Amanda Seligman originally intended her book to be for the families of graduate students. Her idea was to provide a basic intro to academia, so family members could avoid embarrassing questions and hurtful assumptions. But she soon found another demographic in search of a primer to the ivory tower: grad students themselves.
The result — “Is Graduate School Really for You?: The Whos, Whats, Hows, and Whys of Pursuing a Master’s or Ph.D.” — was released earlier this year by Johns Hopkins Press.
“There are a lot of advice books out there about how to be a graduate student, but they all assume that everyone wants to be a research professor, do nothing but research and not really interact with people,” says Seligman, an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. “But through my students, I’ve come to understand that it’s not appropriate for grad school to be the sole focus of anyone’s life.”
Laid out in a question-and-answer format, the book takes readers on a practice journey through many of the slaloms and hurdles of the academy: the initial decision, paying for the degree, navigating the coursework and writing the thesis.
“It’s not a how-to book. This book is saying, ‘This is what graduate school in the United States is like.’ You are the only person who knows what you are like inside, so you need to find out if that’s a match,” says Seligman. “It’s not that there’s a right reason or wrong reason to go to graduate school, but you should know what your reasons are.”