I have recently been accepted into graduate school and wanted to map out what it took to get me to where I am now. I have been a good student for most of my time throughout college (freshman year was rough, but the next three years provided enough recovery time), and I had great professors that were available to advise me in the right directions. However, I wanted to write my own short blog (in “chapters” or installments) that show the steps that I took, where I went right, where I went wrong, ect. So this first post is about preparation. I spent a long time prepping for grad school but most of that prep time was mainly going into my worry fuel tank and aimlessly surfing the web for programs that suited my dreams. So like I said, here are tips that include what I did and didn’t do during this prep time: 1. Study: its amazing how time flies during the year before applying to grad school and there is a sneaky little thing called the GRE that is required for most schools in America (since my school is in Canada, it didn’t require it BUT all my other schools to which I applied did need scores.. and really high scores). I bought a GRE study kit that had a nice set of vocab flash cards and two study books for the math and english sections. I studied about four hours a week, which was actually tougher than what I thought. I should have studied more but I was also working at the same time (three different jobs!) so four hours was the max I could handle. I will post a more detailed section about the GRE soon! 2. Talk to your profs: My professors were very helpful with assisting my navigation on the road to grad school. They suggested several schools and also gave me tips on how to look up schools. Talk to your profs! They have been through the whole process and everyone’s story is different. The amount of experience that each of them have was gained in different ways and every single bit of advice was helpful whether it was applicable to my course of study or not. 3. Visit: I was unable to visit any schools. I wish it would have been possible because (to me) the atmosphere of a campus is what helped me to decide which undergraduate school that I should attend. Most of my schools were 12-18 hours away from where I lived so visitation was out. If I could go back and do it again, I would do whatever possible to visit schools AND meet professors at the other schools. 4. Friends and Peers: At the time of my application submission, it was just me and my future husband against the world. My program at my undergrad was passively competitive; which means that I did not want any of my peers to judge me based on what I was submitting. Now, I wish I had just woman-ed up and asked them to review my personal statement and my academic paper. Don’t get me wrong, I had my super smart husband look over them (and I his) as well as a professor, but peer editing can be such a great tool and I hope that it is something others can utilize. I believe it would make the process feel like a team endeavor and less lonely. 5. Keep an agenda: I love my planner and it was my holy grail during the application process. Nearly every application needed a different log in/ password combo, had different dead lines, needed different documents, and different payment amounts. I made a chart in my planner (at the very front) that let me see all the information from each and every school. Then I wrote down everything on the specific days within my planner and put in reminders a week beforehand too so I wasn’t caught off guard by any deadlines. Whether you do it in a paper planner or in your iPhone, it will be necessary.
6. Have Realistic Dreams: I feel like most people would call this an oxymoron; but I will go ahead and use the phrase anyway. I think having a realistic dream is the absolute best way to think about grad school. After you do your research and pick schools, its best to think about paying for the schools, being accepted, and being rejected. I almost did not apply to my back up school because I was told that I was a “shoo in” for another program. Guess what, I was rejected from every school besides by back up. My back up is a great program, but I was dreaming of being in the absolute best program possible and wanted to ignore the acceptance ratio. It is best to choose back up schools and to want them. And it is best to go for the best programs possible. That’s it for now. More to come soon 🙂