Guest Column: Graduate schools aren’t one size fits all

Jasmine+Jones

Jasmine Jones

The Wichitan

When I graduated  last year with my bachelors of arts in mass communication and political science, I had no plan. I wanted to catch a breath and relax after juggling school, a full-time job and my philanthropy efforts. However, I knew I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing. The solution seemed to be going to graduate school.

I searched high and low for a graduate program and even though I wasn’t sold on the idea of immediately returning to school, I signed up for the political science master’s program at MSU. My first choice in a program would have been in mass communication, my passion, but MSU didn’t offer any graduate work in mass communication.

Upon starting the program last fall, I had an office of my own. I was a paid graduate assistant and I was taking just two classes. I gave it a shot. After all, I was getting a pretty swanky deal and I didn’t want to let my professors down.

By the end of my first year as a graduate student, I was struggling. I compare my situation to a shoe sale at Macy’s – just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’s the best fit. I tried to fit into something that simply was not for me.

There are parts of political science I love – feminist theory, constitutional law and public law. But there are also parts I’m not passionate about and there is no shame in that. With mass communication, every single day was different. It was more than just sitting in a lecture every day and taking notes. We were out in the field producing stories for The Wichitan or Campus Watch, at conferences competing in news events or at internships for local news stations and advertising agencies. I missed that.

Even though the graduate program at MSU wasn’t perfect for me, it helped me realize where my true passion was. After looking at different schools, I found a program that’s not just good, but a good fit for me. I’m excited to see where that takes me.

Here’s some advice to help you find the right fit in a graduate school.

Develop a plan of attack. Graduate school requires a lot of work. If you don’t already love what you’re pursuing, you need to make yourself love it or find something else. No amount of cramming can substitute true passion.

Don’t start a graduate program if you feel “burnt out” because it will only get worse. Go on a sabbatical of sorts. Indulge in your inner Julia Roberts circa “Eat, Pray, Love”.

Visit multiple graduate schools and sit in on classes. Whether or not any program is the right fit, until you do a visit or sit in on a class, you won’t know for sure. Everything sounds great on a glossy brochure.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to say no. This is a life lesson that extends beyond just choosing a school. Don’t worry about pleasing anyone other than yourself. At the end of the day, it’s your degree and your future.

Jasmine Jones is an MSU graduate and employee at the Times Record News.