Post Academic

Congratulations! Now what’s there to do after you’ve made your grad school decision…

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on April 14, 2010

April 15, 2010 is not only the day taxes are due and the first U.S. date of the Pavement reunion tour (I’m going!), but, maybe more importantly, it’s the deadline for a new class of graduate students to decide where they are going to attend.  Congratulations to everyone starting school in the fall!  While we at Post Academic tend to point out and kvetch about the absurdities, hypocrisies, and overall sh*ittiness of academia, we probably wouldn’t have done things any differently in the larger scheme of things and we appreciate what an accomplishment it is to attend grad school.

We noticed a thread over at about what to do after all is said and done and how anticlimactic the decision is after the whole process.  The cynical side of me says to just wait until you finish your dissertation to talk about abject anticlimaxes, whether you’re cranking out something you’re not entirely proud of because the job you’ve lined up starts in a few weeks or you’re crawling across the finish line without the carrot or the stick of a job.  But I digress…

Below the jump are a few things to think about, practical or otherwise, to pass the time until August or September

1. Finding a place to live: A number of the comments on thread have mentioned this, and it’s great practical advice.  One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s not that urgent of a thing to do.  Lots of folks have yet to move out because school isn’t over yet, so many of the best locations are still tied up.  You should also look into university sponsored housing for grad students (and faculty too), especially if you’re not keen on having to worry about what are the best neighborhoods and what’s a manageable proximity to school.  I lived in grad student housing my first year, because I figured I would have enough to adjust to when I started grad school and didn’t want to deal with the day-to-day issues as much.  Grad student housing can sometimes be a good deal, too, since it’s usually subsidized by the university and can offer below-market rents in more expensive areas.  Just be prepared to live in something that’s prefab and kind-of ugly, before you learn the area and find somewhere else you might like to live.

2. Don’t live with your colleagues, at least at first: If you aren’t able to afford to live by yourself, as most younger grad students aren’t, avoid the temptation of being matched with someone from your own department.  It might seem like the easy and obvious choice to make, but  you will be seeing your peers all the time in classes, teaching workshops, and socially, so you really don’t need to live with them.  Like finding the most ideal geographical location to live, you can wait a little while and find a friend from the dept or school or outside of both to live with in a year or two.

Grad school is already isolating, and living with someone from your own department right from the start only exacerbates that condition, since you’ll be living and breathing the same experiences day and night.  Sure, you’re taking your chances with any random roommate and that Math PhD you have nothing in common with might smell funny, but you also don’t want to have to watch your back in your own home once the inevitable grad school drama flares up within your cohort.  Do you really want to live with these grad school types we wrote about here and here, personalities that’ll get on your nerves even more when they basically do the same things you do and you’re around them all the time?

3. Double-check your residency status (for state schools): For anyone attending a state university, be sure to know what your residency situation is, whether it’s just reading the rules or talking to someone in admin about it.  In my case, I took care of things while I was on my student visit, when a red flag came up as to whether or not I was a resident–of a state in which I had physically lived for 4 1/2 years at the time!  You don’t want the nasty surprise of finding out you have to cover out-of-state tuition after you’ve budgeted your time and money for the fall.  You can probably take care of it later on if some bureaucratic mix-up happens, but you don’t want to spend your first few weeks at a new school cutting through red tape and stressing about your budget.

4. Figure out what the school can do for you: The grad school decision process is a rollercoaster, where you can feel the lowest lows as an applicant supplicant one moment, then the highest highs as an in-demand, catered-to target candidate the next.   Maybe you should milk the latter feeling for all its worth–cause you won’t be getting a lot of more that later on–but it’s probably better to get on a more even keel and start getting mercenary about things.  Think about yourself as a member of the school community even before you are there, and look into what resources are available to you, whether its housing help, info on the area, groups you can join, networks you can tap, or whatever kind of money/financial benefits you can reap.

5. Have fun!: The most obvious advice is also the best advice.  While grad school is actually pretty fun compared to many of the other things you could be doing, it’s fun with lots of strings attached.  If you can afford it, take advantage of being unencumbered by school work and, what’s worse, the guilt of not doing school work for the last time in a long time.

“Ralph Stuart, in his great success, By Right of  Sword,” from the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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