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Author Topic: The Realism of Grad School  (Read 1428 times)

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Offline EllipsisTopic starter

The Realism of Grad School
« on: October 12, 2012, 10:27:59 AM »
My undergrad career is quickly coming to a close (Spring) and grad school has been something Iíve been weighing for quite awhile. My official major is Editing, Writing, and Media. Itís a relatively new program at my current university, less than five years if I remember correctly. I feel like in Liberal Arts based major, it might be more helpful to continue my education to stand out from all the other applicants with Bachelorís degrees on their resumes. And of course, my parents firmly believe that a Bachelorís is obsolete at this point.

After doing some research, NYU is the only college in the states that offers a Masterís in Publishing, which is essentially what I want to do with my degree. My advisor has been little help on pushing me one way or another, simply saying that the networking and experience in New York may prove to be invaluable. Iím going to apply because thereís no harm in doing it and there is obviously no guarantee that Iíll be accepted. My main concern is the cost of tuition. I know grad school is expensive in the first place and Iíve heard that NYU offers some rather paltry financial aid packages to most of their students.

I have a few friends who are either going on to grad school or who have already started, but their specializations rely in the sciences. Theyíre provided stipends and such for assisting with research; I donít think the same applies in my degree.

Loans are a reality, but with very little options in terms of where I can go on account of my Masterís, Iím afraid that NYU will be out of my reach on a financial basis. Iím not quite sure what Iím asking, but I feel like any advice or shared experiences would be rather helpful. It always helps to put things into perspective and paint a more realistic picture of my goals.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2012, 05:43:31 PM »
Most students, from my understanding, are afforded some sort of financial help on entering graduate school.  One advisor explained to me that the slots for graduate school are so slim and competitive that the university is more interested in helping a student pay for the spot then wasting the slot.  Graduate students are important to universities since this is where their prestigious alumni are more likely to come from and their reputation expanded.  So there will certainly be some sort of help possibly as a TA, student worker or something along those lines.  Loans will probably be something to take, but they arenít so bad.  I have enough of them just for my two bachelor degrees.

If you are really concerned about paying for NYU then speak to their financial aid office.  There is probably an advisor in there somewhere.  Also speaking to an advisor for graduate school at that university would help as well since Iím sure theyíve had to help many people pay for school as well.

Good luck!

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2012, 10:37:36 AM »
I'm in graduate school, and was able to get my cost of attendance halved by winning an internship with the state department of forensic sciences - there was no attached scholarship but the position afforded me in-state tuition. It's not in the discipline I want to go into but it gets my foot in the door and allows me to socialize and network with other disciplines. It's not unusual for this to happen - you just have to keep your eyes, and your mind, open to the possibilities. And you have to be willing to work your ass off to prove that you're worth the investment.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2012, 08:53:24 PM »
I'm about to enter grad school for the second time, so here are my impressions: What Pumpkin Seeds says is generally true of PhD programs, but not always of Master's. Still, look closely at any scholarships, grants, or the possibility of work study. More important might be looking for jobs in your field. I have known few Master's students who didn't have a job or internship in what they were studying to help pay their way. And, in my experience, letting people know you are going through grad school is actually a plus to a lot of employers (it demonstrates dedication to furthering yourself in the field). But yes, Trie's right: grad school at any level involves working your ass off in a way that is tragically unfair and borderline criminal. It's completely worth it, but it's best to be cognizant of that going in.

Offline Chelemar

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2012, 09:22:32 AM »
Another thing you can do, network your professors aligned with any societies you may have been invited into.  What helped me was professors who recommended me from Phi Beta Kappa, and The Golden Key for scholarships, and to professors in the University I wanted to attend for one of the few Grad Assistant slots.  It really helped. 

My adviser helped me with that.   

Offline Torch

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2012, 03:03:54 PM »
More important might be looking for jobs in your field. I have known few Master's students who didn't have a job or internship in what they were studying to help pay their way. And, in my experience, letting people know you are going through grad school is actually a plus to a lot of employers (it demonstrates dedication to furthering yourself in the field).

