If you read it, and YOU get confused, there’s definitely a problem. If you read it, and YOU get confused, there’s definitely a problem. (Notice that's there twice...that's what I like to call "emphasis.")
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
If you read it, and YOU get confused, there’s definitely a problem. If you read it, and YOU get confused, there’s definitely a problem. (Notice that's there twice...that's what I like to call "emphasis.")
Monday, December 27, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
I decided today that it would be beneficial to you, the world (and by the world I mean Mom, Dad, Boyfriend, and Friends - aka my faithful followers), to offer up some questions of your own that I might seek out the answers to. My experiences can't possibly cover every minute detail of graduate school. The point of this blog is to answer questions for future graduate students out there. I can't do that if I do not know what those questions are. So, as long as I don't start receiving crazy, mean-spirited, uninformed comments - I'm leaving anonymous posts open for those of you too shy out there to leave your names. Ask me any question regarding graduate school, life as a student, etc, and I will try my very best to find the answer and report back to headquarters.
Until next time, dear readers, I bid you adieu.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
So much has happened since I last wrote, but, yet, so little. The euphoria I experienced upon arriving in West Lafayette has long since evaporated and been replaced by little sprouting seeds of doubt. The semester is half over, and already I am tempted to call this journey done. I have been told on multiple occasions at this point that I am “supposed” to feel this way and that there are “many” others out there that feel the same as I. In all honesty, how does that help me? How does knowing that there are other graduate students out there that are just as miserable as me make me feel better? From that perspective, it actually makes me feel quite a bit worse.
I’m going to employ a tactic relatively unknown in this country and speak the truth. I know – it’s shocking. I beg you to read on, and to ignore the fear that that 5 letter word incites in you. I would like to be open and honest about how graduate school is affecting me for many reasons, the chief of which being that I feel that my peers are not being honest with anyone – including themselves. I also believe that if this blog is truly to be used to help anyone out there, even just one person, that I need to be honest about everything. So here goes…
I am doing very poorly in my courses. Some days, I can barely make sense of the articles I have to read for lab. Some days, my spirit is too defeated to even care. There have been days where I felt that I was not smart enough to be here. Not smart enough to contribute anything of note to intellectual discussions regarding lab experiments or legitimate scientific articles read for class. And I wonder, how in the hell did you make it out of undergrad? In addition to that, I wonder why the hell my undergraduate professors are even allowed to call themselves teachers. (Well most, not all.)
I am lonely. I miss my family so much sometimes just hearing a sad musical note in a song brings on the waterworks. I went home to visit my boyfriend and our friends in early October. I am sure I had what my boyfriend would classify as a nervous breakdown, and it was an internal struggle to put myself on the plane to return to what I now adamantly refer to as “Hell.” I’ve already written about the diversity in my program, but my loneliness is the result of more than just that. Are there no scientists that read poetry or science fiction? I’ll even take someone that’s read ANY classic novel and be happy with that. Is there anyone for me to talk politics and/or race relations with? Someone that likes to travel? That likes beaches? So far, the answer is a reverberatingly loud and emphatic – NO.
I am told that this is how I’m supposed to feel. That I am a first year graduate student and that’s just “how it is” during the first year. It seems to me that the status quo is not sufficient, to say the least. But, I am here. If they didn’t think I was capable of handling this program, they wouldn’t have extended an invitation to me to become one of the elite Boilermakers. So, at the end of the day, I have to remember and remind myself of that. I have to take the drive and initiative that I displayed in undergrad and double it. I have to lean on the shoulders that are offered to me, and take help wherever I can get it.
I’m sorry that I don’t have a better or more inspirational message for you, dear readers, but this is me being open and honest about my state of mind at present. Right now, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel. But maybe when I wake up tomorrow there will be. Graduate school is not easy, nor did I think it would be, but it is up to me and only me to maintain my status here and recognize that the knowledge that I do not possess in this moment will come in time. Everything takes time.
