So you think you want to go to graduate school?
It was around this time last year when I got the “Magic Words” from Yale telling me that I had been admitted. I was studying with my best friend at Amer’s café in Ann Arbor when I saw a “203” number call my cell phone. I then peed on myself — just a little. I don’t know if you know this or not, but most schools (in the humanities) call if you’ve been admitted — not to add to your anxiety or anything. And you’ll think I’m a total dork when I tell you that I actually memorized the area codes for the 11 schools I applied to: When Yale called, I knew before I even picked up the phone. And the congratulations conversation went a little something like this:
YALE: Madison, I’m calling to tell you the good news that we are admitting you to our program.
ME: That’s so hot!
And then I ran around in my hot pink American Apparel underwear.
It’s that time of the year again, and some of you are biting your toenails waiting, wondering whether or not you’ve been admitted to graduate school. You are going to be wined, dined and flown about the country to visit the various schools you’ve applied to. Your cohort will include fabulous, ambitious people. You might hook up with, and then seriously avoid, one of the people in your cohort. You are the star as professors seduce you to study at their school. You lose interest in your last term at Yale because, well, you’re going to Berkeley in the fall. You pick the school with the best location, the best faculty, the cheapest places to live — you’ll be there six years!
But before you take The Plunge, there are a few things you should know about what types of grad students you can expect to meet in the Ivory Tower. The Grad Student is a rare breed — a teaspoon of social awkwardness and three cups of ego. After all, it takes a hell of a lot of ego to be able to survive six years of not-so-nice criticism.
So let’s start with the most basic:
— The Theory Machine
You better watch out for the Theory Machine! He’ll slap you with a big fat stick of Foucault/Derrida/Althusser/Barthes/Insert-famous-critic-here without a moment’s notice. Also known as Name Dropper. Most likely to never have read any theory at all, or to excoriate you for not having read “Of Grammatology” in the original language. Probably talks about Benjamin on a first date — i.e. doesn’t get laid.
— The Seminar Hog
A usual suspect. The Seminar Hog is the one who turns the class into a one and a half hour monologue. The SHog is his own class: The other seven students in the seminar are just ornamentation. The SHog cuts people off, is competitive and probably does not get laid a lot — I mean, could you imagine a SHog in bed? Sex is not a time to chat.
— The @^#&!**
The @^#&!** is the one everybody hates. Most likely to verify everything the professor says with his laptop during class. He’s the one who tells everybody they’re wrong — including the professor — and who reads every major critical figure and says, “I don’t understand why we read this! If he were my student, I’d give him a D+.” What The @^#&!** doesn’t realize is that, like, he is not yet a major critical figure, so, um, nobody cares about his ideas. Most likely to sit at home on Friday nights playing with voodoo dolls, the names of other graduate students on each of them.
— The Quiet One
Be very wary of The Quiet One. The Quiet One is the one who never talks aloud in class because she spends the first half of the class period trying to plot out exactly what she wants to say. But without a moments notice, her inner “Sasha!” — the alter ego of shy singer Beyoncé — busts out with brilliant commentary. Most likely to avoid classes with The @^#&!**.
— Your T.A.
You hate your T.A. Either you don’t really understand them, or you resent being taught by somebody 2 or 3 years older than you. Secret: You don’t want a T.A. and your T.A. doesn’t want to T.A. you. Probably laughs at your papers as they grade them while reading your Facebook profiles, lowering the grade a notch for every drunken photo and “red cup.” Probably the same outfit every class.
— The Obsessed With My Career
Probably belongs to a country club. The OWMC thinks he or she is the hottest *&%!# on the job market. Will likely not take a job at a “lower” institution because, after all, the OWMC’s from “Yale.” Usually has a bad attitude, and is probably still jobless.
— The Hip Ones
The Hip Ones are the ones who do their work, come to class, make a comment or two and still manage to have a life outside of the classroom. Probably reads Gawker and is still connected to the real world. The Hip Ones seem calm and cool, and it’s never obvious how much they slave over Kristeva. They have not yet realized that they probably have to sell their soul (to The @^#&!**) to make it.
— The Undergrads
Many of you have done it, some of you are even doing it right now. The undergrad is the hot-pants smart tart who’s too good for regular courses. She takes graduate classes, and just loves to talk, talk, talk. After class, the grad students make fun of the undergrad because she said a lot but didn’t really say anything. The undergrad hasn’t yet realized that in grad school, less is more. The Undergrad is very likely to be The SHog in her first year of graduate school. Likely to show up 25 minutes early.ko
So now that you’ve gotten to know some of the types of “intellectuals” you might meet in grad school, if you find yourself in a less than desirable category, you’ve got eight months to switch! Best of luck with your applications. A word to the humanities folk: when your lawyer friends are working 1,000 hours per week and you’re making 1,000 times less than they are, gently remind them that you work 15 hours per week and have summers off.
Madison Moore is channeling his glamazon inner Sasha!