Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 27: The Grad Fair

Photo of the Day: High Achievers

After months of putting off thinking about graduate school, today I attended the Graduate Degree Fair for the Public Good hosted by at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City. With 200 programs in attendance, most of them relating to public affairs, it was the perfect venue for me to get educated about my options and what will hopefully be the next two years of my life. I usually dislike these events because in today's day and age, you can get pretty much all the information you need from Google. Is it really worth the time and effort? The evening, as it turned out, came with a few surprise revelations for me and helped me crystallize what I am looking for in a graduate program. Some schools I thought I was excited about turned out to be not as promising; I realized that if I'm not willing to waste five minutes in line to speak with a recruiter, I'm probably not that interested. Others that I always skimmed over became top prospects after learning more about their approach and curriculum.

What was most beneficial for me, however, was actually talking to representatives about my own professional goals, which forced me to define them. I'm definitely interested in continuing a communications career in the public sector, but there are very few programs specifically geared toward that need. I found myself looking for graduate schools that have both highly-ranked public administration and communication programs, and ones that encourage flexibility and interdisciplinary study so I can blend the two course areas. I'm also more interested in project-based versus research-based curricula, and after some confusion about the difference between the two, I've decided I lean more toward administration than policy. The ones that match all my criteria are the University of Southern California, American University, Indiana University-Bloomington, Syracuse University, and Georgetown University. Aside from USC, none of the above have ever registered strongly on my radar until now. I'm also still interested in New York University's public and nonprofit management program, and since they're right down the street, I figure I can take advantage of an actual campus visit.

I'm still a little bit torn because I've also heard that institutional prestige is ultimately what matters, and even though they don't necessarily have the exact program I want, a degree from an Ivy League school like Columbia University or the University of Pennsylvania might gain me more opportunities. What do you think? Is the curriculum or the name recognition really more important when thinking about long-term career?

For those of you who follow the news, you may have heard about the massive freak storm that hit New York City this evening. You'll be happy to know that other than a longer commute and a damp ledge (I left my bedroom window open this morning), I have suffered no loss or damage. In fact, I wasn't even aware there was a severe storm until I checked the news after arriving home. By the time I got back into Queens after the graduate fair and was walking home, all I felt was a light drizzle. I did see a tree that had been snapped in half laying across the sidewalk a block from my apartment, but I didn't even realize it had anything to do with the weather until much later.

Entrance to the Graduate Degree Fair for the Public Good hosted by
Multitudes of people crowd in to meet with 200 represented graduate programs.
Despite the crowds, everyone got lots of face time with recruiters.
Awww, poor Manhattanville College. No one wants to be its friend. But seriously, who goes to a graduate school fair to talk to Manhattanville when Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are just steps away?
See, look how friendly the recruiter from Harvard is!
My falafel pita pocket from Chickpea. Tasty, but I think I over did it with the tahini, corn, and pickled peppers.
Scenes from Queens No. 4: Another beautiful flower I passed this morning. It may not be the prettiest neighborhood, but there is some fine flora in these tiny yards.


  1. I think you can learn new skills in many ways even on the job, but relationship will go much further in helping you grow in your career.

  2. Huh, what relationship? I think all of the schools I listed will provide really good networks, and all of them will teach new skills, but just with different approaches. The difference for me is either name recognition vs. being engaged in the classes I'm taking. Obviously its not an either-or with any of the programs.