I can hear you screaming “Wait, what? That’s it!?” Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’ve ALWAYS got time to share. Do not be afraid to employ the resources available to you at your institution when you begin to have feelings such as these. They are there to help you. They want you to stay and, what’s more, they want you to be happy. My resource told me today that “graduate school is only a blip on the grander scale of life,” or something very similar to that. In short, when you start feeling like this (and thank God if you never do), remember that you can do it, that you are worthy and that you have the power to pull on some steel toed boots and kick that PhD’s mighty vociferously pompous ass. Smile while you make grad school your bitch and focus on the life you want to lead after graduating. What’s the worst that could happen? You fail. Then you get back up, dust yourself off, laugh hysterically when you realize that the seam in the ass of your pants split when you fell, and try again. I’m in the process of sewing said seam back together. I’ll try again when I’m done.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I am so SICK of reading. Which, if you don’t know me, is saying a lot. It’s a travesty, if you will. I love to read. I read just about anything I can get my hands on. I’m the girl that spends her summers reading classical novels. I read Les Miserables, for fun, and loved it. I fully intend to read it again. But, as I sit here in my lab reading yet another snorool (that’s snore and drool together folks) inducing article, I can’t help but whip out ye olde blogge and vent my frustration. Do scientists have to be so terribly dry? I’ve been reading an 8 page paper for 1.5 hours now. I’m sure I’ve fallen asleep at least 3 times. I tried blasting rock music in my ears to keep me awake – didn’t work. I tried reading the paper out loud to myself – didn’t work. I have no idea what’s going on and if I read this same sentence on more freakin time – that vein in my forebrain that’s been threatening to pop ever since I started grad school is finally going to kick the proverbial bucket. For any of you out there that are entering academia after getting your PhD – please remember what it felt like to be bitch-slapped by boredom. Remember that your work will be read by some poor, sleepless, starving first year grad student out there, and try to infuse some joviality into your work. Bitch-slap somebody with a little happy.
Ahem…frustration officially vented. I can now return to my usual sane, preachy, mentory self. (Yep, I’m still making up words. Look out for Merriam-Webster-NeuroScienceGeek: in stores this Christmas)
Article reading is a part of grad school. Reading in general is a part of grad school. Get used to it. It’ll only get better with practice. Of course, choosing a lab that is working on research that actually interests you is an extra special bonus – but everyone isn’t that lucky. I’ve been told to read the abstract, skip the intro and jump straight to results and discussion. Yeah…NO. Doesn’t work for me. My advice: start reading articles now and come up with your own strategy. Hopefully, by the time you arrive at your first year of graduate education, article reading won’t be such a chore. Trust me, if they weren’t paying me…it wouldn’t get done.
Until text time family, friends and beyond. I hope to post soon about my experience in my very first lab rotation. Cue ominous music now.
P.S. For any of you out there that suffer from insomnia – I HIGHLY recommend any one of Hodgkin and Huxley’s infamous neuro papers or “Thermal Asymmetric Interlaced PCR: Automatable Amplification and Sequencing of Insert End Fragments form P1 and YAC Clones for Chromosome Walking,” by Yao-Guang Liu. Best lab sleep I’ve ever had.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
[I would like to preface this by saying that this blog is in no way affiliated with Purdue University, nor is it a reflection on or discussion about their current or future outreach endeavors in reference to diversity.]
I find myself unable to find an appropriate introduction for this particular topic. My high school English professors are cringing as I type this, I’m sure. Unfortunately, they’ll just have to cope with my seeming inability to write a constructive intro for a very volatile topic. Where do I begin…Ah yes…
It was recently brought to my attention, in an admittedly roundabout way, that I play “the race card” quote “all the time.” Sigh. Heavy sigh.
This comment prompted me to go back and examine how many times I’d actually played this “race card.” I didn’t know that I carried it with me, but apparently it occupies a space in my wallet unbeknownst to me. The comment, in all fairness, may have been made in a joking manner, but, nevertheless, it stimulated my gray matter and induced action potentials within various neurons…I’m sorry. Translation from nerd to English: it got me thinking.
