As a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, Jessica McCrory Calarco knew that after she got her degree, she wanted an academic job. But she didn’t know how to get there. She and her fellow grad students were expected to know, or figure out, puzzles like how to choose an adviser, how to acquire funding, and what getting an “R&R” on a paper meant. The ins and outs of grad school and a career in academe just weren’t covered in class.
Calarco made it: She’s now an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University at Bloomington, where one of her specialties is inequality in education. Her new book, A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum (Princeton University Press), serves as a road map, taking the reader from the beginning — choosing a program — through navigating the job market to eventually balancing teaching, research, service, and life obligations. She spoke with The Chronicle about impostor syndrome, mentorship, and why the hidden curriculum stays hidden. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.