So you want to go to grad school?
Future grad students of the world unite!
I Need Help 
1st-Apr-2013 10:22 pm
Words // Fucking Relax
Hi guys!
I'm finishing up my undergrad in psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and due to some mental health problems that have pushed me back a bit and caused me to get behind, I have just now decided that I want to go to graduate school. The semester before I graduate.

Ridiculous, I know.

Here's my thing: I'm a huge mental health advocate -- that's what I'm most passionate about. Also, I want to write. I have a journalism background, and what I want to do is maintain my blog on mental illness professionally, and maybe have my own column or something for an organization such as NAMI, DBSA, or AFSP, and do some freelance work, etc. etc.

I've been looking into programs in my state (Virginia) because I can't afford out-of-state tuition, and so far, from what I can tell, the program that seems best for me is the MA in English with the focus in Writing & Rhetoric.

Does this sound right? Would you maybe lean more towards the Journalism degree? I feel overwhelmed by everything, I'm kind of stuck, and I don't know where to look!
Comments 
2nd-Apr-2013 03:02 am (UTC)
So, 2 questions that might seem kinda obvious.

- are english MA programs not funded as a rule? (I'm in physiology so I know masters programs in a lot of sciences tend not to be funded but I don't know if that is a rule in the humanities as well) If funding is available geographic limitations may not apply.

- Are you sure an MA is what you're looking for? Would a PhD or similar terminal degree suit your needs better?

I can't say exactly what subject is best for you because it's a bit outside my area, but a couple things that might help -- go through the websites of programs you are interested in. Read everything, including course descriptions of the courses you'd be taking during the program, and focus especially on what is required versus what options you have for electives. Since you have an idea of what you want to *do*, look for the program that "does" that. Don't worry about what the program is called until after you've started finding one or two that are matching your interests. Then when you find out that what you want is called _____ you can look for more programs that have that available.

If you've got a school nearby and some spare cash available, you could also try taking a class or two from each program, and see which direction feels right. Depending on the program, most schools will let you apply to take classes as a non-degree-seeking student, although you may not be able to take program-restricted courses. So that is something to look into!

Hope that helps a little :)
2nd-Apr-2013 04:09 am (UTC)
humanities departments, as a rule, tend to be unfunded at the master's level. there ARE exceptions, though, especially if the OP submits an excellent writing sample. i'd also recommend submitting more than the required number of letters of rec.
2nd-Apr-2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
Bucknell, I believe, is the only terminal MA program that still funds 100% of their cohort. (I believe they also offer a funded MS in Psychology, if the OP wants to go in that direction instead.) At other "funded" MA programs, only 1 or 2 slots are funded and everyone else has to pay.

There are tradeoffs, of course. PM me if you want details.

But an MA in English is not going to help you get a job, beyond giving you an opportunity to practice writing long papers. You'd be better off building your reputation as a blogger.
2nd-Apr-2013 03:15 am (UTC)
Not helpful but hi from a someone with a BSW undergrad/psych minor from VCU :)
2nd-Apr-2013 11:49 am (UTC)
Hey there! :)
2nd-Apr-2013 04:22 am (UTC)
I have a journalism background, and what I want to do is maintain my blog on mental illness professionally, and maybe have my own column or something for an organization such as NAMI, DBSA, or AFSP, and do some freelance work, etc. etc.

Will a MA in English help you do this, or is a MA in English a prerequisite to do this? I'm not sure that either one is the case. Don't go to grad school just to go to grad school. Really really don't.
2nd-Apr-2013 06:10 am (UTC)
An MA in English is not required to be either a professional blogger or a journalist. A journalism degree, similarly so. Don't spend money you don't have to just to get an MA.
6th-Apr-2013 01:54 am (UTC)
This. I have an MA in English and am now working on a Ph.D, and the skills you will need to do the kinds of jobs you describe are not the kind of skills that a graduate degree in English will give you.

Edited at 2013-04-06 01:55 am (UTC)
2nd-Apr-2013 06:41 am (UTC)
Here's my advice - before even thinking about applying to any program, get some sort of job related to the field you are interested in first. It might lead to a career (esp. if you're doing writing) w/out needing an ma, or you might discover that it isn't the right field for you and can then explore other ideas. MA's are usually really expensive, so you want to be sure it's something you really want before starting a program and going through the agonizing app process.

in terms of mental health fields, you could consider social work. However in my own personal experience (as a writer, someone with mental illness and who started grad school for social work focusing on mental health) it can be rather tough if you aren't fully recovered, and I ended up leaving the program! I wish I hadn't rushed into grad school, basically, and now I'm taking my time trying out different things. My current plan is to apply for an MFA in creative writing (could also be an option for you), since there are fully funded program too...but not going to rush into it until I'm 100% certain too.

let me know if you have any more questions :)

edit: sorry half of this reads kind of unintelligibly...really need to get to sleep haha.

Edited at 2013-04-02 06:43 am (UTC)
2nd-Apr-2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
I'm also going to say to take some time to really explore your interests and be certain that an MA is something you NEED to get a job. Unless you somehow have the funds for graduate school at your disposal, it's very fruitless to go to school for something if you don't need it for a career.

As a creative writing and psychology double major in undergrad, I can tell you the only course you NEED a degree for is psychology I you chose to go down that path. It is virtually impossible to get any kind of social work/counseling/etc. job without a masters.</p>

However, with writing, even journalism, IMO you'd be wasting time and money. What employers in these fields want is writing samples and experience that doesn't come from grad school, but taking freelance jobs, doing internships, and constantly developing your writing. At some point, a job my help you to pay for a journalism degree, but getting one first is not the key to a job by any means.

I know all of this due to my own year I spent after college deciding the course I wanted to pursue based on my undergraduate degrees; I myself decided that a masters in anything that didn't require it for a job was not worth the one or money at this point in my life. That said, I am in grad school for Library and Information Science because one day it dawned on me that I'd love to work in libraries and, who knew, in my area (Chicago) you basically need one to get any kind of decent work.

Best of luck!

24th-Apr-2013 06:48 pm (UTC)
I don't think you need a graduate degree at all.

If you want to write, write. Companies that buy freelance articles don't buy them on the basis of your credentials, unless you want to write an advice column. They buy them based on the quality of the work. Journalism school isn't going to teach you how to write; it teaches you the business of journalism. But you can also learn that on your own.

Same thing with an MA in English; that's not going to get you a job as a writer, especially not freelance.

The best thing to do is write, and write often, and then get savvy about what periodicals want.
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