I am black. I am a woman. I am a black woman (hear me roar) in a discipline dominated by white males. I am the only black student in my incoming class of PhD students - 1 of 33. I attend school in a predominately white, predominately right wing, conservative, republican community in which I only see 1, maybe 2, black people a day, if I’m lucky. Is it wrong that I would like to see other black women in male dominated labs or professions that somehow manage to eek out a living in a white, mostly right wing, conservative republican community? AAARRRGGGHHH! The frustration has me pulling out my hair. I could reintroduce one of those ugly, naked cats to fur with the strands that litter my bedroom floor alone.
So, with the unleashing of the aforementioned comment, I find myself at a loss. Who do I turn to? Who can I run to when I need to vent about someone making a comment about my locs (No, they do not stink, have you ever smelled them? Yes I do wash my hair, don't you?)? Am I to simply keep my frustrations to myself and not complain about the lack of Black people in not only my program, but programs across the country? Who do I discuss the state of race relations with, especially in terms of how this country views the current president? Who do I have conversations with about why it is not okay to say things like “don’t you listen to Jay-Z” to a person just because they are black? I’d like to have someone with whom to discuss what it means to be a black woman in the sciences these days. And I don't think I am asking for much.
So, with my whining sufficiently (but not summarily or even comprehensively) over with, I’ve decided that I am going to discuss it with you. Yes, you. Those of you out there that are reading this, prepare yourselves. Prepare your brethren for my apocalyptic wrath of taboo destruction. I wake up a black woman every morning and I go to bed a black woman every night. As long as that continues to happen, race will be a part of my life, my aesthetic, and my manifest. It will follow me around like a love sick freshman strung out on pheromones. So why should I be afraid to both embrace and discuss it, being that it is a part of who I am? I should not and I will not any longer.
I will not apologize because I make a “big deal” about there not being enough black people in my program. I will not apologize for questioning why people think that I know every famous black person that ever lived. I will not apologize for feeling the way I feel or for making those feelings known. I’ve always been told to be the change I want to see in the world. Well this is my very first big change. I want people to be able to discuss race openly. I want to be able to talk about race with people that look like me and people that don’t.
You may not be able to understand why this is important or why it matters at all, but don’t worry your pretty little head. You will.
P.S. I went to www.Purdue.edu and did a search for diversity. I unearthed the following link which you can use to make your own calculations and draw your own conclusions, should you desire to do so: http://www.purdue.edu/datadigest/pages/students/index.htm I think what you’ll find there is a wonderful testament to why I sometimes feel like a guppy in an ocean of bull sharks (i.e. the data showing the enrollment of 7639 graduate students in the fall 2009. 3% of those students were black. 0.4% of those students were classified as “American Indian.” who, I'm sure, feel even less at home than I do. I'd like for you to just take a moment and nibble on that tasty morsel of diversity knowledge.)
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Take a break and marvel as it crumbles around you. Okay, that’s terrible. I tried for profound and wound up with harbinger of doom-ish. At 730 AM this wonderful Saturday morning I rolled out of bed and over to my desk, hastily grabbed my Biochemistry book and settled in with my hot pink highlighter to begin a fantastical journey into the world of amino acids. Doesn’t get any better than that, kids. This is what my life has become and what it will be for the next year or so. I wake up, I go to class. I come home, I do work for class. I “weekend” and by that I mean study. I roll out of bed just to study. We do what we must for the things we want out of life, but sometimes I take it too far. And yes, I am using weekend as a verb. I can do that I’m a grad student.
Earlier in the week plans were made with a few friends to take a day trip. We wound up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I packed the essentials – a sweater if I got cold, comfy shoes for my aching feet, gum for stinky breath, Carmex for parched lips, my biochemistry book for light reading, an article (or two…okay three) for EXTRA light reading and a notebook for question answering. I tried reading on the way to Indy. My brain rebelled like a frat boy the night after a keg-stand binge. It finally dawned on me – my brain needed a break! It was overflowing with the vast world of neurobiology that it’d been forced into. It was crying for release. My temple literally drummed out the beat to “stop dogging me around (please just leave me alone).” I put the work away and had fun. For the first time in days.
