What's a good university town for a non-traditional student?
September 25, 2009 10:50 PM   Subscribe

Looking to go to grad school for Linguistics or TESOL, but I'm a non-traditional student. I have a few schools picked out but don't want to end up in another tiny "college town." Help?

Here's the long and short of it. I'm 43 years old and finishing up my BA in English in a small town down here in the South (exact location withheld for personal reasons). In this tiny town, I stick out like a sore thumb amongst these 18-23 year-old kids, not to mention that there is *nothing* for people my age to do around here - especially a non-drinker like me.

I want to go to grad school and get my MA in either TESOL or Linguistics (the degree changes depending on the school I'm looking at). However, I don't want to end up in a tiny college town again. I don't really trust city websites because they're made to look the town look good, as are the college websites.

So here are four of the colleges I'm looking at:
Kent State University in Kent, OH
Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ
University of Colorado at Boulder in Boulder, CO
Oakland University in Rochester, MI

I'm also considering Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA... but I already know about Norfolk because I've lived there before.

Any information anyone can give me about these cities or even the universities would be great.
posted by patheral to Grab Bag (15 answers total)
This may not be a direct answer to your question but: Linguistics and TESOL are two very different fields. Which are you truly interested in? That seems, to me, to be the first question you need to answer.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:09 AM on September 26, 2009

I'd be happy to give you some advice that might help narrow your search for linguistics programs, as well as give you some new options to look into. It'd be really helpful to have some further info about your interests and what you plan to get a degree for (what do you want to do with/after it?)

As hapax said above, linguistics and TESOL are indeed very different, and the programs for each even more so. A good TESOL program can be completed within a few years, whereas linguistics can take 6 to 10 (about 8 on average). MA's in linguistics can be done in 2, but depending on what you want to do with that degree, and especially where you get it, they often amount to pretty much nothing (unless you're using them for good ammo for getting into a PhD program).

What area of linguistics are you into? Various schools specialize in different subfields of linguistics, ranging from phonetics, syntax, SLA, FL, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, applied linguistics, cognitive linguistics, historical, semantics and pragmatics, computational, speech pathology, phonology and morphology, and on.

I'd be more than happy to help you out with this. Email's in my profile.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:42 AM on September 26, 2009

The OP was pretty clear -- sound's like s/he's got specific programs already picked out. I am aware that "linguistics" is sometimes used to name applied TESOL/language pedagogy programs at the MA level, specifically contrasted with "rhetoric and composition" and "literature."

Anyway, for the OP: BOULDER if you have a choice and all other things are equal. It's a relatively cosmopolitan and fast-growing place full of people your age and with lots to do. Tempe makes some sense too if you seek a large city. It's a Phoenix suburb (I know someone is howling that I said that) and Phoenix is a big, big city with everything that entails. But it's Phoenix, which in my view is a big, ugly, alienated city. ASU is a good school though, for many things.

Kent, Ohio is an armpit.

Rochester, Mich. I don't know. It's a Detroit suburb, and that could be cool, but dude, Detroit. You gotta know you love it.

Everyone loves Boulder.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:31 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

BTW, you really should go visit your final few choices. 2 years in a miserable program atmosphere and it won't matter how good the city is. Two years in a miserable place and it won't matter how good the program it. It's worth a few days and a few hundred bucks to get a first hand impression of any grad program.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:38 AM on September 26, 2009

Rochester falls pretty firmly into the "soulless suburb" camp. If you're willing to explore the entire Detroit-Ann Arbor area you'd probably find enough fun, but it would take work (and a lot of time in the car (don't even think about coming to this area without a car)). Also, the program at Oakland only has six faculty members, which is great if you click with one of them and terrible if you don't.

If you do come to check the place out, give me a shout.
posted by shiny blue object at 5:25 AM on September 26, 2009

Thanks for all of the responses.

I know someone else answered this, but I'll confirm... I'm looking to get my MA in TESOL. During my research, I found that the universities in the West Coast and Midwest list this as M-TESOL and the universities on the East Coast list this as Linguistics with TESOL emphasis.

What I want to do with this is teach ESL here in the states to adults. Specifically, I'd like to teach at the community college level. I had originally planned to stop my education at the BA level, but found that this limits my options tremendously.

I would love to visit all of the places I'm thinking about but I'm poor as dirt and it's just not feasible...

