Thursday, July 31, 2008

Advice Please!

Dear Readers,

I have a task for you. I am considering applying for Ph.D programs for next fall (2009). This is a huge life decision that I am struggling quite a bit with. My family is very opposed to it because it will require a move even further away (right now I am about 200-250 miles away). I am looking at programs in Women's Studies and American Studies right now. I am leaning toward American Studies to make myself more marketable but ideally, I'd like to do both.

My family is also opposed because I haven't had a "real" job and if I do this I won't until I am 30+. I am okay with that but I know it is a gamble. Once I have a Ph.D I will be over-qualified for many jobs and I will be rather old to start a whole new career, which is not something I want to do anyway. Further, getting into those programs could prove difficult. I have never taken the GRE and am not sure I'd do well on it. Has anyone here taken it? Any advice? Based on what you know about me and my writing, would I even do well enough to make it worth the time, energy and money? I am no good at math! Is anyone familiar with programs that do not require GRE scores? What about foreign language proficiency? I have taken high school Spanish and I am taking a beginner course right now but would that be enough? I am in no way bilingual and am pretty sure it'd take years of intensive study for me to become bilingual.

My academic advisor said Ph.D programs typically take about four years and that I'd be a teaching assistant or research assistant during that time. I should be able to get scholarships/fellowships to cover tuition but will likely have to work an additional job to pay the bills. The bills, however, would be much lower living in a place like Ohio or Kentucky... I would have to leave all of my friends and live in a place I am pretty sure I'd hate. And I'd likely have to get a car which is so undesirable.

So those are the cons. The pros list is a bit shorter but the points are much more important. My long-term goal is to be a Women's Studies, American/Cultural Studies and/or Gender Studies professor. I know that I want to teach. I am very certain about that. I also know that I love being a student, I cannot imagine ever not being a student. I know I am a good teacher. I know I am a good student. I have no doubt that I'd be able to write a dissertation. These are things that not only am I capable of but that I'd LOVE to do. Women's Studies is my life, it is my passion. What else would I do?

What types of jobs are available to people with Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Women's Studies? Could I work at a community college? What am I qualified to teach? I am quite sure I don't want to work in non-profits for very long. I enjoyed teaching high school students but at a college level I'd have more freedom to teach what I am passionate about.

Has anyone taken a break between a Master's and Ph.D? Is this a more desirable way to go? Does experience in the field make or break an applicants candidacy? I have not had a lot of experience working in the field because I am much more interested in the scholarship and theory.

Anyway, these are my questions and concerns. Any advice (seriously, any) would be welcome. Right now I am gathering as many opinions as I can and weighing them. For the record, I have no personal reason to stay in Chicago or even the midwest other than my friends who will likely be moving after graduation as well.


For your enjoyment here is a photo of the love of my life: Jasmine!


kat said...

If you want to be a prefessor, you'll need a PhD. As far as I know, you can teach at community college without one, but I don't know that many community colleges will have women's studies.

As for age, it's not unusual for PhD students to be bordering on 30. My boyfriend will be 30 next month, and will be in the 3nd year of his 5 year doctorate program. People come to grad school from all stages of life, I think. He had to take the GRE, so he bought a couple of the "Princeton Review" study guides and forced himself to work through them. Apparently it's not that difficult an exam, and the math is similar to what's on the SATs. Not that that would be any consolation to me, but I'm particularly number-inept.

As for funding, I don't know many people who pay their own way through grad school. Being a TA or a Grad Student Instructor has a stipend and usually tuition help (depending on the school and how well funded the department is). Researching helps, too, with grants and stuff....

The trouble that I had with grad school, though, was that it was more school. Ask yourself whether the courses you'll have to sit through will be a good trade-off for the awesome research and conferences and all that.

Depending on the school, a car may not actually be necessary. I know plenty of grad students who don't have cars. I'm in Berkeley, though, and the Bay Area is well suited to car-less-ness.

Hope any of this helps...

notemily said...

Are you looking at Smith? Northampton is a great place to live, I've only visited but it seemed like a great vibe, and you know I love Western Mass. I agree with kat that you could probably get along without a car in some places. my brother-in-law took time off between his masters and doctorate, but mostly he just worked jobs he was way overqualified for like alterra and fedex, and I think he was much happier once he got back in school.

do you have an academic advisor you can talk to?

FeministGal said...

Cortney, what's your email address? i'll email you some of my experiences with the GREs/ph.d. applications/etc... (i am going through all this now as well... for dual phd programs in clinical psych and WS)

Cortney said...

that would be so amazing! thank you!

cortneya at gmail dot com

Heather said...

Hi. I found your blog by chance. I am a Ph.D. student in theology/feminist theory just outside of Chicago. I took a one-year hiatus between MA and Ph.D. I am currently 28, just passed my qualifying exams, and am in the dissertation phase. In my area of study, I am the youngest one. At the same time, I was asked what I did for the year between the two.

There's no guarantee you'll get a teaching position, but if teaching is what you want to do, a Ph.D. will likely be necessary. You will find you are over qualified for most jobs, which can turn potential employers away. I say go for it, though; take the plunge and cross your fingers.

Of course, take this for what you want--since I am, afterall, a complete stranger.

bee listy said...

if you love chicago, you'll love minneapolis-- check out the university of minnesota's PhD in American Studies program. :)