We visited the Indianapolis Zoo and petted sharks. We stopped by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and had a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” moment. We visited a local cultural district and had Mexican for dinner. We laughed, we joked, we took an exorbitant (yes, exorbitant. That GRE prep finally paid off) amount of pictures. I had fun. I gave my brain a break. And, now, as I sit on my living room futon and type this out – my brain feels much better. It absorbed the info, finally.
Moral of the story – don’t spend ALL of your time studying. Leave your books at home, your articles, your highlighters and your notebooks and spend a day in sheer mindlessness. Take a day to not learn. It’s just one day, and, if you’ve budgeted time accordingly and studied as you should, it’ll only be one day. Besides, there’s always tomorrow. At least until December 21,2012….we’ll see about tomorrow then.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I arrived home only to discover that I was too lazy to cook. I was unable to convince even myself that the excuse of “having too much work to do” was reason enough order Domino’s Pizza, but I did it anyway. I sat. I stared. I thought about thinking about studying. I stared some more. I watched my computer screen anxiously as the Domino’s Pizza online tracker foretold the arrival of intestinal stimulation. I finally managed to corral the neural troops and focus enough to study cellular neurobiology AND biochemistry. So far this week I’ve received 2 homework handouts forcing me to answer questions about organic chemistry and general chemistry – two courses that I happily buried beneath rocks in my memory graveyard. I’ve received 2 papers for cellular neurobiology that must be read by Tuesday. My prof even gift wrapped them with 15 questions for which the answers must be typed and turned in on Tuesday. I must also prepare for detailed discussion of my answers and my thoughts on the articles….for Tuesday. I start my very first rotation on September 1st. I had a lab meeting about it this morning and everything. As a fringe benefit – I get to read 5 more papers concerning Na+ and H+ antiporter membrane pumps. Fun, fun, fun. I’ve never been this excited…Though, that rectal exam comes in a close second.
I thought time management was for those pansies in med school. I am dismayed at the amount of time I have poured into studying this week only to feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. But I think that 2 hours of cellular neurobiology and 3 hours of biochemistry is pretty good for one 24 hour period. I’ve even put myself on a system of reading 2 article pages per hour. I should be done with all of my current articles by 2015 – just in time for graduation.
In short boys and girls, you will be tired. You will be beat. You will shake your fists at the sky and demand, “why!” You will question what the hell made you choose to pursue a PhD. Take whatever you are thinking about the caliber of work required for graduate studies and double it. Better yet, triple it. Class just started on August 23rd. It’s got to get better right? No, seriously…I need an answer.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Since last entry I’ve managed to navigate the mean streets of south central West Lafayette, IN, watch dumbfounded as my bus passed me by (4 times at last count), and not be murdered by my roommate. All in all it has turned out to be a decent month.
Orientation was last week (all week long) and let me tell you it is not for the faint of heart! It was about as fun as a rectal exam. I don’t know about you, but being up before Jesus is not my idea of a good time! I and my cohort spent the bulk of the week running back and forth from pointless session to pointless session with a few faculty interviews in between. And by faculty interviews I mean meetings with potential labs. If the program you choose happens to be in the biological or interdisciplinary life sciences – there is a very strong possibility that you will have to complete rotations (usually 2 per semester). The PULSe program requires that incoming first year graduate students interview AT LEAST 5 faculty members to determine 1.) if their research is stimulating enough to spend 7 weeks in their lab and 2.) if you like the PI enough to endure being in their lab for 7 weeks. (HEADS UP PEOPLE! ADVICE AHEAD) The whole point of rotating through multiple labs is to make sure you find the perfect home for the next 5-7 years. Rotations ensure that you like the research in the lab you’ve chosen, that you like the people currently in the lab, that you like the PI, and so on. It is a 7 week long interview. TAKE IT SERIOUSLY!!!!! And as a bonus – any work you do that generates scientifically relevant data can be put into an article that you can be a co-author on! HOW FREAKIN AWESOME IS THAT!? Calm down, it isn’t that awesome (please note the sarcastic tone…)
I must say that I have run into some major issues trying to find a home. If you are a senior in college who is hoping to go to XYZ University for its stellar research in XYZ department – do NOT hesitate to ask any professor you are interested in working with about their funding situation. I repeat do NOT hesitate to ask any professor you are interested in working with about their funding situation. PI’s have to pay grad students out of grant money. If there is no grant money, or grant money is running low, you will be unable to work with your PI or PIs of choice. I learned this the hard way. I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to really navigate grad school (recruitment weekends included). Grad schools invite you to recruitment weekend because they want you. They bring out the shiniest of students and the “fine china” that’s always heard about but never seen. They feed you, put you up in pretty hotels, and pay for your flight – the whole gamut. They want you and they will do whatever it takes to get you – including shake their moneymakers. EVERY school wants what they consider to be the crème de la crème. If they invite you to recruitment - you, my friend, are the crème. Recognize your worth and know that you have the right to ask any question you want.
