Nov 14, 2018

‘A vacation from vacation’

Grad applications, prospects of admission make Thanksgiving break a chore


While most folks were back home stuffing themselves over the break, I was home frantically finishing up applications for grad school. Going to sleep at 5 a.m. and getting up three hours later gave me a small taste of what I imagine graduate school to be like.

But I may not get to find out.

Copy editing Ben Keller’s story about skyrocketing graduate school enrollment last night, I realized I’m going to have even less of a chance of getting into my desired schools than I thought.

You’d think a program like journalism, with its sinking employment rates and bankrupting publications, wouldn’t be packing the collegiate house. You’d be wrong.

I went to UC Berkeley, one of my top picks for grad school, for an informational session this summer. They enroll 60 students per year in their competitive journalism program. They told me that in Fall of 2007 they’d gotten a record number of applications — more than 300.

Of those students they accepted, only three were fresh from their bachelor’s degrees. The rest were returning to school after years of working in the field.

With the numbers of out-of-work journalists increasing, the number of professionals applying to grad programs was also increasing.

It seems the same thing is starting to happen in other grad programs.

I’m no alarmist, but I do wonder what will happen if grad schools accept more professionals and fewer recent graduates. Where does that put folks like me — and you — who are expected to enter the workforce with comprehensive experience but are having a more difficult time getting into programs that will provide that experience?

I’ve had several people suggest that I forget about getting into grad school and do internships instead. I spoke earlier to features editor Paige Ricks, who has also applied to UC Berkeley, about this.

We agreed that a year or so of internships — most of which are unpaid — is the hard way to gain experience. But the competitiveness of graduate school makes us wonder.

Maybe UC Berkeley will still be in my future. Maybe not.

If there’s one thing college has taught me, it’s that the easy way is rarely as easy as it looks.

Heather Billings is a senior at Fresno State majoring in mass communication and journalism with emphases in print journalism and digital media.

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