The Magazine

And Gladly Learn

Will you, won’t you, benefit from graduate education?

Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By ABIGAIL LAVIN
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In my case, I learned that it is possible to straddle multiple worlds: I worked part-time at a branding agency while pursuing my degree, keeping one foot in the “real world” and the other in academia, “a world where unpack is what you do to a text and not to a suitcase” (Michelle Orange). I struggled, sometimes, with the balancing act, arriving at the office with eyes bloodshot from Boolean algebra or diligently replying to work emails while doing my best impersonation of a young woman paying attention to a lecture on John Dewey’s pragmatic naturalism. For the most part, however, work and school buoyed each other in positive ways: The former gave me a paycheck, while the latter forced me to think with logical rigor, a trait whose usefulness extends far beyond the ivory tower. 

Should I Go to Grad School? left me with one piece of advice to pass along to my Persian pen pal, Masoud: “Do not, under any circumstances, pay for an advanced degree in the humanities. If necessary, continue applying until you secure funding” (Stephen Squibb). Beyond that valuable nugget, I’m not sure I can tell Masoud anything that will help him decide which world to inhabit. But he seems already to have figured it out. “At the one hand,” he wrote to me recently, “I have seriously decide[d] to become a philosopher and at the other hand, I have not much money. So it doesn’t matter for me how difficult it is. It must be done.”

Abigail Lavin is a brand strategy consultant in New York.