applying to grad school: impetus

Last summer, I voluntarily became unemployment. It wasn't that my old job was particularly hard. Rather, i had graduated with my M.A. from North Texas earlier that May. Was I going to have a graduate degree and simply stay on in my tech support job? With a half-assed plan in place, and little-to-no savings, I quit after seven years there.

Through luck and the fortuitous friendship of my M.A. advisor and the person in charge of hiring me, I was able to find as an adjunct-instructor at a local community college. Was the pay good? Hah, no. But I figured it would be a good testing ground to see what I ultimately wanted to do with my life. Obviously I would teach history, but the question would be where and in what context. That is, do I want to continue on with my education to get my doctorate degree and brave the academic job market in a few years time? Or would I use my M.A. to finagle my way into a high school job and be content there? My heart wanted the former, while my brain told me to be realistic. At the very least, I could buy time with my adjuncting.

I wouldn't teach actual college students, by the way. I would instead teach high school students who wanted to earn college credit before heading off to a four-year university. Now I would actually interact with high schoolers and see if teaching high school would be something I want to do. 

Truth be told, I didn't know what to expect. But seven months in, I can say that I love my job. This is what I want to do with my life. And even if I "settle" to teaching at a high school, I can say that I would still be a happy man.

Except...except I still had that itch, that desire to get my doctorate degree. My experience as a M.A. student is not entirely analogous to others in that 1. I was a part-time student and 2. did not really partake into the clique of graduate students that predominated North Texas.* I wasn't able to graduate in two years on account of work-related changes and training. But despite the time constraint and the anonymity I felt with the department, I loved graduate school. It's simplistic to say if it was "hard" or "easy." It was challenging, but I love a challenge. I found a good topic to write about, and while funding from UNT was non-existent, I did the best I could to research my thesis. Researching topics, grappling with historiography, and writing are things I also loved. And I would not be able to do any of that in a professional setting if I went the high school or community college route.

My philosophy was this: I could either do this now, or live with the regret of not having tried. The worst-case scenario would be that I would be rejected from all the schools I've applied to. In which case, I transition from adjuncting to full-time teaching. I took the plunge and applied in the autumn of 2016. 

In the next post, I will expand on the application process. What schools I applied to, and what I learned (belatedly). I will also end on a very optimistic note. Stay tuned!