I did not know this. I chose a school that had 3 professors that were actively engaged in research DIRECTLY linked to what I wanted to study and others who I could tolerably learn from. Only one was up front with me about his funding situation. You have the right to ask professors about funding situations – especially if you are picking XYZ University because of them. When you go to recruitment and you meet with the people who will be your colleagues for the next 5-7 years – ask them how their ongoing research projects mesh with rotation schedules. Ask them about money: do they have it, will they be getting more of it, and when will they potentially be running out of it. You don’t want to choose a school and choose a lab only to have said lab run out of money halfway through your project. Ask them what the future directions of their research entails. Ask them about techniques they are currently using in the lab. You should even ask the graduate students how long it took them to generate data that was meaningful enough to give them a paper with first authorship. PhD programs in the sciences pay you for a reason. You are an employee. You have the right to know about where you will be working for the next 5 or so years.
I say all this because I didn’t ask these questions. I didn’t have anyone around me to tell me to ask these questions. Hopefully someone will be able to walk away from this in a better position than I am in today. I would like to state that this is in no way a fault of the PULSe program. My program has no way of knowing which professors have money which ones don’t. There are over 400 labs conducting research on Purdue’s main campus alone. I simply was not educated in the ways of grad school. I am now, and hopefully, so are you.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I’m here! I arrived in Purdue Country after a long and agonizing 11 hour drive across 3 states that turned into 14.5 due to terrible traffic. But we arrived safely, and that’s what counts…right? My boyfriend, his 16 year old brother and I drove across 3 states in his Chrysler – which, let me tell you, is not big on space. All of the important things were left at home, because my clothes, shoes, gaming systems and books come first! My coffee pot, crock pot, my “I got my crabs from Dirty Dicks” coffee mug, the absolutely essential to the Midwest winter coat, and my TV. Thank God for rent-a-center and its $30 television rental or my small (but hopefully growing) audience would be forced to read daily blogs about what video game held my attention for the day (Half-Life 2, thank you very much). My clothing is tossed hither and yon (yes, hither and yon) with no real organization. I know that my shoes are somewhere over there and my clothes are somewhere in here, so I’ve got a good handle on things.
My snazzy new apartment is empty. I can hear my voice bouncing off the walls. I’m sleeping on an air bed that I stole from my mom that was filled with air from an electric pump that I stole from my mom. My kitchen is fully stocked (thank God) due to Wal-Mart credit and money that I got from my parents. And by “fully stocked” I mean replete with peanut butter and jelly, waffles, eggs, pancake mix, Ramen noodles and pizza rolls. But my pots and pans are nice. When I finally I have something to cook in them it’ll actually be worth it. We made several trips to Wal-Mart, and by several I mean 3 times or more a day. Yes, I wrote a list, but obviously I am a terrible list maker; which is exactly why I’m sticking to science and leaving the list making to the professionals.
