It turns out that human interaction is the best way to get anything done, as anyone who's put in the effort to make a phone call or go see someone in person surely knows--mail correspondence can be ignored, but face time warrants a response. And casual conversation is often a gold mine of information you wouldn't be able to find elsewhere easily, for the simple reason that each individual person prioritizes information according to the perceived value it has to other people they may be talking to.
While I was studying for an exam earlier, I had a conversation with a young woman who clearly "knows her stuff" when it comes to academics. She was taking an active role in teaching us the material. But beyond the course material, she knew some things about after-graduation options, which she passed on to me. She herself had only learned about this last semester. And that's what's so mindblowing about it.
Apparently grad school doesn't require you to pay to go -- they pay you.
It sounds suspicious, but it is indeed true, she insisted. The upsetting thing is the realization that despite several years of schooling, no one has ever yet told me this. I've had the impression that continuing school would mean going even further into debt, and that's intolerable, so I've been refusing that idea. But now I find out that you can skip a Master's program and go directly into a PhD program--provided you're accepted--and actually be paid. The actual setup is something like this: Tuition is 17,000 ish and they pay you maybe 30,000/yr so after tuition you're technically getting paid to do research. It's a net benefit for all involved because the university can pay you less than they would pay a full time faculty researcher. But you're getting experience, an advanced degree, and more money than before, on top of it all. For a guy like me, currently making $0/yr, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
I'm late hearing about this, though. I don't think I'm out in time to apply for any such programs this year. Maybe I'll have an opportunity later on, and perhaps something even better comes along in the meantime. I'll have to play it by ear. But at least now I know of somewhere that I can start looking. I can't fully express my frustration that no professor, academic advisor, TA or career/internship advisor ever told me this. The person who told me didn't know until she was 25, going on 26. Something is wrong when you're completely left to fend for yourself in college. I understand that having to gain independence is a valuable lesson to learn, but if that's the plan, universities can't really take credit for producing its graduates. University didn't help us, we survived University.
How's that for perspective?
~ Rak Chazak