Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The Grad School Search: Chatham vs. Cornell
The hunt has officially started. I've been looking into graduate schools for about a year, but this summer it's starting to get serious. I need to start applying to programs this fall, and reality is quickly creeping up on me. No more casual shopping for schools; serious decisions need to be made soon. I had planned on applying to a ton of schools with the hope that the odds would be in my favor and one or two would take me, but now I'm considering scaling back. A lot of schools have their own teacher recommendation forms and submission procedures, and I don't want my professors working overtime because I insist on applying to twelve programs. So I'm trying to narrow down the list by doing some in-depth research and cutting the schools that aren't exactly what I want. If I won't jump at the chance to go there, I probably won't end up applying. I'll have to talk to my advisors during the semester, of course, but this is my plan as of now.
So I thought I'd outline some of my top choices on here in a series of posts, giving the program stats and pros/cons. Then maybe I'll have an epiphany of where I should go. Here are my first two choices. They're both about the same distance from home but in two completely different directions:
Why I want to go: It sounds just like SU. Small, private school, inventive writing program. I could have a double concentration in fiction and travel writing, or fiction and children's writing. They have some sample course outlines posted online, and they sound perfect. There's also a summer requirement of a study abroad type program, just like the South Africa program, where you go to a foreign country with a professor and write for two weeks. I would absolutely love another chance to do something like that. Plus, the school is in Pennsylvania, which would make my parents happy. I got little butterflies when I checked out the website, and I've learned lately to trust my gut. My gut tells me this could be something great.
Downsides: Since it's a private school, tuition is expensive. And the only way to be put in the running for fellowships (jobs that pay for part/all of your tuition, like being a teaching assistant, editor of the literary magazine, etc) is to apply early decision. I don't want to potentially trap myself, especially since there's a chance I wouldn't get funding after all that. I could get funding at another school but already be committed to Chatham. And that makes me nervous. Also, living in the city can be expensive. There are school-owned apartments, but they are still $5000 a semester. So what seems like my automatic first choice school has the most serious downsides. I'm not sure what that means.
Why I want to go: Two words - full funding. Because the program only takes ten or so students, the school is able to pay for their tuition. I would be guarenteed a teaching job, most likely teaching a freshman intro course. They posted sample class descriptions online, one of which is Great Books of Today (a class about contemporary literature and how media like book clubs/movie adaptations affect how the book sells), which sounds SO fun! It would be easier to find housing here than in a big city, I'm sure, and my parents are comfortable with me living in upstate NY, since they've both lived in the Syracuse area. There's also a 5-year masters/Ph.D option, where one or two people a year are accepted to work towards both degrees (the Ph.D would be in English language and literature). That application would be a lot more work (along with the basic GRE, I'd have to take the English/literature subject test and include a critical essay along with my fiction portfolio), and I don't know if I'd want to get my doctorate, but it's something to think about. I also have alumni family members, so there might be a slightly bigger shot of acceptance.
Downsides: This problem is more personal than technical. The family members who went to Cornell majored in super sciency things like engineering, and I've grown up believing Cornell is a snobby school that turns out geniuses who think they're smarter than everyone else. It's just a perception I'll have to get over. I'm pretty sure my family alumni don't take creative writing as a serious major, so if they heard I was going to Cornell for my masters in it, I'm not sure if they would take me seriously or think I'm wasting my opportunity at a great school on a BS degree. Granted, I don't really value the opinions of these people in regards to my own major life choices, so this shouldn't be a deciding factor. Another downside is the selectivity of the program. Because they accept very few people, there's more competition and a higher chance I won't get in.
This is the first of a few grad school related posts. They're mostly just so I can wrap my head around things, but I'm open to any advice!