English/Plan I (Music Pre-Grad Intern) Junior Chase Maxwell
The prospect of graduate school, (or merely graduation for that matter), can be an intimidating thing for a first generation college student to anticipate. As I recall, as a working-class kid from the sticks, the prospect of attending an actual four-year university in the middle of an actual city engaged similar feelings. When I recollect on my first days spent as a college student here at the university, I recall the dumbfounded awe by which I was initially overwhelmed. It was a simultaneous kind of awe. On the one hand, I was overcome by the sheer glory that such an institution could exist. I marveled at the buildings on campus, feeling as if I had walked, some filth-ridden barbarian, out of Magna Germania and onto the streets of Rome. Yet, at the same time, I found myself suffocated by the change of atmosphere. I came into college with no credit hours, while most other new students I encountered were entering with thirty, if not sixty, credit hours! Once class started, I only felt more anxious: my education had simply not prepared me for the type of work I was beginning to encounter! As if that wasn't enough, I felt, simply put, alienated from the culture around me. I didn't know how to interpret others because I had no sense of how they interpreted themselves.
In so many words, my involvement with the pre-graduate school IE mentorship has evoked the same kinds of responses. On the one hand, I've begun to view the prospect of graduate school as an unmatched boon. Graduate school allows one to pursue whichever academic principle one loves most, all the while, nurturing the practical needs of the individual, (i.e. providing food, shelter, and work for an otherwise impoverished or idle scholar). Graduate school allows for the opening of any myriad of doors. With graduate school one can pursue writing or field work in any number of disciplines. Travel becomes, not an option, but a necessity. Not to mention that graduate school allows for exposure, on a day to day basis, to brilliant people and the brilliant theories they've concocted within their disciplines.
These benefits do not come without a price, however. I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of work one must pursue, first, to get into graduate school, second, to stay in graduate school and, third, to maintain a faculty position in one's field after graduate school. In other words, if fretting over homework assignments and minuscule details for the rest of your life sounds like fun to you, you're more absolutely cut out for graduate school than ninety-nine percent of the people already in graduate school. If these things do not sound fun, you're probably like everyone else in graduate school: you've devoted years of stress and storm to your given discipline out of either some kind of pure and innocuous love for said discipline, or, more likely, because you desire the status, prestige and, yes, money that come with the attainment of a doctorate.
Furthermore, I've found myself astonished by the various kinds of people who choose this long and tedious career path. The musicology conference I attended allowed me to witness all manner of musicologists of differing ages and backgrounds giving presentations on the research they view as most meaningful. While the experience of interacting with these individuals was somewhat alienating due to a lack of certain mutual concerns, (can I really understand what it's like to compete for tenure or funding until I've actually done so?), I found the issues discussed to be enlightening.
More than anything, I would say that my participation in the pre-graduate school IE mentorship has taught me about myself; about my own desires and ambitions. I entered the mentorship uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to go through another four years of college. Because of this indecision, I sought to utilize the mentorship program as a means of weighing the pros and cons of graduate study against one another, thinking, all the while, that I would encounter a simple yes or no conclusion.
The resolution I came to was an emphatic, simultaneous, yes and no! What I came to realize is that graduate school is, more than any other institution, a place where people who love a given topic can come together and share knowledge they're passionate about. In this respect, passionate knowledge sharing, I can think of nothing I'd rather do with my time. However, now that I've been exposed to the workload and typical lifestyle of a graduate student, I have to say I'm dismayed by the hassle it entails. I am, at this point in my life, quite simply, not capable of adjusting to the rigorous demands of graduate study. I know that, eventually, I will pursue graduate study at a rigorous level -this is a certainty in my mind. I shall undertake graduate study some day, but it must wait until I've been allowed my own intellectual pursuits, until I've dipped my toe in the proverbial water of society. Suffice to say, (for now at least), that I prefer to be stress and worry free, not stressed with a PhD.