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Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D.

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  499 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Is graduate school right for you?
Should you get a master's or a Ph.D.?
How can you choose the best possible school?

This classic guide helps students answer these vital questions and much more. It will also help graduate students finish in less time, for less money, and with less trouble.

Based on interviews with career counselors, graduate students, and professors, Getting
Paperback, 399 pages
Published April 11th 1997 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1992)
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Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School by Adam RubenPiled Higher and Deeper by Jorge ChamA PhD Is Not Enough by Peter J. FeibelmanGetting What You Came For by Robert L. PetersGraduates in Wonderland by Jessica Pan
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3rd out of 42 books — 25 voters
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218th out of 928 books — 434 voters

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Community Reviews

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Gideon Lee
An excellent book for anyone considering or currently in grad school. The range of topics covers everything from deciding to go to getting a job afterwards.

It's hard to believe how much advice the author was able to gather with just one pass through grad school. His advice isn't limited to science majors either; he includes lots of advice for those in the humanities and social sciences. In addition to advice, there's also lots of stories from real graduate students.

The author writes informative
This is the first general how-to book about grad school that I have read. With that in mind, I CANNOT recommend it enough - especially to people interested in academics. It may be THE book I wish I had read much earlier. It should be required reading for the summer before college - better yet, the summer before senior year of high school.

Peters (a PhD'd biologist) does a fantastic job of covering the gambut of issues that students encounter in graduate school: everything from managing the unrule
While this book contained helpful information about the culture and history of graduate programs, and I'm sure would be helpful once I am applying to grad school and seeking jobs after getting a degree, it was written in 1992, revised in 1997, and warned first time computer owners to back up all their work on floppy disks. Since my decisions revolve around whether to obtain a degree it doesn't reference in an online program (which was unheard of in 1997), this was not as helpful an experience as ...more
Nov 20, 2007 Kariann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone beginning graduate school
Shelves: resources
I read this book the month before I started my M.A. program and boy was it a great read; I could easily blame all of my progress and relatively speedy progress on it. Some of the technical advice isn't all that helpful or difficult to figure out on your own (i.e. buy a computer), but overall it gives the aspiring academic-in-training practical advice on how to make the most of the grad school experience without letting the B.S. of the process (hoops like exams, departmental politics, etc.) get i ...more
This is a revised edition published in 1997, but most of the stuff holds good even now. The author gives tips for everything from the time you are in undergrad, applying for grad studies, choosing your adviser, doing research, getting your thesis done, dealing with stress and managing time. The book is quite comprehensive in its coverage. I skipped over chapters which weren't relevant for me. The ones which I found most useful were the tips about managing time and stress. Hopefully, I should be ...more
Deborah Weiss
Given to me for christmas my my Phd Student father and my sister who's a 2x Master. I've already started my own masters program (MBA) and so several aspects of the book were less relevant. I read the sections that were relevant to me (about 2/ be precise) and found some really helpful info. I skipped over the Phd stuff for now, but if any of my friends, or I was planning on pursing a Phd or a MA in the future, I'd highly suggest the skim this. Some of it is a bit outdated (the book was ...more
Alexander Smith
This book contains really useful information about the mindset a person should have before entering grad school. It would have been helpful to have read this BEFORE I got into my MA of Econ program, but at least I found it before the PhD. A slight downer... this book is not up to date on much of its statistical examples and it doesn't take into account the additional current benefits/additional work involved from the Internet or modern day software very well. Fortunately you can use the Internet ...more
I've been a bit MIA from book reviewing thanks to applying to further education programs. Most of my spare time is going towards refining my statements of purpose. This book has been an invaluable help for me, though.

I had a frantic moment of, "Oh my god, why am I doing this" a couple of weeks ago. I called one of my librarian friends, and he said that this book really helped him out in his pursuit of graduate education. I ran over to Border's that same night and bought myself a copy, intending
I read this before my MS program and found it somewhat helpful. Re-reading it now before I start a PhD, it seems even more useful, especially the sections on time management, your thesis (choosing your adviser and committee and topic, then writing the damn thing), giving talks, stress management, and the job search. I may buy a copy to keep in our grad student office.

Amazingly, one of the useful web links (How to do Research At the MIT AI Lab) from this 1997 book is still working in 2013 :)

