10 Things Grad Schools Won’t Tell You (Part 2)

In my previous post I told you about the first five items in a list of “10 Things Grad Schools Won’t Tell You. “ Today I will continue by writing about the rest of the list.

6. “We’re watching your waistline.” The article says that in programs where students are asked to have a face-to-face interview, overweight students had lower admission rates. I can’t really address this from my experience as I’ve never been part of a program that required in-person interviews, but it doesn’t surprise me. With obesity on the rise in the U.S., we are also seeing an increase in bias against overweight people, which seems somewhat counterintuitive. However, I do know that in some fields (such as nursing), some employers are starting to impose restrictions on hiring based on weight.

7. “Our second-tier status may hamper your career—and your pay.” I think this probably only applies to your initial job after you finish your degree, although that may vary greatly depending on the field you’re in. If you’re a doctor or a lawyer (or college professor), for example, the schools you attend are very important! However, regardless of your field, once you get that first job, you start to prove yourself based on your performance on the job. Down the road, when you’re heading to your second and third job, people may not even ask or notice where you got your degree.

8.“Not everybody finishes.” Universities hate it when students apply, enroll, and drop out. First of all, you’ve taken a seat that someone else might have put to better use. Secondly, you’ve taken the professors’ time and attention without allowing them to see you finish and become someone who can make them proud of your accomplishments (and contribute to the reputation of the school and the program). Thirdly, you’ve just wasted your own time and money—unless, of course, you’ve learned everything you wanted to know and found the job of your dreams! While this can happen, those who don’t finish may be left with a lurking sense of disappointment. What this means is, before you start, think long and hard about what you hope to accomplish and do as much research as you can about the program where you plan to apply and what the expectations are for students in that program.

9. “It isn’t our job to get you a job.” That part is absolutely true. While most universities are going to provide resources in the form of a career center, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the faculty actively working to help you start your career. Some programs will have a required internship or work experience component, but in my experience those are somewhat rare. It’s going to be up to you to make connections, network within the industry, and promote yourself.

10. “And we fudge the stats on students who get jobs.” Again, I have no experience with this, but I will tell you that it is a big job trying to keep track of alumni once they have graduated. I have sent out many surveys to alumni in the past, and there’s just no way to guarantee a good response rate. The article says that universities misrepresent the results of surveys, and that it’s possible that only the students who got good jobs respond to the surveys, but until someone comes up with a better way to get the data, surveys are about the only way we have to report on the success of our students. And my guess is that most schools don’t have the resources to even do surveys! All you can do is ASK program directors and faculty if they know about job placements. They may have some data, but it may not be very helpful.

The major point here is that choosing a grad school (and program) is a huge responsibility as it will result in major financial costs and largely determine the course that the rest of your life will take. There’s few times in your life that doing your research and making good decisions will be more important!