This may not apply to the OP, but I know that MBA candidates can often have their program partially or even fully funded by their employer. Mr. Torch's employer at the time paid all costs associated with his EMBA; we didn't have to pay a dime. Considering the tuition for his 21-month program was about $68,000, we were most grateful for the free ride.

I do realize that B-schools are a whole different animal from other graduate programs, but an option the OP could consider would be to find an employer who offers that kind of assistance, if possible. I know it's a long shot, but it couldn't hurt.

BTW, the OP is correct in the assessment of NYU's stingyness, at least in the undergrad departments. Mr. Torch's niece graduated from NYU in May with a degree in linguistics, and she was offered very little in the way of financial aid (other than loans) during her four years there.

Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2012, 11:48:05 AM »
I donít know why I didnít think of giving them a call. Iíll probably do that once this cold goes away and I donít sound like an emaciated frog-woman.

Iím a member of a few organizations of campus: The English Honors Society, The Golden Key, and Lambda Iota Tau, which is an international honor society. Iím hoping those will have a few helpful resources. Iím doing two internships at the moment and both of my supervisors, one is an instructor here and the other is a published author/literary pundit, are willing to write my letters of recommendation for my application.

I have family on Long Island, so that would cut the costs of graduate housing at NYU, but after that, tuition is still around twenty grand, give or take.

I do have a question regarding employers and financial incentives. I have several relatives who are or have been professors and theyíre completely confident that itíll be workable somehow, but theyíve also brought up the same thing Torch, DarklingAlice, and Trieste have all mentioned. Is it best to hold off on graduate school and try to get an entry level position somewhere with the notion of asking for financial assistance for my Masterís at a later date? Iím assuming that itís best to first establish a role or presence in a company. So, Iím fuzzy on those details regarding employers helping with the cost of tuition.

Offline ambrosial

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 06:58:52 PM »
Not sure how applicable my own situation will be for yours, but here's my $.02:

I graduated in April with my Master's in Library Science; my two undergraduate degrees were in English Lit and Spanish.

For grad school, I applied for a work-study sort of thing (doing an internship for one of the University's libraries in exchange for a free ride), but I didn't get it. However, in so doing, I received a half tuition scholarship because the search committee liked my application so well. It was the hardest thing I've ever written in my entire life, and went through 12 versions of it, but it was well worth it. (My tuition was $60,000 a year, so even half was an immense help)

If there are scholarships or the like available for your field/university, I'd go for them. Because they might open doors to other opportunities, even if you don't get the actual stipend.

Offline cloudysky

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2012, 07:02:54 PM »
Do they have a list of alumni they can give you?  Or current students? The best thing to do is to talk to people from the program to get advice!

Offline Murphy Sez

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2013, 05:52:41 PM »
There's student loans, grants, and scholarships to be had, but don't underestimate the ancillary cost of living in NYC. $4 street hot dogs and all that, rent that makes people think 'Da fuk amount did you just say?'.

Keep on top of the bureaucracy, a brief delay on your part in filing forms or following up can result in an eternity of delays in getting your bills paid. But, don't get frustrated, and stay organized. It's an investment in future happiness and success.

Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2013, 07:01:35 PM »
I actually have some family in New York. Long Island to be exact, so there's a good chance that I may be able to take a spare room with them, which will cut down on my costs. Fingers crossed, of course.

I also managed to find another school with my major, though the application requires more paperwork. Portfolios, GRE scores, and stuff like that, but at least it gives me another option.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2013, 07:39:20 PM »
The GRE isn't bad. I took it two days after my husband came home from a two week on-and-off stay in the hospital. Needless to say, my attempts to study were absolutely useless - and I still did just fine. If you did well on the SAT, you will do well on the GRE. It's pretty close to the same thing.