So, in my quest to single-handedly boost our sagging economy the following was spent:
Trip from NC to Purdue Country: $71
Rent (divided by 2 because I have a super cool roomie): $440
Final amount of money bequeathed to walmart: $450 (at last check)
Pizza for starving grad student: $20
TV rental: $30 for the month
TV Stand for said TV: $30
Cable (including self-installation): $30
Getting a speeding ticket right before arriving: Priceless
Because I didn’t get furniture besides my kick-ass TV stand, I’m currently writing this as I sit on the floor of my living room. Furniture I can live without – food (my dangerously addictive cookies included) – not so much. So, what have we learned boys and girls? Party your last year or summer of freedom away, vacation and have a good time – but remember to put money away for your big (and I do mean BIG) move. I thought I had it covered. I didn’t. Methinks I had a little bit too much fun…But shhhh! Let’s just keep that between us shall we?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
T minus 5 days and counting. I never thought leaving would be this hard. Having been a military brat, I’m quite accustomed to moving away and leaving friends behind – but I do not remember it ever being this hard. The less time I have left in North Carolina, the less happy I seem to be. When I got my acceptance letter in January 2010, I couldn’t wait for August to get here. Now, I’m wishing I could roll the clock back at least 2 months. At least.
My boyfriend says that he gets sad every time he looks in the closet. Suffice it to say, I started packing this week. My side of the closet is bare, save a few hangers. My drawers are empty, save two. I’ve got a backpack on wheels full of books to keep my company while I’m all alone in my shiny new apartment. The end is nigh!
Never underestimate how difficult a task it is to create a life for oneself. I know that grad school is where I’m meant to be at this point in my life. I know that it will shape and mold me into the scientist and teacher that I hope to become. But imposter syndrome is kicking in hard. That small child inside me that is craves for a single place of belonging is begging me to stay in NC. That devil on my shoulder is telling me “you can’t do this.” But the lease has been signed, promises have been made and intentions spoken. So, I guess I’d better go.
My friends and I are planning to paint the town red tonight. Dinner, followed by one last foray into drunken debauchery. Yippee. One last night to remember how we met, all the shenanigans we’ve gotten into, the people we communally hate. It should be fun, but, honestly, I want to curl up into the fetal position and not move. I had the opportunity to go to Purdue a full 2 months early and complete some “extra” research – fully funded of course. I applied. I never heard back. Now, I’m happier than ever that I wasn’t accepted into the program. I wouldn’t have had this time to spend with my boyfriend, to see my pregnant best friend and meet her husband, to rediscover my passion for writing. I wouldn’t have had this time to have pizza parties with my GameStop crew.
So, my advice to you dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to take the last summer before you start a masters or PhD program to have fun. And by have fun, I mean take a trip somewhere you’d never ordinarily go. Read all the books that strike your fancy and play video games until 3 am. Go out with your friends or stay in with them. Drink adult beverages and take random trips to Wal-mart for play-doh at midnight. The most important thing is that you take the time to do the things you love with the people you love the most. Grad school is already difficult, but it is especially hard if you are moving far, FAR, away from home. You want to have memories of “that time when.”
We are all called to do something of significance in our lives. Those calls take us away from the familiar. Don’t underestimate how difficult that is, as I did. The months leading up to grad school should be spent surrounded by family and friends and doing little devious things (like ballooning your significant other’s car for instance…). It should be spent surrounded by those you love and those that love you. It is during this time that you will need them the most. They are the ones that will remind you that you are capable of greatness. They are the ones that will be there for you during those first few socially awkward weeks.
Until next time audience.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
In my haste to rush off to bed last night I completely forgot to write about the conclusion to Friday night’s suspenseful events! I called my department on Monday morning and had the pleasure of speaking with a delightful person who shall remain nameless. She informed me that the Bursar’s office (more on that later) had indeed been made aware of the students that would be receiving a grad student tuition waiver. I was instructed to call the financial aid office (FAO) to find out about any credits made to my account.
