The Great Grad School Search — Or, Finding my Perfect Program.
It’s begun. Or rather, the process has finally gotten real: I’ve read through the CAA directory more times than I care to admit. I’ve been through it backwards, forwards, and with post-it notes gratuitously placed throughout. I’ve had professors suggest certain schools and tell me to pass over others. I’ve questioned whether or not I should consider something outside my intended path.
When I decided I’d be applying to Graduate school, I sat down and made a list of the things I didn’t want to study first. I like narrowing things down this way, in a “This is what I don’t want to study, and I will avoid this list,” sort of way. I think it’s helpful when choosing such a serious endeavor to know what it is you don’t like just as much as what it is you do like. I followed it up with a list of what I do want to study, and went through the programs guide again.
Then I went down the list, roughly picking other important factors to narrow down the 40 or so schools I had post-it noted.
The criteria went roughly like this:
- Is the school located within an accessible city? (I tried a tiny train town for a year and felt extremely isolated — plus cities are more likely to have a range of Museums.)
- Does the school have connections or partnership with a Museum, or do they have a Museum side to their program? Can internships be done for credit?
- Can you apply for a PhD program without an MA, and if not — do MA students receive funding? What about travel funds?
- Do I meet the application requirements, especially regarding languages?
- Are the scholars I’m interested in listed? Is there more than one Professor I want to work with?
- Is something relevant to my fields of interest being taught there? What about my preferred specialty?
At the end of all of that, and after another conversation with a professor who I’ve truly enjoyed studying with, I brought my list down to under ten schools.
I’m almost afraid to list them here, though! Especially if I add or drop schools as I see fit, I don’t want to seem young and fickle. I know what I want, I have it listed out, but I am a person who believes in planning meticulously — and then having a wide range of flexibility when plans (or my budget) change.
I have five schools I know I want to apply to. Of course, it’s all a bit of a long-shot. When you’ve run up as much debt as I have just on trying to finish your undergrad for a field that you know doesn’t pay well and doesn’t have enough jobs to support a whole lot of new-comers, you start to worry. Rightfully so, I think! I can court schools as much as I want, but I won’t pretend that I’m going to land in a good spot.
Unfortunately, my assurances graduating High School were that the problems with the economy would have blown over by the time I graduated, and that certainly doesn’t look to be the case. Now that I’m going into my senior year of my undergraduate, I’m carefully weighing my options. I want to go to Graduate School — that’s fully my intention. But as I prepare my CVs and my Resume, I’m certainly looking to see what skills I have that could be applied anywhere or everywhere. I’ve seen a lot of graduate forums emphasize an all or nothing sort of approach to Grad School - “You have to prove you really want it,” but while my Grad school apps take precedence I definitely don’t think it will be the only way I approach my upcoming Graduation next year.
Even with 5-10 schools of interest, I have friends who applied to only one school and got in! And everyone can see how that might be a gamble!
If you applied to Grad school, how many did you apply to, and how did you decide where to apply?
Oh, our internship “system.”
How can I describe my own experience in it without facepalming so hard that I give myself a migraine? Well, there’s very little risk of that because, chances are, if I’m thinking about the internship system, I already have one.
You’re not wrong, that’s for sure.
I’m hesitant to really jump into this conversation, because I have had paid and unpaid internships while a student, all with supervisors who treated me with respect and as a colleague. But I think this idea of “We are only as strong a profession as our greenest members” bears further examination.
There’s is a question of “privilege” in the unpaid internship. Graduate school costs a lot. If you can spend time doing an unpaid internship instead of earning money to eat off of, you’re in a fairly fortunate position. When we require resumes be padded with unpaid internships, we require that our greenest colleagues have a certain amount of privilege. Even if graduate school isn’t prohibitively expensive, taking time off from a paying job to do an unpaid internship may be the difference between pursuing the desire to be a part of this profession and not. What kind of potential are we missing out on due to that?
I’m not as familiar with the programs that require internships, so I can’t speak to that. My program had a field experience elective option where a faculty advisor, site advisor, and the student developed learning objectives and project for the semester. The field experience could be paid or unpaid. While it doesn’t fix the problem, it does assure that the internship provides a useful addition to the student’s resume at the end of things, and I heard very few horror stories from that system, so maybe that could be an alternate option?
