professor (mostly busy work, but some interesting research-related tasks) and I was also elected as a representative to a departmental committee, which has been a great opportunity to interact with faculty. Everyone in my cohort has been fantastic. The entire department has an overall cooperative rather than competitive nature to it, and that is exactly what a first-year doctoral student needs in terms of support. Despite the workload, I’m actually looking forward to continuing school with these people. I sense good things on the horizon…

 

So, here’s what my postgrad agenda looks like for the next month:

  • Complete my finals.
  • Return as a substitute to my job during my month off.
  • Find a way to make a steady income (however small) for next semester.
  • RELAX whenever possible. Watch more movies off this bad boy. See friends. Stay healthy.

 

So, what did I miss out in the blogosphere during my hiatus?


It’s Alive!

The Postgrad Agenda lives on! My six month hiatus was the result of a summer jam-packed with preparations for graduate school, (which began in August), and school itself (which initially consumed me). My life since then has been a series of new and exciting experiences, and I do not doubt that more await!

…and so begins season two of The Postgrad Agenda.

Stay tuned!


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?


How to Bomb an Interview (in 3 easy steps)!

I spent the weekend in Buffalo, NY on my 2nd graduate program interview. I am confident it went well, though that is no guarantee of acceptance. After a very positive experience at this program, it got me thinking about my first interview for a grad school (which was just a week before this past one). It also became glaringly obvious how awful I did. This is no exaggeration. It was horrendous. I’m a very personable individual, and I’m also very confident in my ability to communicate my strengths, weaknesses, and any other information about myself. I was wonderful at this; perhaps a bit too wonderful. In retrospect, I spent very little time being friendly (or even smiling for that matter) because I was so preoccupied with portraying myself as a professional and work-oriented person. Following the interview, I realized how little the ‘real’ me actually participated in the conversation. I was interviewing for what I thought they wanted, not who I really was. As I said, this occurred to me shortly after the interview, and became really apparent after my Buffalo interview, during which I was committed to stop this “acting job.”

Regardless of the outcome, I have looked at that first interview as both a wake-up call and a learning experience. I believe it took these mistakes in round one to be successful in round two. But to help those of you out there who would prefer never to make a mistake at all, or perhaps to make the worst mistakes in the books, I present to you three easy steps to bombing your first interview:

1. Don’t even think about smiling.

By not smiling, you communicate to your interviewer that you’re neither friendly nor interested. This is the first, and perhaps one of the most important steps to bombing your interview. Employers want to see a mature yet personable individual. While they often take their power to hire extremely seriously, a program is usually looking for someone with a bit of spunk too. Someone who can smile has an immediate advantage. If you’re looking to bomb, this is an advantage you’re not interested in. So keep your happy thoughts and positive verbalizations to yourself. They won’t do you any good for this cause. [Bonus points for a frown.]

2. Don’t prepare.

The prospect of improvising your way through an interview sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Even if your people-skills are the best in your league, this is another great way to turn an interview into a disaster. If you wanted to ace the interview, you’d do your research on the program or workplace and prepare solid responses to typical questions. But since you’re looking to bomb, use it as an opportunity to work on your acting; pretend you know what the program does, and try even harder to explain why you’re wasting their time.

3. Appear disheveled.

If the company and/or program was worth being a part of, they’d accept you no matter what you dressed or appeared like! Professional attire is for the sucker, right? Wrong. Pat yourself on the back for being a fool (if that’s what you’re going for). Your attempt to stick it to the man will most likely assist in your journey towards the big ‘bomb.’ Employers want to see someone who takes themselves and the interview opportunity seriously. To them, your initial behavior during this interview is a direct reflection of both your attitude about your work and your maturity. By not showering for a week, waking up, throwing on sweats, and hopping in your car to the interview, you’re sure to screw up big time!

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to bombing your interview. The rest will come naturally if you’re foolish enough to follow the first three steps! Good luck, and never forget to stick it to the man (if you want to live in your mother’s basement for the next decade or two)!


4 Tips to Jump-starting Your Graduate Application Process

Applying to graduate school can be a scary and rocky process (trust me, I’m in the middle of it now). Among all of the reading and communicating I’ve done with others about what it takes to get yourself into grad school, I’ve noticed four overarching themes. While not the only important factors to consider, these four are certain to get you on the right track:

1. Prepare Early. Do not wait until your senior year to seek out internships, jobs, or begin conducting research in your field. Many graduate programs (especially at the doctoral level) want to see an experienced and motivated applicant who has sought prior opportunities to study, work and learn! When you begin working/researching and how long you’ve been doing it for communicates a lot about you as a student to the program. I began as a Research Assistant in a lab fall semester of my junior year, and volunteered for two separate jobs in a nearby school.

2. Network. Not just through friends and family, but through professors. At big and small schools alike, many professors are surprisingly approachable and wish they would see more students in their office. They are not only a great source of information, but often they can help you in additional ways. You will need letters of recommendation from faculty for most, if not all, graduate programs. Allowing yourself to become a familiar face around faculty will help you greatly come application time. My research professor not only wrote letters of recommendation for me, but also mentored me through the application process, and even got me connected with someone who gave me valuable classroom experience for a year. You also never know if a professors has connections at your graduate programs.

3. Plan your finances. Understand that graduate school can be very expensive. The first thing to consider is if your preferred career requires a higher degree. If it would not benefit your career to acquire a higher degree, take that into consideration before committing yourself. Even so, often a graduate degree can make you a more desirable candidate in today’s job market. Secondly, consider the tuition cost and number of years of each program. Tuition rates vary greatly and it’s important not to assume that a program is in or out of your budget. Find out what types of aid your programs offer. It is not uncommon for programs at the doctoral level to cover some or all of your tuition in exchange for an assistantship or fellowship. About half of the doctoral programs I’m applying to offer some form of financial aid. Two offer full tuition remission.

4. Make a timeline. And stick to it. When you finalize your list of schools, create a table or spreadsheet listing all the deadlines, application materials, etc.. I’ve created a basic template on Google Docs that you can see here. You can create columns for anything you deem important to you. Use this table to figure out which programs might require more time and effort, so you can begin working on those applications sooner. Stick with the plan, but don’t be discouraged if you have to stray a little. It happens! Just stay focused and get yourself applied. Some of my application submissions have come unnervingly close to the deadlines due to setbacks. Avoid this by applying early and laying out a timeline!

These are just four of the many aspects of the application process that I’ve experienced. It’s important that you do more research on the process and (like #2 suggests) talk to people about it! Share your experiences and questions, because people have a lot to learn from one another, and if there’s any time to ask for help, it’s now!

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