I hurriedly called the FAO and was walked through the process of tuition waivers/credits. Apparently, the FAO needs to receive confirmation that a grad student will be receiving a graduate student assistantship of some sort before they will move on with the waiver process. At this point in time, information regarding my research assistantship has not been received, and my account still shows that I owe them $41,551 (approximately). I was instructed to accept the lowest of my offered loans (a federal subsidized loan) and remain undecided on the remaining two. Once the FAO receives confirmation of my assistantship, I will be considered an in-state student and given a waiver for in-state tuition which is a bit more than $9,000 per semester.
So, in short, a credit will be made to my account, just not yet. I need to learn the ancient delicate art of patience apparently.
Oh, I almost forgot. The Bursar or the Bursar’s Office is responsible for the billing and collection of university charges. I’m not sure how it makes sense that the Bursar’s Office has been made aware of my waiver but the FAO has not, but I’ll just leave that bureaucratic conundrum for another day and stick to science.
Next on my list of things to write about – moving! It’s the worst. The cost of moving and starting a life as a broke (and I do emphasize “broke”) graduate student is ridiculous! Until next time, future students, I bid you adieu.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
The only family member that has an advanced degree (that I know of) is my mother – a M.S. in Psychology – and she went back to school for that when I was an adolescent. So, here I am, the next generation of the Reynolds clan, off to graduate school after taking a year off from undergrad (through no personal desire of my own). I’m headed to Purdue University to get a PhD in interdisciplinary life sciences, with a focus on behavioral neuroscience. (Whew! That’s a mouthful.)
I have no idea what I’m doing. Initially, I thought I had every step of the moving/arriving/being brilliant student process lined out, but I don’t. And I don’t have anyone to ask. I’ve consulted grad school self help novels (okay 2, because as a student I am inherently lazy and broke and the closest library to me recently closed), but have yet to come across anything that prepared me for the actual magnitude of MOVING to and STARTING grad school. There was no family member to share the stress and gravity of it with me.
My last year of undergrad my professors and advisors all told me the same thing – grad school for a science major will be free. (Free you say? Really! I’m in!) So, I settled in to apply without really focusing on cost whatsoever, and, as luck would have it, got accepted to an expensive school. My bank account is leaping for joy (that’s sarcasm just in case you missed it, but I doubt you did).
Yesterday evening, I open my financial aid tab on my chosen schools student webpage to discover that I’ve been awarded $41, 551.00 in federal loans. Last I checked, free does not equal loan necessity. Interesting….I am now, of course, newly confused about the entire situation. Scratching my head while simultaneously turning it at a 90 degree angle as though it would make it all make sense, I quickly scampered over to my email to search through the hundreds of messages I’ve left undeleted. I finally find the one obscure email from my department that stated, and I quote,
“PULSe students are exempted from paying tuition, estimated currently at $9,563 (Indiana residents) or $31,503 (out-of-state students) per year.”
So why is the federal government so interested in offering me $41, 551.00 worth of loans for an out of state tuition price of $31,503? Of course this price does not include the “non mid-west” travel allowance, room and board, miscellaneous, books, fees, etc. However, our lovely and ever functional government is still way of base with the loan award. Now my eye is twitching. I’m confused, I’ve got nowhere to turn and until the 14th of July to make a decision about my loans. Today is the 10th. Joy. And it’s a Saturday so I can’t call my department. Double Joy.
Naturally, I assume that my department simply hasn’t applied the credit to my financial account so as far as the graduate school as a whole is concerned, I owe them money and the federal government indentured servitude for taking such a gamble on my education and my “ability” to pay it back upon graduating. Ha! Shame on them…
I think that once I get to school and start my week-long orientation process this little matter will be cleared up. I do wish they were a little more forthcoming with the “how” of it all. I mean, seriously, I’m a Bio major. I deal in “how.” I don’t like things to just appear and disappear – if I did, I’d be going to Criss Angel U, not Purdue U.
Either way, it is my desire and intention to make this process as crystal clear as possible for other students out there like me. Those traditional students that have no clue what it really means to prepare for and start grad school. I hope my mistakes don’t become someone else’s mistakes. This is day one. Let’s see what day two looks like shall we?
Stay tuned for the most likely totally unnecessary phone call that I’ll have to make to my department on Monday. What can I say? Type A personalities unite!