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

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  334 ratings  ·  54 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, Getti...more
Paperback, 399 pages
Published April 11th 1997 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1992)
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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...more
Rick
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...more
Kariann
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
Sarah Burton
Oct 05, 2007 Sarah Burton rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: prospective MA or PhD students (not law, business, MD)
This is a very helpful book! And Robert Peters is a great writer, too. Half professorial advice, half grandfatherly advice. I learned to apply for a PhD instead of an MA because more funding is available to PhD students; that half of PhD candidates drop out; and that being a female academic is indeed difficult. He gave helpful sample questions too, ones every prospective student should ask of his/her school before applying.
Jennifer
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...more
Jerzy
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 :)

Gener...more
Matt
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...more
Jamila
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
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
Seth
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 about.com
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
Kebanek
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
 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.
Beth
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
Stephanie
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.
AnnMarie
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.
Kellen
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.
Jafka
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.
Jess
This and "Graduate Admissions Essays" got me through the PhD application process in one piece. Beyond admission, Getting What You Came For gives great guidance on managing your day to day workload in a graduate programme, networking and building relationships, and getting on the job hunt. I am not there yet, but I feel well prepared and ready to take it on!
Beth
I only read the parts of this that were applicable to my interests/plans, so take this with a grain of salt. But it seemed like this same advice is more helpfully dispensed in Gregory Colon Semenza's grad school guide.

This writer, unlike Semenza, has a Ph.D. in the sciences, which I take it are quite different from the Ph.D.s in the humanities.
Heather Moss
This book was not very helpful to me because most of it really didn't relate to MFA programs, and much of it was meant for someone who has not yet begun the process of applying to graduate school. However, if you're in a science field, are an undergraduate, and are considering going to graduate school, I think this would be a very helpful book.
Brian
Jul 10, 2007 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone in grad school or even vaguely considering looking into grad school
This book is invaluable, from the earliest stages of picking a program, on through completing your dissertation and looking for jobs, tons of great advice and inspiration! The author kind of irritates me with his attitudes; he's clearly not the kind of guy I'd want to be friends with, but someone worth dealing with for his insights.
M.J.
Great guide for applying to graduate programs and an even better guide for applications to PhD programs. Basically, the author is writing about all of the tips and advice he learned AFTER he obtained his PhD that he wished he would have known the first time around. Only 4 stars because the book is rather dated.
Emily
A great resource. I intend to *strongly urge* any future students who approach me about applying to grad school to read this. It's a must read for those considering it, because the description of grad school experience is spot on. It's also an excellent source of advice for anyone currently in grad school, PhD or MA.
Karla
I read this after I started the PhD program, and most of it is still useful. I actually skipped over the part about negative politics (like colleagues and others who are "against" you) as I didn't think it applied to me; unfortunately I recently experienced some shit so I went back and read it.

Pretty good overall.
Terry
I give his book 4 of five stars because the content at times is quite dated. Sometimes the author actually mentions programs that are defunct or no longer exist such as CorelDRAW. Still I find the commentary for writing and information quite engaging and I feel that this book has benefits.
Matt
Really thorough, though I wish it was more up to date! I would suggest buying this about midway through undergrad, skimming some relevant chapters for ideas on how to prep yourself for grad programs, and then jumping all in once your application process is in full swing.
Madelyn
Aug 17, 2007 Madelyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone going to graduate school
I read this a semester into my Master's program at the University of Louisville, so the application part did not apply, but I did skim it, and it seemed to be accurate and helpful. I will go back to it as a resource should I decide to go back to school to pursue my Doctorate.
Gwen
May 28, 2009 Gwen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone thinking about graduate school in biology
I've read most of this book and it is an excellent compilation of the pitfalls to look out for before and during graduate school in biology. I highly recommend this to anyone who is applying to graduate school in biology or anyone who is already in bio grad school!
Holly
Didn't actually finish reading this book, but instead have come to the conclusion that I should probably not go to grad school right away. :\
It was, however, a very informative and readable good and a great guide for undergrads thinking about grad school.
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