Thursday, September 20, 2012

Preparing for a Ph.D. - A CUNY Pipeline Fellow's Summer Experience

Christina Terracino, an English Literature major in the Verrazano Class of 2013, is a CUNY Pipeline Fellow.  The CUNY Pipeline Program is designed to provide educational and financial support to CUNY undergraduates from groups currently underrepresented in our nation's universities who are interested in pursuing the Ph.D. in preparation for college-level teaching and advanced research.  Christina completed the Pipeline Summer Institute and shares more about her experience there as well as her plans for her final academic year as an undergraduate. 

Hi again, everyone. This is Christina Terracino. I wrote an entry for the Verrazano Voyager at the beginning of the summer, looking ahead to my experience as a fellow in the CUNY Pipeline Honors Program. Now, I've completed the Pipeline Summer Institute. For most of the summer, I would commute to the CUNY Graduate Center and attend courses as a part of this fellowship. Since I am an English major, I was placed in the Humanities seminar in the mornings. The seminar was designed to imitate a graduate level seminar, to give students a glimpse into what a graduate course entails. Since all nine students in this seminar were from different majors, we focused on a wide variety of subjects, from literature to the visual arts to opera. This seminar introduced us to the general format of in-class presentations, homework assignments, and elevated discussions which are typical of graduate seminars. One aspect which I found helpful was the amount of criticism which we were required to read. As scholars who one day hope to enter academia, influential scholarly criticism will become a large portion of our expected knowledge. This seminar was work-intensive, but very rewarding. It was very valuable as a potential glimpse into graduate school.

As a part of the summer courses, all Pipeline students were required to take a course entitled Graduate School 101. This entire course focused on the application process for graduate school, particularly admission into Ph.D. programs. This course will be crucial to my graduate applications. It provided me with motivation to become extremely organized and focused. It also was a chance for all of us to share our concerns and uncertainties with our Pipeline instructor, who was able to answer all of our inquiries about the admissions process, and graduate study in general.  

Another course we took was entitled Critical Thinking and Writing. This course revolved around the infamous statement of purpose. Any graduate student, when asked, shudders in horror at this phrase. It is the single most important part of any graduate application (or so we are told), and is therefore an extremely pressure-filled part of the application process. As a part of the program, we were assigned "MAGNET" mentors: graduate students from the CUNY Graduate Center whose main goal is to help us write our statements of purpose. They are also there to mentor us through the application process as a whole, and to help us along through the stressful process of applying for, being accepted into, and beginning graduate studies. Just about all of the Pipeline fellows feel tremendous stress when it comes to writing the statement of purpose. This is a description of why we want to attend graduate school, why we are ready to do so, and why we will be a good fit for the specific graduate program we are applying to. Not due until December at the earliest, we all know that it will take all of the fall (as well as all of the summer when we began drafting) to produce a polished draft of this piece. 

I won't outline it in much detail, but the program also provided us with a GRE prep course. Now having taken my GRE, I am very grateful for that course, and for the confidence it provided me with to take this test. All of these courses filled my summer with challenging work, but they definitely forced me to develop some time-management skills, which I know will be beneficial as I move on towards graduate school. This fall will probably be hectic for me and all of my fellow Pipeline students, due to all of the work we need to keep up with in order to create stellar graduate applications. Although this is a stressful time, we encourage each other and look to each other for motivation, encouragement, and support. I'm very happy to be a member of this cohort of truly wonderful people. Now, it's all about working towards getting into the programs that will allow us to pursue whatever field we wish to study. Hopefully the process will be as smooth as possible for all of us.

I am looking forward to completing my graduate applications, and of course, continuing to work on my Pipeline Senior Thesis, which is another component of the CUNY Pipeline Program. There is so much to do, but I know that the end result (a great graduate program!) will make all of the hard work worthwhile. As I work on graduate applications, I wish everyone a great semester, and good luck to anyone else who is applying to graduate school this fall/winter!

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