The Oxford Diaries: (1) How Not To Get Into Grad School


Time Period: Pre-Grad school, 2011 to 2012.

This is a new feature I’m starting, it’ll be either bi-weekly or monthly so you won’t be inundated with worried-hastily written posts about my future. I’m in a liminal state now and the grey-matter that I’m occupying is very uncomfortable for me. My friends gave me the idea to write it down here, but I resisted at first, as this has nothing to do with books? But in the end I said eff it. I was largely inspired by The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shh to document my grad school journey and think it’s a good outlet and refreshing picture as to the joys and stresses of doing an MSc. This series will tell my story from the beginning and detail my journey as I make my way to Oxford in October. If I make it. You’ll understand this better later. This post is written in a series of lessons.


How Not To Get Into Grad School Lesson 1: Go straight after school. Your interests will change, so that school you applied to in 2011 isn’t gonna work now in 2012 or 2013.

So let me begin at the beginning yes? In 2011 I graduated from college with a degree in Anthropology and Museum Studies. I knew I didn’t want to go straight into my studies as I’d had a series of semi-breakdowns due to academic burn out and family/ relationship troubles. So I entered the working world! And guess what? It was harder than I thought but I loved it. I loved making my own money, spending my own money and saving my own money. I’ve always been extremely independent and thrifty so I started a bank account on the day I received my first paycheck and I labelled that account, “Future Graduate School Dreams.”

Back to grad school. Before I left college I applied to UCL’s Material and Visual Culture MA program and was accepted. So easy right? I got into the school I wanted, now all I need to do is work and decide on when the time is right and then go- easy right!

No. If I had gone straight after my BA, I would now have an MA in something I don’t want to do or have full interest in. Boo. Talk about a waste of money right? I’m not saying that going straight to grad school is bad, if you know what you want to do and you’re sure then go ahead. I’ve had many friends take this option and are very happy, but they were sure, they had funding and they were secure in their decision. If you have any doubts, take a break. Interests change, you change and I’m glad I gave myself time to explore that.

+ Grad schools like to see students that took a bit of a break to get ‘real world’ experience.

How Not To Get Into Grad School Lesson 2: Wait for divine intervention. There is never a right time to go back to school. You’ve just got to decide to do it.

After I started working I told everyone, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna go to grad school sometime, yeah.” Two years later, I wasn’t in grad school and everything seemed to take me from it. Both my parents became unemployed. I had the prospect of promotion. I was curating shows. Yes, yes, yes. This is all good and fun but when would I go off to school?

See, you have decide to just do it, I think. A number of my friends have applied and gotten into schools, but still waiting on some sort of divine intervention. I did this for 2 whole years, eventually I decided, 2013 would be my year. No ‘ands’, ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. So do it. Just decide to do it, there is never a right time and if this is something you want to do, just do it and work your ass off to make it happen.

So yeah, that’s my tough love for now. You’ll get more tough love soon :)!



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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6 Responses to The Oxford Diaries: (1) How Not To Get Into Grad School

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  4. Claire (BWB) says:

    It’s hard trying to find the time to go back. My friend recently made the decision to make the plunge for her BA. If you like your job and it has real future potential, do you need a BA and all that stress?

  5. Tara says:

    Yay! I’m so excited you are doing this! We can both read and write our ways through advanced degrees.

    Everything you have said here is so spot on. I waited two years between each of my degrees, and never regretted it. We have a few students in our program who wear their youth like a badge of honor — like being the youngest is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with being young, but I do worry for their lack of real-world experience. One girl even realized this during a class presentation on future careers in academia. She had this terribly sad face and said, “I had a hard time finding a job posting I would be qualified for. 90% of them require at least three years of classroom teaching experience, and I have zero.” So good for you for waiting and feeling out your passions!

    • Claire (BWB) says:

      Thanks! Your series is really inspiring. I think current higher ed. pushes people way too early into furthering their studies. Being older is awkward sometimes but I still think it works in the long run like you said. I know for a fact that it was my 2 year museum experience that got me into this program. If I had none, what could I have shown for myself except a bunch of papers?

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