Feb 29, 2008

Graduate School MADNESS. Sigh.

Okay folks. Do you want to start donating to the "Chavi Needs to Go to Grad School" fund now? Or later?

I got an e-mail today informing me a postal letter is on its way from BRANDEIS ... with a big, fat acceptance! Eeeeeeeeep! Accepted at BRANDEIS! The Jewish ivy league, folks. I could meet my besheirt! I mean, the odds would, indeed, be in my favor. So that means Michigan, Brandeis and UConn are in the bag. The problem? Money.

It's always about money.

UConn has promised me an assistantship, with tuition remission, and a stipend, among other things. Michigan has said there will be no financial aid, nothing, nada, niet. And Brandeis? Well, I haven't gotten the official letter, so I can't say whether there is any type of funding aid, but from what I've heard the school is infamous for not offering any funding to its masters students.

The latter is having an open house day on March 7 for accepted students, and I want to go more than anything on the planet, but the late notice means flights that exceed $300. Even to drive, well, as it turns out it would be way too expensive and would require too much time off of work. So what to do? Sigh.

I think I've ruled Michigan out, actually, simply because there's no aid and the PhD program is not through the Judaic studies department, but requires applying to the department of focus (religious studies, history, etc.). I have yet to hear from Boston U, but I'm not necessarily leaning toward that. So I'm trying to figure out what is more important to me -- a no-cost Master's degree at an institution w/o a PhD program that is a decent school, but that has a very young program and professors with a focus on literature OR an expensive, loan-filled Master's degree at an institution that is incredibly Jewish, with a PhD program and is a well-known and profound school with more professors in the areas that I intend to focus on.

Prestige vs. Free.

An incredibly Jewish campus vs. a normal, Northeastern campus.

I know that I shouldn't be bitching about this, but come on. This is seriously a very *AGH* kind of moment. Do I want to take on more loans than any human should for a master's? But I feel like if I had the chance to visit Brandeis I could sit down with the faculty and with the financial people and see what they think -- should I stick it out for a master's at Brandeis? Should I go to UConn for the cheap degree? Should I just reapply to Brandeis for a PhD in a year?

AGH. I want to cry.


Mo said...

Mazel Tov! :D

I've never been to graduate school so bear in mind that I have an uneducated opinion on this. I think going to Brandeis to see what it's like in person, and asking questions of the faculty and financial people, sounds like a great idea. The letter you're receiving might say something about that too, which could help clarify things. Debt terrifies me personally, but if you would love being at Brandeis, if it would make you very happy and put you in a academic position you've dreamed of, maybe it's worth the loans. The UConn sooner and Brandeis later sounds good too though, best of both almost. Good luck with your decision!

David said...


Brandeis is a brilliant place, with a hideous campus. It is so Jewish that my oldest daughter did not even get out of the car when she went to visit. On the other hand, it's in the Boston area, which would be incredibly stimulating.

The problem is, even many Jews I know just feel overwhelmed by the Jewishness of Brandeis. And the campus is ugly as sin.

Shavua Tov, and Mazal Tov.

Schvach said...

Maybe you need to sniff out sources of student scholarships. I have no idea where to find them. Try applying for a Fulbright - it's just a dumb thought. By the way, the daughter of my parents' friends went to Brandeis and loved it (back in the 1970's).

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think fit is more important than the cost of the master's. Yes, unfortunately master's programs are not traditionally funded by schools (although some will provide a certain amount of aid).

It sounds like Brandeis would be a better fit for you and that the program is more established. It would suit you better to go to a more established program. I speak from experience, I was in a PhD program that was young the division was newly created, things were so unorganized. It took me much longer to graduate than I anticipated because I was the first entering class. I kind of felt like a lab rat.

A master's program is only 2 years right? So you will only have to pay for 2 years? If you decide to go to a PhD program, that will all be paid for so there won't be any student loans for that experience.

Hope this helps.

Jehanne Dubrow said...

Chavi, congratulations on getting into so many very good schools. I'm going to chime in, if I may speak from personal experience. I did my MFA without funding (but with student loans), but my PhD was fully funded (with generous and continuous support the university). Funding is not merely a matter of a free education vs. going into debt. When a school gives you fellowships and other forms financial support, they are telling you how you will be treated in your program, where you will be placed in the hierarchy, and how deeply invested your program will be in your success. Put simply (and perhaps crassly), the funding is concrete evidence of how much the school values you. Having experienced both sides of the equation, I can tell you that being funded is preferable.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Firstly, thank you to all for your comments. I can't describe how stress-laden this has been for me.

A: I still have yet to get the letter, and debt also terrifies me (as I try to pay off my CCs right now!).

David: That's interesting, and I've heard from many people that it is pretty horrendous as far as the aesthetic! If tickets were not so very expensive, I would be visiting this weekend.

Schvach: Thanks for the tip ;)

Anonymous: Indeed I agree about this. And it is what is forcing me to explore my financial options and how important it is to me to get into an appropriate program versus a free program. I just found out that there are only SIX PEOPLE in the MA program at UConn right now, and that makes me extremely nervous.

Jehanne: Thanks for the advice. I'm talking to lots of former grad students (current PhDs) about their opinions and boy oh boy are the answers across the board. I'd like to think that the money is because they want to be invested in me, but from looking at the lack of bodies in their program and a recent grant they got, I feel like they just have the money to toss around -- that it isn't about me, nor is it competitive. This makes me nervous, and even the responses I got from a few of the current students seemed to imply that basically two professors teach most of the core of the program.

Overall -- I have an e-mail in to a professor in Israel about which school would be best suited if I decide to pursue Rashi/his daughters/women's observance in that period and how far spread it was. Hopefully I get an answer. Likewise, I have requests in about finances at both schools, so hopefully I can hear what kind of loans I'd be looking at.

I'm just ready for the process to be over so I can buy my school shirt, and call it a day :)

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