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Author Topic: Questions about Grad School  (Read 1230 times)

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Offline JudeTopic starter

Questions about Grad School
« on: February 14, 2012, 08:15:44 PM »
I'm probably going to grad school sometime within the next year, and I have a couple of questions for those who have been to grad school and/or are knowledgeable about it.

1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)

3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

Thanks for the input.

Offline Caeli

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 08:35:29 PM »
I can help with question #2:

#2: It really depends on your school and your program. I know that med schools, pharm schools, and law schools are probably the most expensive. One of my friends said that when he applied (to med schools), the numbers ranged from $60-$120 each for his secondaries. My other friend, who applied for a M.S. program, said that her cheapest was $60, but that the numbers varied by school. If you end up applying to a lot of schools, it does add up. For the grad schools that I was looking into (humanities/social sciences/management), the numbers varied, but never went below ~$60. I have to add that while most of the ones I looked into didn't go over $125-ish, there are ones that are more expensive (one MBA program at Stanford has a non-refundable application fee of $265) and ones that are also cheaper. If applicable, you can look into fee waivers and see if you're eligible.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 10:37:45 PM by Caeli »

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Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 08:47:23 PM »
I'm in the process of applying to grad schools now, so I can answer about the application fees: they vary widely. I've had to pay anywhere from $20 to $80 per application. I'm applying to 7 schools total and it's going to cost me over $300 altogether. Plus other costs: school transcripts if your undergrad charges for them, plus when I took the GRE I was allowed to send the scores for free to four schools; the rest I have to pay for at something like $27 per additional report. Plus, one school didn't GET my GRE results and ETS wants to charge me to re-send the scores.

It's expensive, and annoying.

I'm applying for master's programs, and the actual application itself is simpler than a job application. It's basic info: name, where you're getting your undergrad from, what program you're interested in, phone number, address. That takes maybe 10 minutes, tops. For personal statements and essays, I wrote a skeleton of things that don't change: why I'm interested in my field, what I plan to do with it, my interests and accomplishments at my undergrad institution. That took me about an hour between outlining, writing, rewriting, etc. For each grad school, I have a list of things that attract me to the school already (I made these lists while I was searching for grad schools and narrowing down my search) so I work those things into my essay depending on the school. "I'm really interested in Dr. Smith's research into Funky Smelling Chemicals" or "I am familiar with Snooty Nosed University's reputation for working with the local community to provide legal advice, and a community connection is important to me" and so on. When I first began applying, it took me a good half hour, 40 minutes to get through that tailoring process on the personal essays. Now, it takes me 5-10 minutes because I have had practice.

I think the elective thing will depend heavily on the culture of your graduate major. I know chemistry graduate students who would never even glance at electives; they spend like 210% if their time in the lab. However, I also know graduates in other disciplines - usually music, English, etc - that have a little bit of time to take electives their first year.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2012, 07:46:12 AM »
I'm probably going to grad school sometime within the next year, and I have a couple of questions for those who have been to grad school and/or are knowledgeable about it.

1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)

3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

Thanks for the input.

I might return and write more about this later, but these are my quick thoughts as I get ready to run out the door.

1. Yes and no. You will have electives in your field, but it is unlikely that you can take electives outside your field and have them count towards your degree. Unless you can somehow justify it to your department (e.g. maybe you want to make an in depth study of Descartes' original works that refined geometry and defined emerging algebra and can get your department to bite). Every program I looked at has a number of 'core' course hours (~16) and expects you to supply the rest with electives if you are a PhD student (following which you end the first phase of your PhD, take your qualifying exam, and begin your doctoral dissertation) or a mix of electives and a thesis if you are a Master's student.

2. It depends a lot on the school. ~$100 seems pretty common from what I have seen, though it does vary quite a bit. Bear in mind that some schools (Emory springs to mind) wave their application fee entirely under certain conditions such as early applications or if a department is trying to actively recruit. And I have had program directors offer to waive application fees, so it might not hurt to talk to them directly and try to make a good impression. And yeah the applications themselves are really annoying. I have no idea how Trie cut it down to thirty minutes and am quite jealous.

