Getting What You Came For
If you're considering grad school, plan ahead. Pick up a guide to the admissions process and learn what it's all about. A quick perusal of the college admission shelves of any bookstore reveals an overwhelming array of choices. Where do you start? Try Getting What you Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or a Ph.D., by Robert L. Peters. This is the classic guide to getting in to grad school. It covers the entry process and so much more.
The first four chapters are essential for anyone considering grad school. Here you'll learn what graduate school is really like. It's an at-times bleak picture, but an accurate one. Peters guides the reader to soul search and consider some important questions. Do you really need to go to grad school to accomplish your goals? Should you work first? Readers might balk at the dark tone of these chapters, but it's important to have a realistic view of what the next two to eight years might be like. Some graduate programs in humanities and social sciences have attrition rates approaching 70%. Realism can be depressing, but it's vital to making a decision that you can live with.
Chapters 5 through 9 cover the admissions process in detail. Peters provides indispensable information on how to choose a school, choose an advisor, write the personal essay, interview, improve your credentials for admission, and obtain financial aid.
Chapters 10 through 14 focus on surviving graduate school. Chapters discuss how typical master's and doctoral programs are organized and how students can prepare for qualifying exams. The chapters on keeping organized and managing departmental politics are particularly valuable to grad students, their mentors, and anyone in academia.
Chapters 15 through 19 deal with the dreaded thesis or dissertation. In these chapters, Peters provides structure. You'll learn how to generate ideas, get started, write the proposal, pick your committee, write the thesis, and defend it.
Chapters 20 through 24 are what make this guide stand out from the rest. These are mental health and personal development chapters. You'll find suggestions for dealing with the stress, depression, and social isolation that many students experience. Topics also cover the social aspects of grad school and how to fit in, how to give an oral presentation, and most importantly, how to find a job after grad school.
Most guides to grad school cover the admission process and stop there, leaving the new student at loss on the first day of school. Peters' guide is useful throughout. Reread sections as needed to keep you focused as you progress towards your graduate degree. Plus, Peters' wonderful sense of humor and cartoons add life to the text and make it feel like a conversation with a caring mentor. Grad school isn't always user friendly, but Getting What You Came For is.
Covers almost all the crucial topics,
One of the most impressive features of the book is its comprehensive coverage. From improving one's credentials to get into a graduate program to getting a job once you have the Ph.D., Peters has detailed, entertaining advice for all the steps one encounters along the way. Liberally sprinkled through the book are anecdotes from students in a variety of fields that will leave most of us thankful that we did not have the Ph.D. advisors these poor hapless souls did.
Indeed, there were only two aspects I wish the book would have covered but it did not. First, there is no mention of handling coursework in a graduate program. This is probably because coursework and course grades are of much lower priority in graduate school than it is for the undergraduate degree, but I think Peters could have made this point and encouraged readers not to fall into the trap of spending more time on coursework than is warranted.
Second, I wish Peters had devoted more space to talking about getting academic jobs. College-level teaching is still the single most popular career goal for Ph.D.'s, and there are aspects of getting an academic job that are different than applying for jobs in the private sector. I wish he had written a separate chapter on academic jobs.
In a related vein, there was only one piece of advice that Peters give that I flat-out disagreed with, and that was his comment that teaching wastes time and that Ph.D. students should avoid teaching as much as possible. This is true for many Ph.D. students, but it is definitely NOT true for Ph.D. students desiring teaching jobs at 4-year, liberal arts colleges. Those jobs will want to see ample teaching experience, not just as a teaching assistant but also as sole instructor of a course. A student who does not have considerable teaching experience will not be competitive for those jobs, and because there are more of those jobs available than tenure track lines at research universities, taking Peters' advice on that score could be ultimately self-defeating.
However, those are the only negative comments I would make on an otherwise excellent book. I recommend it highly for anybody even contemplating going on beyond an undergraduate degree, and I plan to give copies of it to all my incoming graduate students.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful:
A Necessary guide,
Another thing I like is that it doesn't try to sugarcoat the graduate school experience. It tells you exactly that graduate school is a rough experience and that out of all the people who enter graduate programs, only 8% go on to academic work. If you can't face these facts, then you probably aren't driven enough to succeed in a graduate program. If you're still burning for higher education and are willing to face the difficulties involved, you're ready for graduate school. Basically you should go in with both eyes open. I recommend picking up this guide to help you through your postgraduate life.
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7 of 34 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't help me,