I've been accepted to an MPhil course at Cambridge University. It's a great opportunity, but I'm not sure. Can you help me decide whether to go?
Sorry, this is a long one! I know a very similar question has been discussed previously
on AskMe. However, as there are several differences between my situation and that of the previous poster, I'd really love some help deciding what to do.
I'm an American in my mid-twenties. I got a B.A. in 2007 and have been drifting through some interesting but low-paying jobs in museums, parks, and schools since then. I applied last fall to the one-year MPhil course in History and Philosophy of Science
at Cambridge University, and after an interview over the phone with one of the world's leading scholars in my area of study, got accepted. The department's resources are a very strong fit for my academic interests as a historian, and I have no doubt that I would do very good, creative work in the course.
I also love the academic life, and thrive on it mentally and emotionally in a way that I haven't in my working life. I am confident that I would totally enjoy a year of living and studying in Cambridge. My family and friends are very excited and proud of me for getting into a prestigious program, and I'm happy for myself. But I'm not sure it's what I want to do.
For what it's worth, another Metafilter user who has attended this MPhil program, and with whom I've spoken about my academic interests, was very encouraging and thought that I would be a great fit for the program.
1. The cost: just under $36,000. I don't have any other debt, but this is a lot of money for me, about double what I've ever earned in a single year. I've got $2,500 in education awards from some AmeriCorps service I've done, but otherwise I'm flat broke and would have to cover the cost with government loans. I know everyone says don't go to grad school unless they pay you for it, but could it be worth it?
2. Career-wise, this might be a big step for me. I feel like I've been drifting for a while, not sure about what I want to do. I have worked some really unique and interesting jobs since I graduated college, but I've never made much money at them, and I've moved around so much since 2007 (Massachusetts to California to Colorado) that I haven't really put down roots or settled on a career. I feel like a Cambridge degree could really help me move forward.
Of all the things I can see myself doing as a career, teaching seems like the most natural fit. The Metafilter user I mentioned before, who has attended this program himself, has said that the MPhil helped a lot with getting jobs as a teacher and adjunct when he returned to the States. Still, it's a lot of money.
3. My last concern is a little more nebulous. I've worked in college admissions myself, and I'm aware that, as LobsterMitten said in the last post
, For such programs, the master's program is a money-maker
. I have serious concerns about continuing to say "yes" to the education-industrial complex, especially when I'm not sure I want to go on and get a PhD. Furthermore, as much as I love this subject and feel that Cambridge would really benefit me as a scholar and thinker, it feels indulgent. How am I serving the values I believe in (conservation, literacy, anti-consumerism) by taking on debt, to get a degree that may not help me, in a somewhat obscure field?
Even with all these doubts, though, I have to admit that the idea of moving to Cambridge and taking on this challenge is more exciting than anything I've done in several years. It feels like it might really help me move out of this mid-twenties drifting stage and into higher-level work as a teacher, museum worker, or writer. I am also very open to the possibility of going on to a PhD.
So, what do you think? Should I do it? And if not, what might I do instead?
I'd love to hear your own stories and any advice you have. Thanks for your help.