Author Topic: Graduate studies, WWYD?  (Read 683 times)

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CakeBeret

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Graduate studies, WWYD?
« on: December 17, 2012, 11:04:36 AM »
So, folks, this is what happens when you're forced to decide on a career path at age 17. ::)

When I was in high school I was SO ready to be done with schooling. I felt like I needed a college degree, but was unwilling to spend the time to obtain a master's or doctorate degree, so I needed a bachelor's degree that would get me a decent job. I decided to get a business degree, figuring it would be versatile enough to aid me in getting into a good career. However, my ideal career path would be in academia, teaching English or history at the college level.

I've always wanted to go back to school and get a master's degree in English so that I can begin teaching it. Around here there are a ton of community colleges that employ folks with master's degrees. Eventually I would want to get a doctorate and get a position at a university.

This has been a pretty far-fetched dream because I just don't have the money to go back to school. Graduate studies are expensive.

Recently, a family member came into some money, and has offered to loan me the money to go back to school. I'd have to take more undergraduate classes and then work on the graduate degree, so it's going to be a lot of money. The family member has offered to loan the money with no interest, and is willing to wait however long it takes for repayment. The family member's goal is to see me get the degree and job I want, and the money is a secondary concern for them.

The problem I have is that I don't like debt. I particularly have a problem with going into debt for a career path that's not even that lucrative in the short term. I would probably be making 10-15% more than what I do now. I'm fine with making that amount of money, but it does mean that it would take me a long time to repay the loan. It could take 15 or 20 years, and the thought of owing money to a family member for the next 15 years bothers me.

But it's my dream.

What would you do, and why?
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2012, 11:11:25 AM »
Depends on which relative is offering to loan me the money.  And whether or not they are likely to die before I get a chance to pay it back.

If it was my Dad offering, I'd do it.  I'd make sure there was paperwork that tracked what I owed and what I'd paid back so if he passed away, what I still owed could be taken off my inheritance.  If it was an aunt or uncle or other relative similar in age to my Dad, I probably wouldn't because I'd be concerned that I wouldn't get it paid back and there would be no way to pay the whole amount to settle the estate.

If it was a sibling or a cousin who I was very close to, I probably would.  My second cousin twice removed?  No.
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camlan

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2012, 11:24:39 AM »
The first thing I would do is some research. Check out schools you would like to attend and find out just how much work you would need to do in order to apply there for an English Master's Degree. How many undergrad courses would you need to take? Some universities will accept a certain amount of work experience instead of course work.

Then look into what money is available in the various graduate programs you'd like to attend. I was in grad school for a total of six years, two for my Masters and four for the PhD that didn't happen. Only in the first year of my MA program was I *not* a Teaching Fellow or Teaching Assistant, with a stipend and some amount of tuition remission. And at the school I went to next, even first year MA students had TAs.

Now, it takes longer to finish a program if you are teaching, because you usually give up taking one or two classes a semester in order to teach. But you gain valuable teaching experience. I was a TA at two different universities, both times in an English department. Unlike some other disciplines, where the TAs run lab and discussion sessions, I was pretty much in total charge of the class, having to make lesson plans, plan paper topics and quizzes, grade everything, and at one university, I got to chose the books I taught. There's no professor to "assist"; you are in charge of the class. It's great experience, but it can be time consuming especially that first semester.

The TAs are usually not based on financial need, but given to grad students who are doing well in their programs. So you might be able to cut down on the amount of money you would borrow from this relative considerably. At one school, I got free tuition and a stipend when I was a TA, and some degree of health insurance. I still needed to pay fees to the university and find the money for living expenses (rent, food, utilities) and books. And there can be a lot of books per course for grad English courses. But getting free tuition helped a lot. Every school is going to be different in how they hand the TAs, so you need to find out what the facts are at the schools you would like to attend.

There's also differences in cost between attending full-time, part-time, and just taking one night class a semester. It might be worth going in and talking with someone at your top choice schools to see what all the options are.

In other words, I think it would help to find out exactly what the costs would be and what options there are for stipends and tuition remission before even starting to make a decision about this.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


CakeBeret

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2012, 12:05:06 PM »
I would be going part-time and probably would not seek a TA due to my work schedule. I have a school in mind with a master's program I like, and an interdisciplinary PhD that's a possibility down the road.

I have an estimate for total costs of the master's degree. I have a rough estimate in mind for undergrad classes I would need. I have an overall total estimate based on my top choice school.

I do need to sit down with an academic advisor, but I wanted to wait until I've made up my mind on whether or not I'm going to pursue this.

The family member is a step-parent. There is little to no possibility of divorce. The step-parent is a huge proponent of higher education. I get the feeling that the step-parent would rather just give the money, while my actual parent wants the money repaid, if that gives you an insight into the dynamic.
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."

wolfie

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2012, 12:28:56 PM »
How much of a dream is this? In 30 years will you regret not being able to pursue it? If you came into money tomorrow would you then go ahead and do it? Is the only thing holding you back that you would owe someone money?

