Friday, September 20, 2013

So, you think you want to go to graduate school.

I am in my next-to-last semester of graduate school. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I am looking at questions for comps. It is because of these things that I feel that I can be reflective about something I am frequently asked about. Sometimes it's in casual conversation. Sometimes it's whispered to me. Sometimes it's emailed to me. What's this question? I'm thinking about going to graduate school and I'm over 30. What should I think about? What do I need to know before I make this life change? Well, I will answer, for all of those who want to know, but are afraid to ask. 1. Graduate school is a commitment. It does not matter how you do it: online, face-to-face, part-time, full-time, a mixture. Even if you are just taking one class. You had to endure testing, applying and acceptance into a program. This is now a part of your life that you must acknowledge. 2. Don't casually go to graduate school thinking that it's a stopgap measure or you'll use the time to figure out what you "really want to do." What you're in grad school to study should be what you "really want to do." Which leads to my next tip. 3. If you really don't like the subject area you are studying, grad school will be a drag. I love libraries. I love everything about them. I hunger to learn more. I read about libraries even when school is out. I easily see myself doing this for the next 80 years or so. And it's a good thing, because THAT IS ALL I STUDY IN SCHOOL. When I was in law school, I did not feel this way about the law. So I know what I am talking about. 4. Your weekends are not your own. Especially if you are working while in graduate school. Prepare yourself and your family and significant other and friends for this. It is real. 5. Your brain will be stretched in different directions. I have found that having some life and work experience has helped me to look at class projects and assignments differently. I have also had to learn new ways to approach things. 6. Being on a college campus is fun, but please don't try to relive your undergraduate days. I am on the campus where I had some of the best times of my life, made lifelong friends, was a total sorority girl, and for the first time in my life, where I had some modicum of 'popularity.' However, the undergraduates on this campus are children to whom I could have given birth. It would be ridiculous for me to try to hang out with my young sorority sisters. My point here is, don't go to grad school to relive undergrad. 7. Start thinking about career and job-searching during the very first semester. I don't have the luxury of doing a 2-year residency after graduation or going to London to work at the Inn of Court library. I've got to get a job and I think about that every day. I am a real grown up with real responsibilities, and that is real for me all the time. 8. Know why you're going to graduate school. My graduate school experience has been AMAZING! I love my curriculum, professors and colleagues. I am having experiences that are imprinted on me personally and professionally for the rest of my life. It is great, and I am having fun. However, if I could have gone straight to working in a library without graduate school, I would have totally done it. I know why I'm here. Librarianship is a profession, and there is a professional rigor about learning the mindset and how to do it properly. Ask yourself exactly why you're going and then examine the answer. Your gut (and pocketbook) will tell you if it's a good thing. 9. You can expect to make a major shift in your finances. Even if you are still working at your same job, even if you have a scholarship. Books,supplies, fees, other little things that crop up are real. 10. If you are thoughtful and smart about your graduate school experience, it will change your life. I experience a joy I hadn't expected. I am in my groove, and I feel like I am using the gifts I have, rather than just doing something that fulfills me and serves people. This is a generation of people who make shifts in their lives all the time. If you know that this is the thing for you, just do it. You're worth it.