The ravings of a sane person.

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A quick favor to ask of you
I've finally gotten around to writing up a bit of "here's what graduate school is like", to replace the cancelled information session that was supposed to happen at Macalester. It is available here.

It is pretty rough, but I was wondering if a few of you could give it a read to see if you notice any glaring omissions, or horrible misspellings.

Feel free to post comments/questions/etc. here. Thanks.

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I might mention where you go to school and what you study. Everything you say makes a lot of sense for someone going into your field, but not so much for, say, someone going for an MBA and almost not at all for someone going to law school.

The housing section is a little strong - remember most of your audience will already have lived in off-campus housing and will have weighed the pros/cons junior or senior year of college. I'd leave the part about getting through waiting lists, though, maybe with tips for that. Living in the dorms all four years isn't the norm anymore, simply because they don't have that much housing.

I've mentioned near the beginning who I am and what I'm studying.

I've updated the housing section with more information, namely that on-campus housing for graduate students isn't normally dorm rooms; they are university-run apartments, with kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, and separate bedrooms for each resident.

Oh, and thank you for the feedback!

What about letters of recommendation? How important are they?

Ooh, good point. I've added a section, with a pointer of how to possibly get a recommendation from professors in a large undergrad.

I know you mention at the beginning that you're a CS grad student at UC, but there really is a lot of stuff in there that doesn't necessarily carry over to other fields and schools. In particular, the qualifications for residency tuition rates differ from state to state. I only got a master's degree and I was paying in-state tuition after my first semester.

Other possibly-worthwhile notes:
*You're still eligible for federal loans (even subsidizes ones) as a grad student, so if you're afraid of not having enough money it's okay to go that route. That's what I did and I'll still have everything paid off probably 2 years from now -- that's for both undergrad and grad school.
*The issue of Master's vs. PhD is a very tricky balance depending on the field you're in. Example: if you have a PhD in English, you're pretty much just set up to become an English professor. If you have a master's degree in English, you will probably have more options than if you had either a bachelor's or a PhD. On the other hand, in biology, a master's degree is pretty much just the equivalent of two years of good job experience. The increase in income is rather trivial over what you'd get with a bachelor's, and jobs really only start to open up for you if you have a PhD. Unless you are fine with being a lab monkey, anyway.
*You can't possibly emphasize the social life thing enough. It's way harder to find a good balance as a grad student, or at least that's what I found. Partly there's an age/maturity difference thing with the undergrads (although in my case probably not so much, since I met undergrads at UMass older than me) that makes participating in extracurriculars less attractive. I'd say that grad school is a good time to move from university extracurriculars to more community-based activities if they are available.
*Women in the sciences or other fast-paced fields need to consider if and when they are going to have kids. Being out of the loop for too long makes you less attractive to employers, but if you ask me it would be really freakin' hard to do a PhD program and take care of a newborn. It's a tough choice and it needs to be made sooner rather than later or by letting fate take its course.
*Your adviser is THE most important part of your program. If you choose a sucky advisor, your experience will most likely suck proportionally. Consider not just academic reputation, but whether your interests match. It wouldn't hurt to ask the adviser's current students what s/he is like, too, so that you know what you're getting into personality-wise.
*Watch hard for burnout. Grad school is not an extension of your undergraduate career. You will be focussing intensely on one subject full-time, unless you are in a dual-degree program or have minor options. (Like you said, there will always be some really boring-ass stuff, but I personally found that it got more interesting once I understood a bit more about it. That doesn't mean I want to spend my life at it though.)

...obviously, I've thought way too hard about this.

I've updated the relevant sections with your suggestions. I included some pieces almost verbatim, did/how did you want me to cite you?

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