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Determine my life path--what do I do after undergrad?

Give me your best grad schools, coolest gap year idea, most exciting research programs, or anything else you can think of!

About me:
- Current undergrad (3rd year) at University of Chicago (3.8 GPA)
- Majoring in Public Policy and Sociology, emphasis on Educational Policy/Research
-Lots of experience in the nonprofit world (management and presidency), teaching (K-12), and program design, and some experience in research, nonprofit consulting, and data analysis (not anything crazy, I'm not a huge math person, but I don't mind it). I can speak Spanish pretty well and Chinese okay.
- Passions include: service, learning, making a difference, a cause I can believe in, educational equity
- Preferred living situation: Urban/semi-urban OR abroad
- Hopes for after undergrad: I get some research experience in education (whether that's abroad, or urban/rural US ed), I can travel a little (in the US or abroad), I can dive deep into the world of academic (potentially a doctorate? but this doesn't have to be immediate).

I'm starting at square one so let me know if you have any suggestions! :)
5 replies
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Replies to: Determine my life path--what do I do after undergrad?

  • coffeecake244coffeecake244 1 replies1 threads New Member
    One more thing: here's what I'm interested in so far, if that helps.
    - Research or teaching for something like Fulbright
    - Stanford ed policy doctorate
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  • twogirlstwogirls 7766 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2019
    Teach for America, NYC Teaching Fellows, City Year, teaching English abroad

    Teach for America has a one year paid position in DC following the two years for those Corp members who are interested in policy. They are also affiliated with many graduate programs. Take a look at their website and read about alumni.
    edited July 2019
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30759 replies197 threads Senior Member
    If you truly want to be helpful in education policy, spend a few years in the classroom. That would mean getting a teaching job somewhere. If you won't be leaving U of Chicago with the preparation for a teaching certificate, put the time in with Teach for America.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13237 replies247 threads Senior Member
    Fulbright and Rhodes, but there are others like Schwarzman https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwarzman_Scholars

    UC may have their own post grad fellowships also.

    After to look at TFA, and also Americorps
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  • juilletjuillet 12812 replies164 threads Super Moderator
    You've gotten great suggestions so far. Here are some more, ordered roughly by how much exposure to academia you'll get in each one (although that varies a lot by what role you have there).

    Research associate at a think tank or other research organization
    -Think RAND, RTI, Advisory Board, Mathematica and the like. These organizations conduct research about policy in the United States. Some span many areas (like RAND) and others focus on a few (Advisory Board focuses on health and education). They hire new college grads as entry-level research assistants/associates who assist master's and PhD-level scientists with the research they do.
    -Another option is a dedicated educational policy/research organization. The College Board and ACT are two examples of that. Many universities have an affiliated center, like the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard. Many of these places also hire BA grads as research assistants.
    -There are also lots of nonprofits and NGOs that are focused on research in education and educational policy, both here in the U.S. and abroad. I'd especially check out New York, where the UN is headquartered and where there are tons of these kinds of organizations; and other international cities, especially Geneva (Switzerland).

    -Organizations like Teach for America, City Year, and NYC Teaching Fellows hire people not only to teach but also to help run the program. TFA employees tend to be alumni, but not always.
    -There are other educational advocacy and policy organizations where you can do work other than research: like program management, development, or other things.
    There are some general nonprofits that also have divisions focused on education.

    Government work
    -School systems - at the local, city, and state level - hire people other than just teachers and administrators. There are often program directors and other personnel that do executive and management work in those places.
    -At the state and federal level, there's working for departments of education in some capacity (potentially research, maybe something else).

    Teaching English abroad
    -Either Fulbright program would work, but consider the English Teach Assistant Award program. With your proficiency in Spanish, you could apply to one of the Spanish-speaking countries (all of the countries in the Western Hemisphere region for Fulbright ETA are in South America and all but Brazil are Spanish-speaking and require proficiency; Spain is also an option. There's also Andorra, which uses Catalan as the primary language but has many Spanish speakers, since it is nestled between Spain and France. Catalan has a lot of lexical similarity to Spanish.)
    You could also go to another country that doesn't require any language proficiency; most of the countries in the East Asia-Pacific region have no requirements, as do several countries across South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa.

    -Other English teaching abroad programs. You could go through CIEE if you're interested in a Spanish-speaking country. There are also independent programs like JET (Japan) and EPIK (Korea) that don't require language proficiency. There are many other organizations, governments, and private companies that will also arrange for American recent grads to teach English all over the globe, sometimes earning a TEFL certificate or degree along the way.

    Foreign service
    -The Diplomat in Residence for the Midwestern region is in residence at the University of Illinois at Chicago, right nearby. He studied sociology in college as well. (https://careers.state.gov/connect/dir/midwest/). DIRs are resources for people interested in foreign service careers, so consider making an appointment with him to ask questions and get advice on preparing for the foreign service if you are interested.
    You have to take an exam and there are different career tracks. Read about them (https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/career-tracks/) and there is also a questionnaire you can take that will help you match your interests to an appropriate track. Based on your interests, you'd probably be interested in either public diplomacy or consular affairs.

    Consulting is essentially like applied research. Many generalist consulting firms work with governments and/or educational organizations to help them solve some kind of problem. There's also the option of working for a boutique consulting firm that focuses only on education. WIth a degree from University of Chicago you can be very competitive at the top firms, but they start recruiting in September of your senior year so you should visit career fairs very early. They also do summer internships, so consider that for the summer between your third and fourth years.

    Other private sector
    -There are large educational companies that sell materials to educators, like textbooks, teaching materials, technology, etc. You can think Scholastic and Pearson, but also larger conglomerates. I work at Microsoft and we have an entire division dedicated to education that revolves around both hardware and a wide variety of software (Office, Windows, Minecraft, etc.) Google does too, and so does Apple. They often hire people with backgrounds in education/educational policy to do a variety of work.
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