3. It depends almost entirely on master's or PhD. A Master's takes a lot of time but you can scale your time commitment up and down depending on class load, there is generally no requirement to be a full time student as a Master's student (though some colleges up the tuition for part time students) and you are generally expected to have a job and support yourself apart from the university. Opportunities to actually work for your school and become a full time research assistant will likely be available but doled out like any other job and their availability will be proportional to professor/student ratio. As a for instance, the only benefit I got for doing elective research on HIV during my Master's was that I received academic credits for it without paying tuition for them (and of course feeding my obsession to know everything). As a PhD student, depending on exactly how your institution works things, you will be on the school's dime and will be expected to basically pour your life into it (and they will expect return on their investment), since after all they will be supporting you and you won't have to distract yourself with outside issues. It's definitely not something to do unless you want to make it a significant portion of your life.

That said, at least in the research sciences, it seems a lot like any other high-stress, high-performance job (especially after the first two years when you have finished your classes). Though I will say that every member of our lab (composed of me, two post-docs, and my PI) works longer hours than the PhD students in the lab that shares our floor. They tend to work 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday and don't seem to have much of a problem still having a social life and other interests. Though there will be things you wouldn't have to deal with at another job (e.g. keeping up with the literature and continually working towards that looming dissertation).

Wow that was more than I intended. I am so gonna be late! Hope it helps!

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2012, 12:32:15 PM »
Every graduate program is different, with that said, here are my comments:

1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

There are no "electives" per se, but you can get a graduate minor. Graduate school will be a significant increase in work so often people don't take on additional courses outside their area of study. In my Masters program we had to take a few courses in different departments on an approved list. In my PHD, we were required to take 1/3 of our credits outside of our program and connect them to our area of expertise. Having Math as a major and taking French as a minor would be difficult to connect academically so it might be something you will have to do in addition to your "required" electives.

2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)

They differ widely from school to school. My Masters was $50 and my Doctorate was $100. The applications differ as well. My Doctoral application was nearly 100 pages and consisted of in person interviews and panel discussions.

3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

It depends on the class, the level, and your experience with it. For example I took one course that had one book and a reading packet and it took so much time because it was outside my area. On the other hand, I took a course that had 8 required books and an additional book you had to select for yourself and that course was a breeze for me.

When I talk about graduate school to undergrads I often ask them to remember as a freshman when you were asked to write a 3-5 page paper and it seemed like a mountain, then in your junior and senior year a 3-5 page paper was tough to write because there was sooo much you could include in the paper? It's the same. I can't write a 3-5 page paper any more, 15 is tough for me!

Good luck!
« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 12:33:30 PM by alxnjsh »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2012, 01:04:20 PM »
The applications differ as well. My Doctoral application was nearly 100 pages and consisted of in person interviews and panel discussions.

O_O

Is...is that some...humanities thing? Or a factor of the school you went to?

Every place I have looked requires extensive interviews and personal statements, but they have strict caps on the size of your CV and written portion of your application. I reviewed MD/PhD applications with my boss just last week and those clocked in at only about 20 pages (personal statement and recommendations included). The programs I am looking at have between 300-1,000 applicants a year depending on school (and accept only 3-8), I can't imagine professors are willing (or even have the time if they are) to wade through 100+ pages of app for each of those. Especially since the final decision is highly weighted towards the interviews.

Good show on getting through that process! But then...that you're kind of awesome isn't really news <_<

Offline alxnjsh

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2012, 02:44:04 PM »
O_O

Is...is that some...humanities thing? Or a factor of the school you went to?

Every place I have looked requires extensive interviews and personal statements, but they have strict caps on the size of your CV and written portion of your application. I reviewed MD/PhD applications with my boss just last week and those clocked in at only about 20 pages (personal statement and recommendations included). The programs I am looking at have between 300-1,000 applicants a year depending on school (and accept only 3-8), I can't imagine professors are willing (or even have the time if they are) to wade through 100+ pages of app for each of those. Especially since the final decision is highly weighted towards the interviews.

