The idea

One of the most common questions I get emailed is this: "Should I go to grad school, given the cost and the current political environment in academia?" After writing a few long responses to this question, I realized that I kept repeating one idea: 90% of the value derived from grad school is just the structure and accountability it imposes on your life, plus the feedback and encouragement from someone with a PhD. At the graduate level, you're not really taught; you're told what to go teach yourself. Grad school doesn't get you a job: What you do for yourself during grad school gets you a job. A formal graduate school degree is great if your peer group or industry rewards you for having formal degrees, but for many students who enter graduate programs — it's just a really expensive way to buy a little bit of structure, accountability, and feedback from a someone with a PhD.

Meanwhile, I was conducting some surveys among my patrons, trying to learn how I could best show them my gratitude for their support. Two of the most common requests were for face-to-face intellectual community and feedback (from me) on their personal projects.

Thus, a few different signs pointed the same way: As a PhD who has taught several graduate seminars, and supervised several PhD students, I could easily provide all by myself  90% of the value of a graduate program, for at least a few dozen individuals. So I launched an experimental, monthly "graduate seminar." For those who support my work for $25/month (or more), I host a 2-hour monthly seminar session, exactly like I would for a grad school seminar, adapted for the diverse goals of a diverse bunch of strangers. The seminars are private, on Google Hangouts, and will not exceed more than 6 students per seminar.

The truth is that many people do a one-year MA program simply because they have no idea what to do with their life and they want to learn, read and write. If these are the honest reasons you're thinking about grad school, please don't do it! I will gladly give you these things for a tiny fraction of the cost.

In the seminar session, “students” give short presentations on their work, and I give some constructive criticisms and suggest readings or whatever. Then we agree to assignments tailored to each “student” based on whatever they want to accomplish. There's no contract or obligation: people can come in and out each month however they please. (I may have to increase the price later if it catches on and I’m inundated with students, but I’m not yet).

Obviously, there's no accreditation, no degrees, none of that! So it's a very bad grad school, but it's an amazing deal for the best 90% of grad school. If you want to write and publish a book, or write and publish an academic journal article, or you just want to study something deeply and work on it — I can give you all the structure, accountability, and expert guidance you would get from a grad program.


This seminar gave me excellent guidance on my writing project.

Blogger, Indiana, 22

...because you've been doing seminars for many years, you've gotten very good at making sure they'll be productive. In short, you're providing quick, high-quality feedback for a low cost.

Writer, Baltimore, 31

Wow, thank you so much Dr. Murphy... exactly what I was looking for and far more than I could have asked for...

Student, Cincinnati, 18

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A cheap one-year MA program: $30k
25 x 12 = 300 or 1% of 30K

Monthly Graduate Seminar

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