Jovismom

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2012, 12:29:28 PM »
I think that you might want to spend some time using google to check the job market.  I personally know 3 people with English masters degrees who are unemployed and have been for some time.  I'm not at all in that field but, from listening to their occasional very casual talk, I think there are a lot of folks in that field unemployed.

At this point in time I'd do a great deal of research on the probable job market before I put money into continuing education in any field!  There are just so many people unemployed.

ETA:  I just realized that perhaps I came across as abrupt and being against higher education.  That isn't the case at all, I'd just hate to see you take on more debt as my friends did and wind up in the same boat that they did.  Perhaps the field is more "open" in your area and getting a job won't be a problem.  I hope so but I really felt I should mention what has happened with my friends.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 12:33:51 PM by Jovismom »

CakeBeret

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2012, 12:58:48 PM »
How much of a dream is this? In 30 years will you regret not being able to pursue it? If you came into money tomorrow would you then go ahead and do it? Is the only thing holding you back that you would owe someone money?

If I came into money tomorrow, I would be enrolled in a program within an hour. Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit. ;) But if I had the money, I would pursue it immediately.

Jovismom, I have explored that concern. Once I get the degree, I'm okay with teaching just one or two classes at a time as an adjunct. I'm okay with continuing in my current career until a teaching opportunity opens up. I'm also very much okay with relocating if I find a position elsewhere. I definitely accept that I might not be able to find a teaching position soon after I finish the degree.
"From a procrastination standpoint, today has been wildly successful."

RegionMom

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 01:00:52 PM »
In five years, how would your decision have changed your life?

(I would most likely go for it.)
Fear is temporary...Regret is forever.

Jocelyn

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 01:04:06 PM »
I second checking the job market. People who are teaching at community colleges are very, very often having to accept a class here and a class there (which means no full-time salary or benefits). They often have to teach more than 4 classes a semester, which means a killer of a grading load.
Are you willing to relocate after graduation? If not, then contact the prospective employers in your area and inquire about their requirements for adjunct instructors, as well as the salary and benefits packages- you may find that $12,000 a semester and no benefits just isn't worth it to teach. You may want to teach adjunct while working at another job. But there are more MAs and PhDs in English than there are teaching jobs, so really seriously look at the job market in your area before you consider the loan. You might end up with a job that doesn't really allow you to pay off the loan.
And yes, I'm in another field of academia.

cicero

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 01:40:46 PM »
why not find out what undergrad classes you would need in order to switch to an english masters/PhD? see how many credits you need, can you start taking a few classes without /before being accepted to the graduate program?

So, folks, this is what happens when you're forced to decide on a career path at age 17. ::)

When I was in high school I was SO ready to be done with schooling. I felt like I needed a college degree, but was unwilling to spend the time to obtain a master's or doctorate degree, so I needed a bachelor's degree that would get me a decent job. I decided to get a business degree, figuring it would be versatile enough to aid me in getting into a good career. However, my ideal career path would be in academia, teaching English or history at the college level.

I've always wanted to go back to school and get a master's degree in English so that I can begin teaching it. Around here there are a ton of community colleges that employ folks with master's degrees. Eventually I would want to get a doctorate and get a position at a university.

This has been a pretty far-fetched dream because I just don't have the money to go back to school. Graduate studies are expensive.

Recently, a family member came into some money, and has offered to loan me the money to go back to school. I'd have to take more undergraduate classes and then work on the graduate degree, so it's going to be a lot of money. The family member has offered to loan the money with no interest, and is willing to wait however long it takes for repayment. The family member's goal is to see me get the degree and job I want, and the money is a secondary concern for them.

The problem I have is that I don't like debt. I particularly have a problem with going into debt for a career path that's not even that lucrative in the short term. I would probably be making 10-15% more than what I do now. I'm fine with making that amount of money, but it does mean that it would take me a long time to repay the loan. It could take 15 or 20 years, and the thought of owing money to a family member for the next 15 years bothers me.

But it's my dream.

What would you do, and why?

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guihong

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 02:05:33 PM »
As well as following the great advice already given, find out if your current employer would reimburse parts of your costs, though it sounds as if they aren't even related fields. 

I would meet not only with an academic adviser at the schools you are considering, but meet with their financial aid office and sign up for anything offered to grad students.   If he's offering x dollars, try to make your costs less than x. 

Before you commit to a school, find out what kind of career placement facility they offer.  A good one can make finding a job easier.

Personally, I would go for it.  I would put together your planned classes, and the costs breakdown that shows that you've done your homework and are serious, and take that to your relative.



katiescarlett

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 06:44:47 PM »
I think, as long as you are comfortable with the money aspect of it, and your family is as well, you should go for it!  Good luck!

figee

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Re: Graduate studies, WWYD?
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 07:17:58 PM »
Rethink. Or at least check out The Chronicle of Higher Education. The basic rule of thumb for me is not to go into debt for a higher degree especially in an oversubscribed field like English. To get a teaching job you will need a PhD as you will be competing against PhDs for jobs. Adjuncting is not a career. It is a grind with no security or benefits.

This sounds negative, but you need a much clearer sense of the academic market before plunging in.

If you don't want an academic job, and want to pursue your studies just for your own interest, then go for it.