My undergrad career is quickly coming to a close (Spring) and grad school has been something Iíve been weighing for quite awhile. My official major is Editing, Writing, and Media. Itís a relatively new program at my current university, less than five years if I remember correctly. I feel like in Liberal Arts based major, it might be more helpful to continue my education to stand out from all the other applicants with Bachelorís degrees on their resumes. And of course, my parents firmly believe that a Bachelorís is obsolete at this point.

It's interesting re-reading this after some time at grad school. I'm not anywhere close to your field. I got my BSc. in biochemistry and I'm now working on a MS in Forensic Science (with a focus on chemistry and computer forensics). Don't get me wrong, I am glad that I have gone in for a Master's, mostly because it has allowed me to network in places that would have been closed doors to me as an undergrad. But... I have an internship at my state department of forensic sciences, and I have met several employees there who have nothing more than a Bachelor's degree, and they are doing just fine. They get paid a little less money than those with a Master's or higher degrees, but they are still considered experts, they are still held in regard by juries (which is important in my field) and they are still able to land a job doing what they love to do.

So, I went into grad school sharing your parents' opinion of a Bachelor's... but the experiences I've had at grad school make me think that I was wrong. ::)

Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2013, 07:58:02 PM »
The GRE isn't bad. I took it two days after my husband came home from a two week on-and-off stay in the hospital. Needless to say, my attempts to study were absolutely useless - and I still did just fine. If you did well on the SAT, you will do well on the GRE. It's pretty close to the same thing.

It's been a while since I've taken any sort of standardized test and, being in a liberal arts field, I haven't touched a math class in about two years. I'm not a big studying. Oddly enough, the more I study, the worse my text anxiety gets. I downloaded the free test prep program from the GRE site just to brush up on some things. I may or may not pick up a study guide at a bookstore.

Quote
It's interesting re-reading this after some time at grad school. I'm not anywhere close to your field. I got my BSc. in biochemistry and I'm now working on a MS in Forensic Science (with a focus on chemistry and computer forensics). Don't get me wrong, I am glad that I have gone in for a Master's, mostly because it has allowed me to network in places that would have been closed doors to me as an undergrad. But... I have an internship at my state department of forensic sciences, and I have met several employees there who have nothing more than a Bachelor's degree, and they are doing just fine. They get paid a little less money than those with a Master's or higher degrees, but they are still considered experts, they are still held in regard by juries (which is important in my field) and they are still able to land a job doing what they love to do.

So, I went into grad school sharing your parents' opinion of a Bachelor's... but the experiences I've had at grad school make me think that I was wrong. ::)

I love my parents, of course, but they've never experienced college. Most of their opinions come from any and all pieces of news about the job market. My uncle is one of those "professional students." I don't know how many degrees he has at this point. My aunt is a professor. Both of them have been huge resources. I'm sure I'd be able to get an entry level position with my current degree, but part of me doesn't quite feel prepared. Ideally, publishing is where I want to be and my degree as only scratched the surface in that department. So, I'm hoping that if I make it into grad school, it'll instill some confidence. Not to mention the amount of networking opportunities available with being in New York.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2013, 08:24:13 PM »
I know where you're coming from on the confidence front. There were many times in my undergrad when I felt like - "Man, one of these days, someone is going to realize that I'm not as smart as they think I am and then they're going to kick me out."

It never happened, of course, but for me there was a feeling of not belonging. It was only after my undergrad was nearly finished that I came across the concept of "impostor syndrome" and was able to put a name to how I felt. Apparently it is especially common among women who are entering a traditionally male-dominated field - and even though chemistry is more egalitarian than many science fields, it is still very much in some places a boys' club.

Offline Caeli

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2013, 08:44:14 PM »
I can't help on the grad school front (or even the GREs, for that matter - didn't take them), but if you're rusty with your math skills, I would recommend Khan Academy to get up to speed with foundational math skills - they have everything from simple arithmetic to calculus, and some great videos that explain and show you how to solve and attain proficiencies in those skills.

