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C.7  Looking at Grad Work

As you wrap up your undergraduate work and find you still want more you may consider Graduate school.  What’s in it for you?  No answering that question until you’ve wrestled with the Big Three:

1) why to do it,

2) when to do it, and

3) where to do it.

C.7.a  Sorting through the why and the when. 

As you might suspect, the answer to each of these fundamental concerns is an individual one.  What is true for one person will not be applicable for another, and since this is your life, the decision has to be your very own. 

The reasons behind “why” to do it are tied up in your perception of having incomplete training, or having a great love for learning in its own right.  Perhaps you have a goal of a more focused professional training to build on your liberal arts prepara­tion, and see advanced work as the gateway to career.  More seriously, you may be sensing a calling from God to work toward greater fulfillment, or to engage the culture through the art of Theatre, and can’t really explain what it is.  None of these must be taken lightly.  But heed the advice of the old Iowa farmer: don’t go down to the barn on a hot summer’s day unless you really have to.

Graduate work is a major commitment, and one that calls for an even greater discipline and persistence than you expended for your undergraduate degree; the major difference is, put simply, that you are expected to be more individually motivated in your study, to drive yourself beyond the assignments, to begin to engage in direct research rather than studying what others have experienced and written.  Your graduate professors will be fellow scholars and artists—well advanced—not “teachers” in the traditional sense of the word.  They are ultimately not in charge of whether you “get it” or not.  You’ll feel much on your own in your race for the laurels.  Now you need to master yourself and your art—with an M.A. or M.F.A.—and then, perhaps, go on to the level where you can philosophize about your discipline, putting it in new perspective for others—the, Ph.D. 

But it can be a glorious time of your life; a time when you are enabled to push yourself into places you didn’t know where a part of you.  You set the goals, you provide the deadlines, you take on the patina of expert, perhaps for the first time in your entire school life.

So when, exactly, should you begin your work?  Well, again, it’s your choice. Some students may decide to pay down some of college loans first, or use some time to do more preparatory reading and practice of their artistry.  You may be well advised to hold off for a while. 

Supposedly your grad school effort will be preparing you for the rest of your life.  As an artist, you’re in no rush.  In fact, you can’t rush artistic development; it comes with life’s changes.  And if you are driven mostly by a desire for professional skills training, remember that most production companies are as much, or more, interested in your experience as they are in your education. 

It behooves you, then, to give real thought to taking some time out to cultivate focus, stack up experience, acquire wherewithal to take on the task which will demand the greatest push of your life.  Give yourself some time for greater success.

Next Section: C7b: What Kind of Degree?

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