Moving Away Part 1: How to Grad School

As I’ve mentioned, I’m headed to grad school this month. No big deal, just casually moving from Seattle to New York City.

About three months in to my two year Peace Corps term I decided to go to grad school when I got home and began obsessing.

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On my weekly trip to the capitol city, I would copy and paste page after page or poorly loaded content from university websites and compile them into guides on my computer. I got pretty into tables of contents. From there I would read through each guide, judging the school’s education program on three excel pages of factors, organized by priority.

After a year and a half, I had a spreadsheet of over 40 schools. I applied for three.

My point is that I had the time to obsess about grad school and systematically evaluate my options before picking the best fit. I then had enough time to take the GRE and apply for schools.

Peace Corps was a blessing that taught me how productive I am without the internet.

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Today I want to share some tips for applying to graduate school, narrowing down the options, and being realistic about your career goals and financial future.

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How Do I Grad School?

  1. Ask yourself why you’re considering the option. Do you need a Master’s degree for your career goals? Do you even want to go right now? Are you considering it because you’re too scared to do something else?giphy1
    There are two reasons to go to grad school: you want it and you need it. This a commitment and it’s going to cost you money, so don’t just do it because you graduated from undergrad and don’t know what else to do now.
    Besides, if you’re not in it for good reasons, answering those interview questions is going to be rough.
  2. Pick your schools. If you’re sure about this, get ready to choose schools. Figure out what kind of program you want, what kind of schools are you interested in attending, how far do you want to go from home, what financial barriers are there? I compiled my list from a mix of the Newsweek Top Schools for my specific field of study and the Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows list.bad-at-making-decisions-new-girl-gif
  3. Pick your priorities. Decide what your most important factors, the medium importance factors, and the not very important factors are. For me it was a hands-on learning program, certification before graduation, and financial aid opportunities.
    There is no wrong answer here, if money is top of the list, be honest with yourself about that. If it’s a specific kind of curriculum or size of school, ok. But prioritize, because no school is totally perfect, you just have to find the best fit for you.tumblr_mf5n2cx64n1rbrm08o1_500
  4. Research the crap out of it. You know when you start Facebook stalking someone and eventually realized your back to 2009 of their old roommate’s photos? No? Just me? Ok. Well, the point is you should feel like that with your top schools. You should not only know the program your applying for forward and back, but the people in charge of it.5ea018a4c89a54438c7fe4619d353e28
  5. Apply. I truly don’t believe that you should apply for more than about five schools. Application fees stack up fast and the can vary from $30 to $130 (lookin’ at you Stanford) just to apply.
    I picked three programs I loved; one I didn’t think I had a shot in hell at getting in to, one I thought I might be able to realistically get in to, and one I was pretty confident I’d get in to. It’s better to apply for a handfull of varying difficulty then to apply for twenty and be out the money, believe me you can blow through that money later.money-burn

So that’s it, simple. Nothing to it. Then, of course there’s interviews and tests and transcripts and FAFSA and all manner of other educational torture, but hey applying is a pretty big deal.

Best of luck.

 

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5 thoughts on “Moving Away Part 1: How to Grad School

  1. So easy to enjoy your blog, since I have just slightly less of a vested interest in your adventures and thoughts than I do my own daughters.

    Elder just finished defending her thesis (only one semester after completing her courses) and will be working part-time at Target and interning part-time in her chosen field next month. We all hope she can find a paying job in a museum somewhere that will allow her to share her knowledge of early American archaeology. How’s that for hard to find?

    Younger bought “Applying to Med School for Dummies” thru Amazon and had it delivered here so I could browse it and not ask her so many questions when she was home for a few days over the holidays. She actually needed to use it, too. I am just hoping that her answer to your leading question “Are you considering it because you’re too scared to do something else?” is not still Yes. She did get some real world experience in the medical field after completing her BA (in psych and neuroscience), but that was in dermatology and not in her intended specialty of psychiatry, where she thinks she’ll be able to set her own schedule, but in who knows how many years?

    As a parent who paid for both of them to complete their Bachelor’s degrees, they knew from the start of the app process that the school that threw the most $ at them was where they would end up. They both also knew that they would be paying for their own advanced degrees. Elder was able to do that debt free, the jury is still out on the younger but since she is now on her own, hopefully some of the med schools she’s applying to might see fit to throw some more $ her way.

    I thought briefly about forwarding this post to Younger but decided not to, since I think and hope and pray that she will be as intelligent and grounded as you were when she actually gets to the point of submitting applications later this year. Meanwhile, I think I’ll just figuratively adopt you!

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  2. Good advice. It’s definitely important for people to be going back to school because they truly want to/need the degree. Not because they have nothing better to do. Good luck with everything!

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