If you're looking for something more adaptive, try Alcumus, which utilizes an intelligent learning system and uses problems from national math competitions.

Offline Monica

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2013, 01:59:59 AM »
I suppose I have some opinion to share about this. I have an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and currently work for an academic publisher--not quite what most people think when they talk about "publishing," but largely the reality for most people in the industry (academic and small press is a lot more accessible). My undergraduate degree was probably pretty close to yours (I have a B.A. in "Language, Writing & Rhetoric" with a minor in Digital Media) so I was definitely in this boat at one point, but my path is very different and shouldn't necessarily be seen as the one for you.

Do you need an advanced degree to get a job? No. Absolutely not, but certainly it depends on what job you're trying to get. If you want to be a publishing agent at a major literary house in NYC--well you've got a long way to go, and no amount of degrees is going to open that job realm up to you. So much about the publishing industry is networking. Honestly, so much about ANY industry is networking. When I was applying to jobs out of undergrad, it was 40+ applications a week with maybe one interview every now and then. It was miserable. I eventually learned some common sense about job hunting--started using LinkedIn to network with human resources in the company I wanted to work for. Other tactics are much more straightforward, like walking in the front door and asking to speak to a hiring manager. Having a face to the name is an old saying but I think it's been useful for me.

Anyway, I personally would continue to think about other options than a Masters in Publishing from NYU. I have a couple friends that have gone to NYU, and the only reason it was a great experience for them is because they come from wealthy families. Sorry to say, but there's a reason why NYU is the "Number one dream school in America"--because for most people it is nothing short of a pipe dream. Their tuition is through the roof, and the costs associated with living in NYC are staggering. The additional catch with NYU is that they offer VERY LITTLE in the way of financial aid for M.A. programs (M.F.A. too, yikes). For me when I was applying to MFA programs, I couldn't come to consider NYU, no matter how much my writer-ly sensibilities make me want to live there. They offer some scholarships but they're very hard to get, almost always based on merit (there's always someone better than you applying to NYU... well that was my thought), and they don't really dent your costs. Yeah you could take out loans, and sure that's a personal decision, but for me it was an easy thing to push aside.

Now consider this: you don't need to get a degree in Publishing to become a publisher. Getting that kind of job is going to be a task beyond what your degree says after a couple years in grad school, and a Masters in Publishing doesn't really qualify you more than the guy with a degree in Digital Rhetoric & Writing, Digital Media, Print Media, Print Publishing, or really any M.A. in an English, Rhetoric, or Journalism field.
All I'm saying is, there are great programs elsewhere that don't require you to go into 50k+ debt (and you will). There are even competitive M.A. and M.F.A. programs (almost entirely NOT in NYC) that will pay you to attend. For me, I went the MFA route and got paid a stipend on top of tuition + fees + medical benefits. But again, that's not really an option for everyone (if you're not a fiction writer or poet, you're not going to be by the end of undergrad), and an MFA is by no means a professional degree. In fact that's something to keep in mind... a lot of M.A. degrees are professional, but fine arts never really is.

Anyway, look into your options. If I might make a suggestion, look at Digital Media, Rhetoric, Writing types of degrees (I'm thinking about another M.A. in Digital Media) both here and abroad. NYC is a big dream for us types, but do you realize that for less money you could get a comparable degree in Edinburgh, Prague, Oxford, London, Paris, et cetera insert-dream-European-city? My life has been GREATLY enriched by doing study abroad as an undergrad, and I heavily considered an M.A. in the UK for a while. Just saying, it's pretty neat.

Erh, yeah, sorry, 3a.m. rambling.

Offline Monica

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2013, 02:04:44 AM »
...but when it does come down to it, there are some amazing schools in NYC (NYU, Columbia, New School, Hunter, et cetera!) and there could hardly be a better city for a writer to live in. Just being there presents an enormous opportunity that not many people get to have. Even though I've had lots of great opportunities elsewhere, I still dream about living in Williamsburg and taking the train into Manhatten to my sweet corner office in a major publishing house. If you get a chance to get close to that, and you're willing to put your financial stability on the line, then go for it and don't look back... despite all that really sound advice I just wrote out. Apply and fret over it if you get in!