However, I think unpaid internships are here to stay. There will always be people eager for experience, with or without pay, and for the foreseeable future, budgets are tight right now for archives. I don’t think our more experienced colleagues should be villanized for taking advantage of free labor. However, I think they should take better advantage of graduate student work by utilizing their knowledge and skills to get projects done and develop those students’ skills.
Sorry for the ramble, I have a lot of thoughts on this, but organizing them is difficult because it’s quite complicated!
While I’m not officially archives I think Museum Studies is close enough to talk about taking unpaid internships.
Disclaimer: I’m only a BA at the moment, although my Museum Studies program requires two internships for a total of six credits which is about $4,362 credits wise.
I’m finishing up my first for credits (or paying) internship this week, so I won’t speak to my experiences in interning so much as the process of putting in 140-160 hours of my free time into something I was paying for in order to get experience. I don’t mind getting experience. I love interning, it’s taught me a lot! But trying to be an intern for 140 hours, and trying to be a full time college student and working a job (because I’m broke and need money) is hard and frustrating.
I tried to explain to a professor why internships outside of my state for the summer looked rather unfeasible due to cost - despite my interest in potentially leaving the state for the summer. But I don’t think she quite understood what I meant - “it’s difficult for most people” - is true but there’s a sliding scale here. I’m going to end up in massive debt with undergrad and that was out of my control. If Grad school can’t or won’t relieve some of its own costs, that’s it.
Zero-sum game is mostly over. It’s all well and good to be very idealistic or naive about the system, but with $42k under my belt and counting, I really do have to be choosy in how much more debt I take on. And asking for help has given me a rather harsh backlash. It’s why I’m also grateful I’m working, and have developed more general skills over the last two years. Yes, I can do curatorial work, and have worked in Archives/Collections, and yes I can and have done educational work. But I’ve also been a corporate temp, held a part time job in the lower levels of Arts Administration, and have luckily also learned some retail skills. (A recent interviewer asked what wasn’t on my resume, and I briefly commenting on some of my writing, but everything else…well, I don’t really have too much time for a whole lot else.)
What kind of people are you losing out due to cost?
I can’t say for sure yet, but it could easily be me. Anyone who isn’t upper-middle class (and let’s be honest, probably also white middle-class, although I’m certainly not the only Mexican-American in my program, or the only minority, biracial or otherwise, the field is still mostly white), stands at risk at simply being unable to. I know this. It’s unfortunate. It’s nerve wracking. But I do what I can.
In theory, I don’t mind working for free. I know the industry can’t afford it. But I’m not working for free, I’m paying my University to work for someone and then working another job in order to actually have money. It’s less about working and being unpaid as it is (for me anyways) working and paying to work when I already need money.
It’s a literal gate-fee that stands in many industries nowadays in order to break in. Even if you don’t have to pay a school credits to intern, if you have to take a free internship, you’re paying with your own money to keep yourself afloat.
That’s not a personal resentment against any one person who hires me, that’s just a simple fact of the matter. My time is split between work that makes me money, and work I pay to do (school or otherwise). If the work I pay to do outweighs the money I make I won’t be able to do it like that forever.
To compound that, I’m only a BA, so while I’ve had more or less seven or so “jobs” in the field, it likely won’t matter until I have a nice shiny M.A. to tack onto my resume.
Any field in which unpaid work and graduate level degrees are the expected norm are going to be fields which are filtered through privilege most of the time, with some exceptions. I think we can divorce that from villainizing our colleagues, coworkers, or bosses, however. It’s just how it is, although you should certainly still be treated with respect, and a bad experience is a bad experience.
Peonies, Morning Glories, Cherries, and Chinese Cotton. Jiang Tingxi, 1669-1732. Ink and Color on Gold Paper Fan. Phoenix Art Museum.
I posted the official Museum photograph of this beautiful painted fan on my Asian History blog, but here’s some close ups of just how stunning this fan really is. It honestly gleamed so beautifully under the light. The hands are my professor, Dr. Claudia Brown at ASU. We were lucky enough to have a painting viewing for our Chinese Painting class, courtesy of the Papp Collection.
Indiegogo | Asianhistory | US History Minus White Guys
Asian History and US History Minus White Guys has officially started an Indiegogo campaign.
