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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Grad Guide

My time, so far, with NYU’s grad program


It’s October, and here in New York City the leaves are boldly changing their hues.

This city is truly wonderful in the fall. As golden leaves cover the concrete and the air grows crisper, people seem a little happier, a little more relaxed, as if the thought of the approaching holidays is enough to make even the most aggressive New Yorker find some peace.

As I sit here in my favorite café, watching New York University students stroll with friends through Washington Square Park, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been in this city for over ten months, and that I’m halfway through my master’s program in print and digital media publishing at NYU.

This time last year, I was finishing up my last semester of undergrad at UH and I was terrified — not so much about graduating or leaving all of my friends or even about moving to New York, but about my choice to attend grad school. When the acceptance letter from NYU came in the mail, I decided the same day to attend; it had been my top choice among publishing programs.

In Houston, my job options in the magazine field were limited (and in my home state of Arkansas, practically non-existent), but in New York, I could have the career of my dreams.

But how much of a difference does grad school really make? Am I just wasting time spending another two years in school, when I could be applying for entry-level jobs? I couldn’t help but wonder. On top of that, the price of tuition at NYU, a private university, is painful, not to mention the cost of just living in New York City.

Is it worth it? Ten months in, and I can tell you that it is.

For pre-professional students, continuing school after undergrad isn’t even a question; for the rest of us, especially those who pursued liberal arts majors in college, it’s not a clear road. Many will tell you that it’s not worth it, that it’s a waste of money and you’re better off finding a job right away to start paying off loans, but grad school is a choice that is always worth considering no matter your field of study.

My master’s degree will give me a competitive edge when applying for jobs at New York’s magazines. NYU’s publishing program has name recognition that is enough to get my resume at least picked up when it might otherwise have gotten lost in a stack. Grad school has allowed me to develop relationships with editors at some of the city’s top publications, because at night, they’re my professors.

Because many internships now require that applicants be eligible for school credit, grad school is an opportunity to keep building my resume through internships. Without NYU, I could never have scored my internship at ELLE Magazine.

It’ll come as no surprise that, yes, grad school is more difficult than undergrad in terms of workload and expectations. And while you may have felt a huge amount of freedom in undergrad, in grad school, you’re truly on your own. No one is going to make you meet with an adviser; it’s up to you to make sure you’re on track to graduate.

Excuses for late assignments or missed classes won’t fly with even the nicest professor.

In general, the class sizes are smaller; in my program, they range anywhere from five to 20 students in a session. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. It’s a chance to really get to know the professor well (a smart idea if she’s a connection you want to network with later), but it also means that attendance and participation are absolutely crucial.

As a grad student, you’re much more visible to your professors and fellow students — they will know your name and they will know exactly how much effort you’re putting in.

My favorite aspect of grad school has been the fact all my classes are at the same time, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. each night. Not all grad programs will be structured this way, but it has allowed me the chance to work three full days a week at my internship while still having plenty of time for class, homework and a social life on the weekends (take that with a grain of salt — going out in New York is expensive!).

After this semester, I’ll be applying for full-time jobs while still taking classes, so don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t work through grad school. Grad programs recognize (and expect) that most of their students have jobs and they will be more flexible with class scheduling. The freedom to pursue any job or internship I want while getting my master’s at my own pace, with no one pressuring me to graduate on a certain schedule, alleviates a lot of the stress.

Everyone’s experience will be different. For me, grad school has meant the chance to explore a new city, meet the most amazing and intelligent people through my program and gain both practical knowledge and hands-on experience in the magazine industry.

More than anything, it’s given me the confidence to step out into a highly competitive market and know that I have the knowledge, skills and connections to thrive.

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