Good show on getting through that process! But then...that you're kind of awesome isn't really news <_<

*snugs the DA*

The application itself was around 20 pages - all of the questions to answer. Then you had to submit a research article that you either have published are would consider publishing. It was a bit like a book. Basically they weed people out based on their test scores and background. They only take in 7-10 each year. It was an insane process to say the least! I think it was:

1. Application paperwork
2. Personal statement
3. Teaching philosophy
4. Research agenda
5. Scholarly article
6. CV

I imagine that they strip out much of it when giving it to the panel to review to maintain anonymity on some of it.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 07:45:51 AM »
This is making me so nervous to start applying for graduate school. 

Offline ambrosial

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2012, 01:40:07 PM »
I'm probably going to grad school sometime within the next year, and I have a couple of questions for those who have been to grad school and/or are knowledgeable about it.

1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)

3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

Thanks for the input.

As someone just about to graduate in two months from grad school, I'll give these a whirl.

Quote
1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)
Of course, it depends upon the school and program, but in general, I'd say, no. The entire point of grad school is to become even more specialized, and wandering off into electives is a luxury of undergrad. :P That being said, you can get dual degree or minors in some programs, and in mine, taking a few credits outside of my program was required. However, they had to be at the graduate level and you had to write a justification of your choice and why it worked with your degree and have it approved by faculty and the registrar. My undergrad degrees were in Spanish and English, so at first, I wanted to take some introductory French just so I could learn how to pronounce things properly.

But given all the rules, it was a no-go. Again, it'll depend on your school and program.

Quote
2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)
In my situation, application fees were minimal - about $50 each. But you'll have to apply to at least 5, going by what all my mentors told me, just to be sure you get accepted, depending on how difficult it is to get in.

Quote
3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)
All of it and then some. I don't have time to work a job at all - and I'm only taking 3 class, which is full-time in my program. My school's going calculation is 4-8 hours of work per 1 credit hour of class. So that's between about 40 to 80 hours of work a week.

Hope that helps somewhat! But, of course, everything depends on the specifics of your program and school

Offline Zipporah

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2012, 06:50:31 PM »
I'm probably going to grad school sometime within the next year, and I have a couple of questions for those who have been to grad school and/or are knowledgeable about it.

1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

2)  How bad are the application fees?  (I know the GRE general and specific can be costly, but I've heard applying is also expensive)

3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

Thanks for the input.
I think a lot of it depends on your program. I can only answer for mine. 

1) We were required to take a minimum of three electives, at least two in our department and if it was out of our department it had to be applicable to the field.  This may be different for or there fields, but I rather doubt it.  I think the opportunity to audit other classes may exist, but I've never found time to do that, although I did take an extra elective in my area. 

2) Mine were about $75 dollars or so apiece.  Also, I believe it's still possible to get the fees for the first time you take the GRE general waived if you apply for it, I would check into that possibility. 

3) The time commitment varies depending on the week.  My first semester I was in class at least 8 hours a day two days a week and spent probably 5+ hours a day the other days working on reading and assignments.  Since then I've begun an internship which is 24 hours a week and I spend a full day in classes.  I'd say that ambrosial's guess that it takes up a total of between 40 and 80 hours a week total is accurate, though the weeks when it's 40 hours are very rare and generally mean I didn't have class or something. 

Good luck to you!  :)

Offline Marconi Drake

Re: Questions about Grad School
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2012, 10:21:31 AM »
Finished up my own grad school a couple years ago, so I have a few insights.

Quote
1)  Are there electives in grad school?  (I'd like to learn how to speak French, for instance, and would like to take a class on it -- my major is Mathematics)

I get a feeling this depends a lot on your school, your subject and your program. The one I was in, we didn't really have electives as much as we had specializations. The last half of our program was made up of modules: you had to take two basic modules and one advanced one, and were able to pick out of 5 of each. So, in that way, we could choose which area we wanted to work in, but all the courses were geared towards our subject. But I'm under the impression that's not always the case at other schools in other degrees.


Quote
3)  How much time in a week did grad school take up of yours? (I know it's like working a job + going to school in many instances)

I'm not exaggerating when I say mine took up pretty much all of my time. We had pretty strick deadlines and a LOT of work (which was actually training for our field, which is very much the same) so I've fallen asleep in a couple computer labs. And then all the time I wasn't at class was spent hanging out with my fellow students (usually in a lab or on campus.) So it's definitely a major time investment - once again, depending on your field.