I’m trying to raise a minimum of $10,000 to pay off the rest of my semester’s tuition and next semester’s tuition so that I can spend more time, money, energy, and effort here and at USHistoryminuswhiteguys! I’m currently $31,410 in debt with student loans, and at the end of next year, will have $42,500 in debt. I work a part time job and intern, and unfortunately not even scholarships, pell grants, or jobs can cover all my bills.
That’s where I’m asking my followers to step in!
The chances of me being able to continue Asian History and US History minus White Guys with any regularity or original content are very slim if I continue to struggle with making college payments. I spend most of my free time trying to make money, find money, and get money; instead of putting out content on these blogs.
I would like to change that, but I need everyone’s help. With over 80,000 followers, if all of you donated even only one dollar, I would have all my loans paid off, and would be able to do my summer podcast/review/post series on history traveling. I would even be able to afford to continue my education. I’m a young latina intending to go into non-profit work, which means I’m dedicating my life to community education and cultural access for everyone.
That dedication starts here. It’s possible if I have your help! Please reblog and consider donating. We have 48 days starting today!
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This is me, and my other History blogs!
Whew! I had some amazing adventures with the Morse Museum of American Art last week…
While everyone else chose to relax over spring break, I decided to go straight from midterms and job training to an internship. It seems counter-intuitive to a vacation trip, but in reality, I had an absolute blast working full time with the Education department instead of trying to manage chunks of school and school work.
A quick over view of my week with the Morse:
- Preparations for the Winter Park Art Festival, which included making samples of our festival art project, and decorating staff shoes with pain and “shiny bits”. I lovingly rendered my shoes to look like the Tiffany Peacock necklace on display at the museum:
The necklace has peacocks on the front facing side, and flamingos on the back, so naturally one of my shoes is done like a peacock, and the other in flamingo colors. The shoe decorating process received some odd looks, but it was a great project during breaks.
- I did some not so shiny things as well - stuffing envelopes, playing office tetris to find supplies, counting and prepping supplies, etc. General work!
- I got to sit in on the talk given by Dr. Richard Guy Wilson called “Gilded Age Design: Excess and Reform”. We made sure ahead of time that the set up looked alright, the tech was going to run as planned, and that the catered food was being taken care of. (It was delicious, naturally.)
- On Monday, when the museum was closed to visitors, I took another brief tour of the exhibits, including the brand new Art Nouveau exhibit. (I later met the curator, who was absolutely wonderful and discussed Graduate programs in the Decorative Arts and American art with me, as well as the head of the Education Department.)
- I worked both days of the Art festival all day long! On Friday I helped get the coffee (and offered to carry it back like a good intern), and both days I spent my time explaining what straw painting was, how the end of the project resembled Art Nouveau themes, and so on. You can see me wielding my primary color glass stain paints in my apron pocket.
- It was loads of fun and a lot of work, but we had so many kids and parents and even just excited adults do our art project and stop by the Museum’s open house.
- On my final half-day before I flew back home to Tempe, I got to see the storage facility and some of what’s kept there beyond supplies. Imagine my pleasant surprise when a stained glass window had been taken out and displayed in the storage rooms. It’s always amazing to get a small behind the scenes look at things, even if the reason you get it is because you’re storing the leftover art festival supplies. :)
All in all, it was an absolutely amazing and wonderful experience, and I loved every minute of it! I’m so glad I went.
I’ve just gotten slightly more busy this semester! In addition to my Curatorial Internship, my docenting (whenever it works in my schedule), my classes, and my spring break internship, I’ve just gotten hired for a new job. Whew. I’m very excited to start my training as a floor manager for ASU Gammage Theater next week and become a part of the ASU Gam Fam.
It’s exciting for a number of reasons of course! First off, I’m happy to get a little more breadth of experience in Arts Administration, even at the entry level. Gammage is also literally down the street for me, and it’s going to be great to be able to work and get a paycheck. I enjoy the atmosphere of theaters and Gammage has the added benefit of just being a really stand out building. It’s the last public commission of Frank Lloyd Wright, and is probably one of th easiest to find landmarks on campus. I’m quite fond of the place and it will be exciting to be there in the fray of all of their events and shows.
That said, I’ve completed my first summer internship application out of quite a few, and am excited to also be applying to a conference that caught my eye. In other words? I’ve been busy, busy, busy. Hopefully I can queue up more things for later.