Having family that lives in Long Island would certainly be a huge help to someone in your position, especially in the beginning. Once you're familiar with NYC and its surroundings, and maybe you chance upon a source of income, you can worry about housing then.

Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2013, 11:23:28 AM »
Thanks, Caeli! I'll give those a look.

NYU isn't my be-all, end-all school and I've done enough research that affording it may just take a miracle. However, publishing is what I want to do. Point blank. Big firm, independent press, academic. I don't mind any of them and I know that field experience does wonders. Unfortunately, an M.A. in Publishing doesn't offer a lot of options when it comes to schools. I'm also hoping to apply to another in Boston. The reason I'm going with a publishing centered degree is because I want that specialization. I know that I could go on and get an advanced degree in English and that would still apply to my field. For me, though, it's all a matter of being prepared. Trieste really did a good job echoing my fears.

Journalism was originally going to be my minor, but the program was highly competitive at my university and their journalism school was set off campus. So, I was actually advised that it would probably too much of a hassle or waste. I know that advanced journalism degrees are super tough to get into and, most of the time, you need to supply a portfolio. My friend's girlfriend is in that field. I've also taken a few courses in rhetoric and, while applicable to my major, it's not really my thing. Digital Media would be interesting, especially with all the digitization. Most of my curriculum really stresses digital advancements in writing and editing.

I really don't know much about studying abroad. It wasn't something I could afford during my undergrad, so I assumed the same about graduate school and never really viewed it as an option.

I know that I'd probably feel more at ease by applying to more schools. I don't want to limit myself, but I also don't want to pay for a degree that I'm settling for, if that makes sense.

Offline Monica

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2013, 11:49:42 AM »
As far as applying to more schools, I'm a little biased there because I went the MFA route. MFA programs are so incredibly competitive (lower acceptance rate than Harvard Law) because they only take a few people each year, and they fund them completely (well, the best ones). The first two years I applied, I applied to 14 and then 18 different schools. It's crazy but it's also pretty necessary for competitive degree fields.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #19 on: March 04, 2013, 02:43:11 AM »
Is it best to hold off on graduate school and try to get an entry level position somewhere with the notion of asking for financial assistance for my Masterís at a later date? Iím assuming that itís best to first establish a role or presence in a company. So, Iím fuzzy on those details regarding employers helping with the cost of tuition.

The reason I'm going with a publishing centered degree is because I want that specialization. I know that I could go on and get an advanced degree in English and that would still apply to my field. For me, though, it's all a matter of being prepared. Trieste really did a good job echoing my fears.

I think you've already received some excellent advice in this thread, but I thought it would be worth receiving a slightly different perspective, since I work in higher education.  I want to focus specifically on the two points that you raised that I've quoted above.

Everyone has a dream job in their mind, and in higher education, we are always pushing the idea that one should follow his or her passion unilaterally - as if there are no risks associated with certain decision.  Granted, that is the ideologically correct path, but no one is detached from the economic realities that we live in.  You make an excellent point - that obtaining targeted educational degrees lends itself to a strong probability of landing your dream job.  However, at what risk?  If you were fortunate enough to have the savings or resources to pay out of pocket, the risk would essentially be zero - but since you will be relying on financial aid, the decision becomes a bit more dicey - regardless of whichever grad school you are considering.

You don't need to respond to these specific issues since I realize they are of a personal nature, but answer these for yourself before you make a decision.  If you already have a sizable undergraduate student loan debt, you may want to think twice about graduate school.  You mentioned that you are currently doing two internships, which is excellent.  Is there any way that you can leverage your position there into a part time or full time job opportunity?  Even if it is part time, you can start paying off your student loans, and gain experience to elevate yourself to a full time job at some point.  At that point, you can pursue your graduate degree by paying out of pocket.  More and more graduate programs offer evening and night classes for adult students.

