ATHENS, Ga. -- Should you move to Cambridge and earn an MBA from Harvard? Or will a master's in business administration from State U. serve you just as well?
What about Grandma's china? Do you pay to store it for the next two years or sell it at a yard sale?
And what about the kids, your spouse, your aging parents?
For women considering graduate school, these questions -- and many more -- can weigh heavily on their decisions, according to the author of "A Woman's Guide to Surviving Graduate School," published by Sage Press and now available at Borders bookstores.
"Women, particularly women who have been out of college for several years, frequently face obstacles and obligations that are quite different from men," according to Barbara Rittner, an associate professor at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, who co-wrote "A Woman's Guide" with Patricia Trudeau, a counselor and instructor at Conestoga College in Ontario, Canada.
"Many women who contemplate graduate school are single mothers who have to continue caring for their children," Rittner says. "They may be recently divorced, which means they have fewer financial resources, or they may have other obligations."
Rittner and Trudeau called graduate schools throughout the United States and Canada to gather information for their book. Some of their tips:
- The absolute worst reason for going to graduate school is because you need the degree. "You're better off changing careers rather than suffering through graduate school when you don't want to be there," Rittner says.
- Your pastor, next door neighbor or therapist generally aren't the best people to use as a reference for graduate school.
- The "best" graduate school for your specialty may also be the most demanding. "If you have obligations in addition to graduate school, you have to decide if you can juggle multiple demands on your time," Rittner says.
- If you're rejected from every graduate school to which you applied, re-evaluate your goals. "Maybe you should consider another area of study," Rittner suggests.
- Unless you're sure you can write like William Faulkner, you're better off using Ernest Hemingway's concise style of writing for graduate school research papers. "Graduate faculty members have limited patience, and some even seem to take sadistic pleasure in failing students," Rittner says. "Learn from your early papers what's expected and recognize that the farther along you go, more will be expected and less will be forgiven."
Rittner and Trudeau also emphasize the benefits of women working cooperatively during graduate school, rather than competing against one another.
"As women progress up the academic ladder, their numbers decline," according to Rittner. "In my PhD program, there were three men for every woman, although the number of women far exceeds men in undergraduate social work majors."
By working together, women can pool their resources, she says.
"In researching this book, we found women who saved money on textbooks by buying one copy and then taking turns reading and outlining chapters," she notes. "There also are trade-offs of cooking for typing, and babysitting for tutoring in statistics."
And what about Grandma's china?
One graduate student found a buyer for her late grandmother's china. The proceeds supported her through much of her master's degree.
"A Woman's Guide to Surviving Graduate School," is one in a series on surviving graduate school edited by Bruce Thyer, a UGA School of Social Work professor, and published by Sage Publications.