Saturday, July 10, 2010

So I got in, now what

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!

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