As someone who's thought seriously about grad school for the past two and a half years and made sure to do my research thoroughly, this book just confirmed things I had already learned/figured out. Most of the things about choosing an advisor/university were useless for me because a)I am in a niche enough field to not have these luxuries and b)I already am committed to a place.
I was hoping there would be a bit more about coursework, since I've been out of school for so long, but any mention of
Ashley Kress
A plethora of knowledge about entering the graduate school world. Yes, it was written and revised in the 90s, so all of the data is slightly distracting, but I was impressed with how much this still hit home. The author was slightly biased towards the sciences, larger Ivy schools, and doctoral students, but I still found information I needed as a humanities, master's student at a school that was a junior college when the book was written. I do wish there was more information that related to me.
Don't wait until the last minute to read this book! I had glossed over it before applying to grad school, but didn't actually pick it up for deep reading until a moment of crisis while studying for my Quals and wondering if I should call it quits. After 15 minutes of reading, I discovered two things: 1. I was not alone in the mistakes I made and 2. I could have saved myself more than a few tears if I had only heeded the "beware" stories this book provides. The format is extremely useful, divided ...more
Megan Mcginty
Ditto what a lot of folks say. The online and tech parts of this are dated, and the interwebs have changed how grad school operates in some ways, but LOTS of solid, useful advice here. I've lent this book out numerous times to people in all phases of the process, and they pretty much say the same thing as I or the reviewers here did.
Useful in getting into the right mindset for completing gradschool. By the end of the book, I'm not sure if his advice was obvious or if the first half of the book had already managed to get me into the right head-space. Horribly outdated in a lot of ways. I'm giving this a "like" because I am glad that I read it.
Sophia Nuñez
This book offers solid advice on graduate school, from discerning whether it is the appropriate path, to the application process, cultivating academic relationships, exams, planning, writing, and defending the dissertation, to the job search. It is by turns comforting and alarming, but overall I do think being aware of the challenges ahead (and some strategies to confront them) is good. The special section "Swimming with the Mainstream" geared towards students of color, women, and older or other ...more
Marissa Metz
VERY good book. It gave me guidance on getting geared up for graduate school and will hopefully continue to lend help throughout my career. The only part I didn't like was that some parts were a little outdated. Even those parts, however, were helpful when I adapted them to new technologies, etc.
Jul 08, 2008 Seth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those considering graduate school
Recommended to Seth by: I heard about it on the internet. I think it was
Lots of good information for those considering graduate school. I don't think I read every page, and I didn't read it completely in chronological order either - it's more of a manual with chapters on specific things pertaining to graduate school. It opened my eyes to quite a few things, and gave me a lot to consider as I thought about graduate school... I think it will help you too. It is a little old (1994 I think) so it's not completely up to date, but there's plenty of thorough research and i ...more
Michael Gehrling
I read this book to understand better the context of people I serve as a campus minister for grad students. Peters provides plenty of anecdotes that together paint a pretty detailed picture of graduate student life. I also found myself wishing that I read this before my own graduate experience. Peters offers good advice on almost every facet of grad student life. His advice on the importance of networking and building relationships with professors outside the classroom is especially good. If you ...more
solid advice for anyone thinking of going to grad school, or already in grad school. chapters are structured so you can read what you want, which is good because a few of the chapters are horribly outdated. overall the best book I have seen on the topic.
I bought this book last year before I started my research degree, but only actually opened it last week. Better late than never I suppose. Although the first part of the book has to do with steps I have already passed, I still find it very helpful and a bit comforting. It is very US centric, however, there are universal truths about doing a graduate degree that anyone in any situation will appreciate. If you are in grad school or contemplating it this is a very practical and easy to read book th ...more
Great book for someone applying to grad school or considering a PhD path. I found many answers to questions that no else gave me a definite answer for. Its a little out dated, however, and could use more specific advice for each discipline. It could also use more extensive examples on how to stay organized in grad school and how to properly search/save literature.
This books was so helpful in calming a "I know nothing practical about starting grad school" freak out. There were parts that were delightfully outdated (see the Appendix A's tips for buying a computer) but all in all, this book helped me feel more prepared.
 Bunny Christine
Getting What You Came For is an excellent resource for anyone contemplating grad school. I will refer to this guide again and again. The technology advice is slightly outdated, but not a problem.
Why didn't anyone tell me about this book 5 years ago? Well, I ended up skipping some of the sections in the middle that were just too painful for me at this stage of the game (picking an adviser with a reputation for mentoring, choosing a do-able project, etc.). And I think this book (especially the section on writing the thesis) contributed to my recent dip in morale (oh, how will it ever come together?). But after reading the last section about the job search, I feel a glimmer of inspiration. ...more
Tom Logan
A must read for anyone doing a PhD.
Honestly a really good book to read pre-grad school
When I started grad school, I really felt like there was some sort of instruction manual that I missed getting a copy of. As it turns out, there was no such thing, and most of us are just faking our way through as best we can.

This would be that missing book I longed for so heartily.

If you are a graduate student in ANY discipline, or are considering applying to graduate school, go get this book. Do not pass go, do not collect your proverbial $200 dollars. GO GET THIS BOOK.
I was given this book as a gift by my boss when she found out I was applying to grad school. I would have considered giving it four stars, except that the latest edition was published in 1997, and the grad school scene has change significantly since then. Still, the author does a good job exploring the whys and hows of a graduate education and whether or not you need one, and how to get a good one if you do want/need one.
Out of all the career and education guides, this one was the most useful. It is meant for those considering non-professional or research-based degrees, but I would recommend it anyone consider grad school. Supplement this with an additional guide specific to your degree of interest--such as "Law School Confidential" by Miller or "Architect?" by Lewis--and you will be well on your way to making an informed decision.
Highly informative, but a new edition would be helpful at this point. Parts are completely outdated, however, other sections remain entirely relevant. Regardless, this book should be an essential read for anyone even vaguely entertaining the notion of graduate school. Read it sooner rather than later; I deeply regret not reading this book before I finished my B.A. I would have done things different.
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