The Women's Guide to Surviving Graduate School


Barbara Rittner & Patricia Trudeau

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    Dedicated to Wilburn Hayden, Jr., an inspiring husband and constant friend.



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    Series Editor's Introduction

    The Women's Guide to Surviving Graduate School is a welcome addition to the Sage Series “Surviving Graduate School.” Written by two established scholars, Barbara Rittner and Patricia Trudeau, who themselves successfully made the transition from undergraduate to graduate student, and from graduate student to academic faculty member, this book has long been needed. The need arises from at least two factors. The first is simply that an increasing proportion of graduate students are women. In fact, in many disciplines traditionally dominated by men (e.g., law, medicine, clinical psychology), women are becoming the majority of new graduate students.

    The need for this book also arises from the special issues of concern to many women anticipating a period of graduate study, or who are already embarked upon the journey. Examples include dealing with sexist institutions and individuals, managing childcare responsibilities, and the subtle (and not so subtle) segregation of women into particular areas of academic study or professional practice. For example, many more female than male attorneys provide low cost legal aid services; many more women practice pediatric medicine than neurosurgery; women are disproportionately represented in the ranks of child clinical psychologists compared to providers of adult psychotherapy. No doubt disciplinary differences render generalizations difficult, and the demographics of various fields are changing so rapidly as to render any summation of the present state of affairs out of date by the time it sees print. Nevertheless, females face a graduate school experience which can differ in many significant respects from that encountered by their male counterparts, often to the detriment of women.

    Women graduate students are far more often than men the victims of sexual harassment perpetrated by those in positions of academic authority. Women graduate students are more likely to be robbed or assaulted than are men. Women often face greater difficulties in financing their education than men, perhaps because they come to graduate school with less initial savings; perhaps because they cannot work as many hours as men because of child care responsibilities; perhaps because departments are less willing to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to women. The litany could go on.

    Rittner and Trudeau provide a refreshing but realistic guidebook on surviving and thriving during one's graduate school experience. From the nuts and bolts of applying and maximizing the chances for admission, to figuring out finances, planning one's course of study, dealing with faculty, and in general making a comfortable personal, social and academic life for oneself, the authors lay it all out in straightforward language and with a forthright presentation. If you are (or anticipate becoming) a female graduate student, this is the book to buy for yourself. If you know a woman in a similar situation, this book would make a terrific gift. I know. My wife has said how much she wishes she had read it prior to beginning her own doctoral studies. I cannot think of a more convincing recommendation than that. Enjoy this book, and best wishes in graduate school!

    Series Editor


    Many young women just out of college decide on what advanced degrees to pursue and what graduate programs to attend with the guidance of their professors, academic advisors and mentors, families, and friends. This book intends to address their needs as well as the issues, fears, and concerns of the returning or mature student, some of whom may have completed undergraduate work years earlier. In particular, the returning student lacks a college-based peer group to help her think through the complex decisions she faces when she begins thinking about going to graduate school. She knows she will be juggling personal, professional, and academic responsibilities but is uncertain how to best go about that without trying to do everything she always did while she takes on an academic load at the graduate level.

    Deciding to go to graduate school reflects a woman's desire for personal, intellectual, and professional growth. For many women, the decision to get a graduate degree may be necessary to remain competitive in their jobs or professional arenas. Others, faced with divorce or loss of a partner, realize the economic importance of a graduate degree in supporting themselves, especially if they are still financially responsible for their children. For some women, a graduate degree is a means of upgrading professional skills or redefining expertise in an area of specialty to be more competitive. For others, graduate work promises a change in careers and an escape from a dead-end job or boring profession. For most women, the motivation to get a graduate degree involves a combination of all these reasons.

    The decisions a woman has to make about getting a graduate degree (what kind, how fast, and where) become even more difficult if family and friends don't understand why a woman wants to go back to school and resist the inevitable familial, social, and economic changes that returning to school entails.

    This book is organized around some basic decisions women make as they return to school. It will address

    Establishing goals

    Identifying school and programs compatible with goals

    Selecting schools and programs

    Managing the application process

    Handling acceptance and rejection

    Getting the whole financial picture

    Selecting courses

    Getting good grades

    Developing support networks

    This book is expected to help you learn what other women wish they had known before they embarked on a graduate degree so that you can graduate in a reasonable period of time with most of your sanity still intact. You will be hearing from them, through us, helpful suggestions they wished someone had shared with them before they started or while they were in their programs.

    Last, we know you can do it. Educated women provide their families, their communities, and their professions with standards of excellence. We hope they can also have fun getting there.

  • About the Authors

    Barbara Rittner is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Georgia. Previously, she was associated with Barry University in Miami, where she did her graduate work, and on faculty at the University of Nevada at Reno and the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is currently a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Georgia and serves on the Admissions Committee in the School of Social Work. She primarily teaches advanced graduate students. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on the issues of multiculturalism in education and on child welfare policy.

    Patricia Trudeau is a counselor and instructor at Conestoga College in Kitchner, Ontario, Canada, and an instructor at the School of Social Work at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has earned master's degrees in social work and adult education and counseling from the University of Toronto. Her professional career of nearly 20 years has enabled her to practice in a variety of settings, from social action to individual counseling and teaching. The primary focus of her current position is helping students have successful college experiences through improved interpersonal and academic skills.

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