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by Devin McGinty
So, are you content with your bachelor's degree -- or do you just think that you can't afford grad school? Perhaps you're convinced that your grades aren't up to par, or that you won't do well in a certain program. The application process seems too daunting, so you've decided to forego the opportunity to attend grad school, and roll the dice in the job market. Don't settle for that entry level job just yet; there's a book you should read before you make up your mind about postgraduate education.
Graduate School: Winning Strategies for Getting In, by Dave G. Mumby, was originally published in 1997. At that time it was one of the few books on the market that offered advice about applying to graduate school. Fast forward 15 years and we have the second edition. The title has been edited, the role of modern technology in the application process has been addressed, a few key sections have been added. However, one important element has not changed with this edition -- the content of the book remains an asset to "undergraduate college or University students who are either currently planning to apply to graduate school or professional school, or who have not yet made that decision but eventually will."
Information is only as valuable as its source. Much of the advice and insight throughout the book comes from professors and faculty members, interpretations of other books that offer similar advice, and of course, Dave G. Mumby himself. As a professor at Concordia University, and a supervisor to undergraduate honors and graduate students in psychology, Mumby has direct experience with assisting students that decide to pursue or have pursued postgraduate education. Moreover, he is keen on what selection committees look for when evaluating potential grad students, because he has personally served on such committees.
Experience aside, Mumby's words come across in a calm and direct tone; it's a good lecture spliced with an in-depth conversation during office hours. There is a sense that he genuinely wants to help potential grad students. Several books that offer grad school advice have a chapter near the beginning about, "why you shouldn't go to grad school." Instead, this book includes a section entitled, "Find out what grad school is all about." In fact, that sentiment was the motivation for the introduction to this review. It's not often that you hear (or read) the phrase, "grad school is more rewarding than most people think." It's education, romanticize it if you choose, but the point is that Mumby is helpful, honest, and positive. The positive part is especially refreshing.
Don't get too giddy; the book is just as realistic as it is positive. You don't want a letter of recommendation from just any professor, regardless of whether you hold he/she in high esteem, or vice versa. You're good grades don't guarantee you'll be successful in grad school. Do you even understand how the application process works? And how can you afford grad school? All of these topics are covered. For example, chapter 11 covers "financing your graduate studies," and the entire fourth chapter is dedicated to a discussion about grades -- "two common misconceptions are that one must have outstanding grades to get into grad school, and that outstanding grades are all one needs."
Early in the book Mumby persistently proclaims that "this book explains it all." Initially, that type of statement was repetitive, but that feeling faded as he delivered on all of his promises. Couple that annoyance with the fact that the title ends in a preposition, and those are the two biggest flaws of the book. The information is more than valid -- Mumby not only provides advice on various facets of the application process, but he also invites you into the mind of someone on the selection committee. For instance, "one of the first questions that almost any admissions committee will consider is whether the applicant's goals and interests match the objectives and specialties of the program."
Graduate School: Winning Strategies for Getting In doesn't promise that you will get accepted if you decide to apply; but don't count yourself out until you've given the book a good read. It can help you make important decisions about your future in academia, and regardless of the outcome, you'll come away knowing that you were well informed, thanks to this book.