Somerville with Townie Tim: Grad School

I do not have to ask if you are thinking about graduate school. If you are reading this paper and live in Somerville, you are thinking about grad school. It is a straight-up fact that this town makes you want to pursue a master’s degree, and the longer you live here, the worse it gets.

I find myself wondering why all of us think continuing higher education is the next step. Because there are so many colleges in this area, it stands to reason that we are exposed to the education-industrial complex more than most. But Boston is so different from anywhere else when it comes to the pursuit of education. It’s as if the general feeling of this town is such that in order to progress through your career, a master’s degree is the necessary first step.

Before I get any further, I have to come clean. Your mans Townie Tim is applying to grad school this fall, and I figured this column is as good a place as any to share my thoughts. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree some years ago, and at the time, I thought my schooling days were over. I lived in a large city, and figured the path up the corporate chain was just a function of experience and luck. Anyone I knew going to grad school was planning to stay in academia forever and become a professor or researcher. As a matter of a fact, I had a lot of friends who saw their undergraduate degree as a waste of time, and believed that years of job experience were the only currency that mattered in the working world.

I moved here a few years ago for my job, and something definitely changed. All of a sudden, a solid half of my friend group was in a constant state of taking the GRE. The other half had already gone to grad school and claim it helped them solidify their current careers. The industry I work in isn’t even one that necessarily lends itself to higher education, but here I am, considering several hundred-thousand dollars of debt just to assuage my uncertainties about my career.

Maybe it’s like in any other city, where there is a cultural element you inevitably pick up on just by living there. I can think of a few examples: If you live in Pittsburgh, you become a fan of the Penguins. If you live in Austin, you get all weird about tacos. If you live in Atlanta, you claim to have seen Ludacris in almost every coffee shop. I guess in the Boston area, you go to grad school.

If it is our thing, we might as well lean into it. I don’t know the last time you crossed the Science Bridge, but there is a billboard that reads “smartest city for a reason” (the advertisement is for WBUR). That sounds like something we can chant at the next Red Sox game. As for me, I take the GRE in June, and I’ll be the one on the Red Line, swiping through vocabulary words.


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