Is grad school right for me? Is it what I lack professionally? Will it take me/my brand-biz to the next step?
For those of you considering questions like these pertaining to graduate coursework, I am already proud of you. The consideration alone means that you want to continue your education, that you want to better yourself, that you want to do more with what you’ve been given. Whether it’s for your business, for your family, or just for yourself, the fact that you are interested in becoming the best you, in becoming more than what you were yesterday, is so commendable.
From someone sitting not so pretty on the other side of a creative master’s program, I feel it of prime importance to point out a few things that you won’t find on any graduate program brochure, that you definitely won’t hear from any department head.
- Most master’s programs are businesses at their core. Be mindful of what they’re selling you, and what you will actually walk away with, other than potential mounds of student loan debt, and one thin piece of paper that can never do justice for the countless hours you will spend finetuning projects on projects, on papers on papers. Trust me. I graduated with a 4.0, baggy eyed and full of wonder at the potential for job placements. I wish I wouldn’t have believed the brochures, the websites listing the plethora of job opportunities awaiting me upon graduation. They simply don’t exist unless I am willing to move to a specified location, or can fend off FASFA for another five + years while I put my time in as a freelancer or as an adjunct professor.
- It may not be what you know, but who you know. The current freelancing gigs I have are from connections I made during some volunteer work while I was still in junior high. I’m sure the MA behind my name helps, but if you’re a hustler and work hard every day, others will start to recognize your potential–even when you forget or doubt your self worth. And grand opportunities won’t be far behind.
- Along a similar thread, if you already have a village of like-minded professionals in your main contact list, graduate school may not be for you. For this is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED IN GRADUATE SCHOOL. Yes, I fell in love again with the words of D.H. Lawrence, with the characters of Flannery O’Connor, but what I ultimately took away was a team of creative-minded folks that I create with almost daily. Most of the time we do not even realize that our long talks delving into each other’s portraits, each other’s characters, is working towards something bigger, something tangible in our work.
“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”
― Henry James,
Meetup where like-minded genuises residing in your neck of woods are just waiting to hear from you. Or even cheaper (than two semesters of grad school) community-driven programs like B. School. Take a moment to google some paths you may have not considered before sending $50 to ten different schools you may be considering. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Doesn’t B. School look intriguing? Yeah, I think so, too. You will seriously do so much researching, reading, hustling once in school, so do yourself a favor and do all of those things prior to committing yourself and your wallet to a university for 2+ years of your existence. Oh, how I woulda, coulda, shoulda. I am all for investing in yourself. Just do it wisely, my dearie.ere’s the thing: you don’t necessarily need to do all the dirty work entailed in an MFA/MA program to establish yourself in a creative community. Particularly in this digital age. Particularly when graduate school can be so damned costly. There are free alternatives like
If you watched the Oscars, you know that collaboration is paramount in getting any idea out of your own noggin and onto something b-i-g. Along this vein, collaborating with other artists isn’t just creative. It can ground you, keep you from falling out of love with your work, from falling into ruts that a grad school thesis can cause (as it did for me).
And sometimes collaborating is all biz–just working towards branding ourselves. You simply can’t go it alone, no matter how many 4.0’s reside under your girdle. For example, high-quality images residing on this site have been taken by my photographer friend Sarah, unless of low quality (that’s all me) or otherwise indicated. Also, I regularly proof my gal, Heather’s amazing novels, and workshop with my pals, DH and Donnie–all three I thankfully met at grad school. Without them, I would strongly regret the time-money-mind that I invested into my uni.
Above all, let’s pinkie swear to be active in our quests for knowledge.
Did this post offer you insight into discerning if grad school is right for you? I’d love to hear about your stories/takes on graduate coursework of the creative kind! Be sure to subscribe to my e-mail list for more information regarding higher education and career planning.