Shiny Blue Object, the "Linguistics" program (really, it's a Literature program with TESOL certification) at my school as two professors... It sucks rocks.
posted by patheral at 8:26 AM on September 26, 2009

I visited Tempe a few months ago for a conference. The area has a pretty heavy 'college student' vibe, lots of bars that cater to that crowd, and while I'd guess it's better than the middle of nowhere, it's still more collegy than you would expect for a university in the middle of a giant city. Of course, if you had a car, you could live elsewhere in Phoenix, but while I was there I could only walk and couldn't get very far.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2009

The University of Texas at Austin has an excellent linguistics program.
posted by cachondeo45 at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2009

Hi OP, I'm a bit confused. Your post title sounds like you want recommendations for some schools to look into, but you state that you've already picked some places. However, unfortunately, some of these schools are located in non-fun smaller towns. Are you willing to look into some other schools (based on recommendations here), or no?

I'm happy to recommend some other places for you to check out for Applied Linguistics, but I'm afraid I won't be much help for recommending MA TESOL programs. Because of this, I hesitate to just throw some names out there, in case you're set on TESOL (and not Applied Ling) or the five schools you've picked out (but are simply wanting to narrow them down by town culture). Then again, many of the schools that have good Applied programs also offer MA TESOL certificates, so maybe I could still help.

FYI...Boulder, CO and UT at Austin are both amazing universities with strong linguistics programs (in other concentrations), but Boulder only has a TESOL MA certificate (not Applied Linguistics; this may be just fine for you) and UT does not do Applied Linguistics or TESOL at all, from what I can tell. I strongly recommend that you only choose places that have specific AP or TESOL concentrations/emphases...there's just sooo many great options out there that there's no point in settling for something that doesn't have dedicated department/faculty for what you want. Good luck, and let me know if you decide to expand your search, but aren't sure where to start looking.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2009

There is a TESOL program at UT Austin, but it is in the Foreign Language Education dept, in the College of Ed, not in Linguistics.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:40 PM on September 26, 2009

iamkimiam: I'm not set on those five schools, they were recommended through the TESOL website and from other people. I wouldn't mind hearing suggestions from other people - as long as they don't point me to the Deep South. No offense to those from or in the Deep South, but I'm just not from around here and don't fit in well.

I am pretty set on TESOL because my specific goal is to teach ESL to adults here in the States. I hope that helps. :)
posted by patheral at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2009

FWIW, University of Illinois at Chicago has a good TESOL program. Not a college town at all. (And it's in linguistics.) However, I know a significant number of people tried to switch from it into teaching ESL to high schoolers because of problems finding jobs.
posted by eleanna at 1:54 AM on September 27, 2009

Thanks for the answers... :) I'm marking Kent, OH off the list right now.

I'll be taking the GRE in November and want to get my applications in by the end of Dec because they tell me that will help with financial aid (assistantships and such). But I have limited funds for applying to grad schools, which is why I'm trying narrow my choices down to four or five.

I appreciate everyone's suggestions and input.
posted by patheral at 4:57 PM on September 27, 2009

Ok, here are some great options to look into. Nice areas too!

U Penn
UA (Arizona)
Portland State
Hawaii at Manoa

This should give you at least one or two new options. The first four are top notch in these areas for sure. I'm not as knowledgeable about the last two, but they seem like solid, well-regarded programs.

Also, I know you haven't specifically asked about this, but since you mentioned the GRE...I'd like to add something if I may. If you can, take the GRE in late October. You are allowed to take the GRE once per calendar month. This gives you an option to take it again the following week. Additionally, taking the GRE in November and getting those scores in before the Dec. application deadlines (for many schools it's either Dec. 1st or 15th) is realllly pushing it, time-wise. I don't mean to freak you out. But consider taking it in October. (I took the GRE last week, prepared at home on my own, and can offer some advice if you wish. Definitely get these flashcards if you can! I carried them with me EVERYWHERE and swapped them out for different cards daily. Made a HUGE improvement from practice test to practice test.)
posted by iamkimiam at 6:37 PM on September 27, 2009

Thanks for your advice iamkimiam. :) I wish that I could take the GRE more than once, but I just cannot afford it. The fee here is $150, so it's a one-shot deal for me. I'm studying as much as I can (and I really need to study because I'm fighting dyscalculia so my math scores are going to be dismal, my verbal scores on the practice tests have remained consistently around 80% which I guess is good...)

Most of the universities that I've been looking at have a January/February deadline for application, which is why I was thinking of getting my paperwork in by December.

I've checked out your links, and they look promising. Definitely something to think about.
posted by patheral at 8:18 PM on September 28, 2009

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