The reason I emphasize this is because a graduate degree, while significant, does not automatically elevate someone to a well-paying job right off the bat.  Chances are that even after obtaining your M. A., an employer will start you off at an average salary.  If you were to pursue your graduate degree using financial aid, while deferring undergraduate student loans, you are putting yourself in a tough situation.

Definitely consider the financial aspect of this decision, because after speaking to numerous students drowning in student loan debt, I can honestly say it is one of the worst things that can happen to someone.  Unfortunately, unlike other kinds of debt, they remain with you through life (even if you file for bankruptcy). 

I'm not trying to scare you, but only present the economic realities.  Regardless of your decision, continue your internships, and actively try to pursue new opportunities.  Ultimately, it will be your independent work that lands you a job.  The degrees are only your ticket in.


Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2013, 06:12:06 PM »
A bit of an update. 

First, let me thank everyone who has replied and offered advice.

Valthazar, unfortunately my internships don't offer employment. I served as an editor and staff writer for the English department newsletter on campus for about a year, so that was only for credit. The other, which I've been doing since May, is not able to provide compensation, but I plan on staying on for as a long as possible. I'm a social media intern for a popular book review blog. I've also written content for the site. There aren't really any hours to clock and everything is on my own time.

As of now, I've been accepted to Emerson's Publishing and Writing program in Boston. I should be hearing from NYU soon. Letters started going out on the 15th. I was hoping to attend an Accepted Students event for Emerson during the first week in April, but I'd be traveling alone and making my own flight/hotel reservations. So for now, I'll have to pass on that little trip to save money. If I do choose to go to Emerson, I'm sure I'll be making a trip at a later date, like during the summer.

The curriculum and classes for both universities is primarily at night, so I have every intention of finding a job. I've finalized my resume over Spring Break and I've already amassed a list of places to apply to in those areas. I also plan on applying elsewhere if I opt not to attend grad school. At this point, I'm trying to cover all of the options. Grad school + work or just work.

I have largely had to support myself throughout my education, so I do have some knowledge regarding costs and tuition as they relate to my own budget. My primary reason for attending grad school is more of one based on personal security. I want to feel prepared for the job I hope to do. I can understand why taking out loans can lead to trouble, but I'm also not afraid of them. If I can keep them within a manageable range, I'm comfortable doing so. In my opinion, unless you're financially blessed, one can almost expect having to use loans to fund an education for an advanced degree.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #21 on: March 20, 2013, 09:35:21 PM »
Hi Ellipsis,

Glad to hear that you seem to have thought this all out. 

It seems like you are a very motivated sort of person, so I am sure you will be successful in developing your career.  I would certainly agree with you that loans are perfectly fine, so long as they are in a manageable range.  I think everyone tends to have a slightly different perspective when it comes to this issue.

Good luck with graduate school!  :-)

Offline EllipsisTopic starter

Re: The Realism of Grad School
« Reply #22 on: April 13, 2013, 06:04:01 PM »
Another update. I finally got my acceptance letter from NYU. I should have had it nearly a month ago, but there was some transcript snafu. A college I did dual enrollment with back in high school had changed names. I made NYU aware of this through email and calling their office, so they never got the memo and it kept my application from being reviewed.

My enrollment deposit for Emerson has to be turned in by Monday. So I have two days to make a decision. Emerson is cheaper and dealing with them was a really positive experience. The program is also shorter by a couple credit hours. My main cocnern about Emerson is affording the initial move, though I hope to find a short-term summer job to save up. I've also been applying to jobs in the Boston area for the past few weeks, usually a couple a day.

For NYU, I have family on Long Island and there's a chance I could stay with them and pay reduced rent. The publishing atmosphere is more of what I want to do, as Boston has mostly academic publishers like Pearson and Wiley. But NYU tuition is about double the cost and because it's taken so long to give me my admissions decision, I don't even have some kind of projected aid package yet.