What do grad students do all summer?
November 28, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

What to do as a grad student in the summertime?

I'd LOVE to TA this summer, but word on the street is that summer TAships are few and far between in my department. I e-mailed departments without grad students to see if they needed summertime TAs, but that's a long shot. The local community college is on a totally different schedule from my university, so I couldn't try to get a teaching gig there. (I have an MA already.)

I'd run off and do a language program for the summer, but I really want to stay in my current town (Santa Barbara, CA) for the summer. I need health insurance. I don't want to make so much money that it would hurt my financial aid eligibility, but hey, who doesn't want money? But what kind of job can I get for 3 months? (And one that I can get to with public transportation.) I have tons of work experience already, so I don't need to build up skills or anything.

What do grad students do in the summertime when they don't have a TAship that covers the cost for taking classes? I can't imagine paying "full price" for some classes.
posted by k8t to Education (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you verified that you do not have health insurance for the summer? When I was a grad student, students who held positions in the spring semester (TA or RA) got insurance through the summer semester.
posted by sulaine at 10:58 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks Sulaine, just sent an e-mail about that.
posted by k8t at 11:02 AM on November 28, 2006

Can you specify what department you are in and/or what your research interests are?
posted by anonymous78 at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: I'm in Communication (social science perspective) and my research interests are organizational communication in developing countries (specifically former USSR), social network analysis, and ICT comm.
posted by k8t at 11:06 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: IGNORE the health insurance part - we're covered through the summer (yay).
posted by k8t at 11:09 AM on November 28, 2006

You get summers off? Lucky social scientists...

In the hard sciences, summer is just a time to get more work done without pesky undergrads around.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:09 AM on November 28, 2006

Have you talked to your advisor in your program? I've never heard of a grad program where they just leave the students to fend for themselves for the summer. Have you been working as a research assistant for someone? If so, that should continue over the summer, and if not, surely your department has something available.
posted by MsMolly at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2006

I did the majority of my research and writing in the summers. It is a great to be able to have dedicated time just for your research. If you need money, get a job doing something mindless and fun. With the rest of your the time, you should get busy with research.
posted by sulaine at 11:13 AM on November 28, 2006

I did this thing called 'working on my thesis.' I also worked a temp job (a holdover from college and high school) in order to have rent and grocery money. I also stepped up the volunteer work I did in a field related to my own.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:13 AM on November 28, 2006

I would recommend you begin your dissertation research. However, you could also commit yourself to writing an article for publication (in case you haven’t already published) - it could be a first step towards starting your diss.

Otherwise, if teaching is not an option, see what profs. will be around and try to get a position as a research assistant.
posted by anonymous78 at 11:28 AM on November 28, 2006

This is highly dependent on the structure of the specific program you're in, but where I am, having the summer free is really only something first-year or sometimes second-year grad students have to deal with. After that, you've always got exams to prepare for and/or a dissertation to write. Language study is one popular use of this time, whether you can go somewhere else to do it or not. Apart from that, I don't know what else to suggest except reading, trying to fill in the gaps in your preparation that you don't have time to cover during the semester, and enjoying some of the last truly free time you'll have. The down time can definitely help psychologically, as it gives you a chance to remind yourself why you chose grad school in the first place and rebuild a little self-confidence before the next year.
posted by RogerB at 11:29 AM on November 28, 2006

Hey girl. Why don't you enjoy that break from your career to try something relaxing and new? Not long ago, you asked a question that indicated you were stressing your academic program. Go bartend or somethin'! I imagine if you're savvy and a slick applicant, you can get a summer gig on State or at the beach. Enjoy the time away from the responsibility. As a native Venturan myself, with hopes of returning to SB next fall for the Film & Media Studies PhD (apps go in on friday!), I know there's plenty of work around there, and reasons to savor free time to do crazy things like casual research, pleasure reading, sunbathing, hiking up to 7 falls, gambling at Chumash, etc.

...And don't feel guilty about it!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:41 AM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Good luck on your apps AV. One of my FAVE profs, Ron Rice, is in film/media. Fingers crossed for you!
posted by k8t at 12:23 PM on November 28, 2006

Go to the beach?
posted by cholly at 1:45 PM on November 28, 2006

I taught speed reading. Not bad money and met someone wonderful people (the company specifically sought out grad-student types). The classes were very scripted -- just supply enthusiasm. Grad school benefit --> classroom management techniques they taught left me with absolutely no fear of the classroom.
posted by ontic at 2:31 PM on November 28, 2006

Thanks Sulaine, just sent an e-mail about that.

If you're at UCSB I think you're on the same contract I'm on (at UCSC) and our insurance does run through the summer (i.e. you're in UAW 2865).

To answer your question, I've managed to cobble together TAships and fellowships for my summers so far, though I've partly relied on saved money each one. If you have an MA already you might qualify to teach, not just TA a summer course (though here they just changed that so you have to be ABD now, I think). Some people get unrelated jobs, of varying degrees of meniality. I personally think it's better to have slightly negative income for the summer and work as little as possible, though -- grad school is so all-encompassing that the down(ish) time is necessary for me.
posted by advil at 3:02 PM on November 28, 2006

Ditto to all of the above recommending (1) recharging your batteries; and (2) getting your own research done - both will pay off for you over the next year(s).

Also, If you're a PhD student in the social sciences, my recommendation would be to start transitioning from TA work to RA work ASAP - this will offer better continuity, better publication opportunities, better skill development, etc. Contact profs in your department about getting on a research project that might carry over through summer - that's when profs try to get as much work done as they can, too! Also, if you've got some actual experience doing social network analysis, I'd post a message to the SOCNET listserve offering your services for freelance data analysis work - SNA skills are harder to come by than other statistics expertise, and good help can be hard to find.
posted by shelbaroo at 3:59 PM on November 28, 2006

Aren't there some elections somewhere you can monitor, or something?
posted by Deathalicious at 5:01 PM on November 28, 2006

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