Advice from a Grad Student

by: Alyssa Ruffolo

I decided to interview a student in one of Delval’s master’s programs, Policy Studies. Although this student is not studying my major, I know him personally and trust/value his advice. I also find it helpful that he has experienced two graduate programs, as he is a transfer student, and so he is able to provide a comparison and better describe his experience in Delval’s program knowing what another program was like.

Interview with John Simila grad student

How many classes are you taking this semester? I am taking three classes, nine credits altogether.

What is the workload like? I am finding it fine. I’m not under stress at all… maybe once or twice when deadlines overlapped, but that’s it.

So you transferred from the University of New Mexico’s M.A. History program; how would you compare that program to the one you are in now (Policy Studies)? There was more reading in the other program (UNM), there were more time constraints, and I didn’t even have a job there – besides my graduate assistantship. I work full time now while I get my master’s at Delval. The professors in both programs are very accessible, but at the University of New Mexico I felt more equal to my professors than I do here. Like, professors at UNM would email us, “Read this article I thought you’d like it.” There was more class discussion than lecture. At Delval it’s more of a professor-student relationship.

What advice do you have for students looking into/applying to graduate programs? I would say definitely be open-minded, I think that’s very important. Think before, don’t just jump right in. Take a semester off, start looking into programs… it’s more important than your undergrad, you know? Research, visit, look into the area- you’re not going to be on campus 24/7 so the location is important as far as work and stuff.

Do you think Delval’s program is doing a good job of preparing you for jobs after you complete it? I think I have been gaining a lot of knowledge, but no hands-on experience yet. I haven’t done any legislative drafting or anything like that yet.

Does the program provide you with connections in the professional world? Yes- my advisor will email us about internships, and different professors I have are from different backgrounds so that is helpful as well.

John took a semester off after completing his undergrad, and then enrolled in classes at the University of New Mexico. While he enjoyed his experience, he decided to transfer to Delval for personal reasons. When speaking with him on this topic, he explained that location is very important because most, if not all graduate students are working part or full-time. So, considering your surroundings and securing a job is very important. At the University of New Mexico, he had a readership which provided him with free living and a monthly stipend. Now that he is living at home, he works full-time in the area during the day and takes his classes at night.

This interview was helpful to me in learning what to keep in mind once I start applying to graduate programs. It was interesting to me to learn how different someone’s experience in graduate school can be from one university and/or major to the next. Grad school (at least an M.A.) seems a lot more discussion/opinion-based, rather than lecture-based. I look forward to that type of learning and I appreciate John taking the time to provide me with some insight on this topic.

originally posted: 3/26

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