I wanted to start my blog off with a basic intro to the statement of purpose and the steps you can take to start your first draft. I'm an admissions reader and former writing consultant and love helping folks write better essays. By no means am I a writing expert, but I've read 1000s of personal statements/ SOPs and worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients on their college essays and applications and I just like helping folks craft better essays for their college applications. So, here we go!
The statement of purpose, or what I like to refer to as the cover letter essay because of its similar structure, is generally used for graduate school applications and focuses much more on describing the skills, experiences and education that has prepared you for the program you’re applying to than a personal statement for undergrad would--mostly because when entering grad school you usually have a much better grasp on what your career path will be. Its main purpose concentrates less on developing a story-like narrative about your personal attributes and more on explicitly communicating the qualities that make you a perfect candidate for the particular field of study you're applying to. Ideally, the statement of purpose should convey your genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the program of study you’re pursuing, and what you have done in the past to nurture that passion.
There are many topics you can choose for your SOP, but ultimately colleges want to see you answer 3 questions: why you, why us, and why now. Here are 4 steps to get you started on answering those questions and drafting your statement of purpose.
1. Start off your statement of purpose by describing your motivations for applying to the particular grad school program and how earning a grad degree fits in with your broader academic and personal goals.
2. Next, you should communicate the subjects you’ve studied, previous jobs you’ve held, and relevant skills and certifications you’ve obtained that prepare you for the curriculum or program of study. This is the part where you really get to brag on yourself in discussing your relevant qualifications and unique skill set that ideally prepare you for success in the field you’ve chosen.
3. Follow that up by communicating your interest in attending the particular university you’re applying to. It’s important to articulate why you’re choosing X school or Y program at every level of education. As an example, you might state your interest in working with Prof. Baker, who is an expert in 18th-century archeological preservation techniques - the only one in the field. Admissions officers and committee members want to know that you did your research and have a compelling and personal reason for wanting to attend their institution. In this section, be sure to also include statements about what you can bring to the university’s campus and how you will contribute to the prevailing culture of the college.
4. Lastly, don’t forget to include in your statement what attributes and traits make you special because, yes, it matters to admissions committees what kind of person you are and student you will be. As an example, you could focus on describing the parts of your personality that demonstrate your ability to learn and think as well as your desire to collaborate and communicate effectively as a student-scholar. Colleges want to know that you possess the traits that will contribute to both your growth and the betterment of the university community. One of the important things to remember is that the best way to communicate your traits is to use an anecdote or experience from your past, that shows rather than tells what makes you a top candidate.
No matter what, remember to be authentic and your uniqueness will shine through in your statement of purpose. Otherwise, follow these 4 steps and you’ll be on your way to writing an effective statement of purpose.
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!
For my first post, I wanted to open up about what has been the hardest thing for me about the application process so far, and that is the feeling of not being good enough. Reading through the posts on GradCafe and seeing all the wonderful things people have done, I can't help but feel like I don't measure up. This is my fourth year working in labs and I have no publications. My GRE math score is...meh. My honors thesis is still in progress and so I don't have a neat, packaged project that I can talk about or submit as a writing sample.
I'm still applying.
I feel like it's easy to forget that the kind of people who post on sites like this tend to not be representative of the applicant pool as a whole, and that there do exist those of us who are applying without 10+ years of related work experience or 5+ published journal articles. My hope is to give readers some insight about what the application process is like for those of us who feel like we might not stand out as much because we don't have those things. Because that's actually not true. My first piece of advice for people who find that they're in my situation is to remember that it's all relative. For example, if you're still in undergrad, there's no way that a grad school will expect you to have as much research experience as someone who has been out of school much longer. Additionally, a lack of published articles is not a death sentence if you can convey in your application that you've gained valuable research skills. This applies both for current undergraduates such as myself, as well as those who have a master's or have been working for a while. Finally, even if someone looks "better" on paper than you, you might actually be the one with a better research fit.
So, even though it can be difficult, don't be intimidated by your perceived competition. Remember to put the process into perspective and trust that if you highlight your strengths in your application you will end up where you're supposed to be.
The whole reason I wanted to start a blog on here was to try, as realistically as possible, to answer the question, "so what's grad school really like," on this platform that seems to be mostly consumed by "so how do I get into grad school?". Admittedly, when I first started this blog, I had the best intentions of posting more regularly than "those other guys." So here I am, a year later, attempting to make up for it. So here we go, I'm going to break it into sections for the sake of readability. PLEASE, keep in mind, all of this is from my very limited perspective of a first generation, first year, queer, man of color, from the South, living in a major city and attending the only grad program I applied to.
Moving cross country to a new city
As a general personality trait, I'm a huge fan of change. I get bored easily and like to mix things up. So for me, moving across the country, to a city in which I didn't know anyone was just a huge, exciting adventure. I know that for some people, change produces a ton of anxiety. So for those readers, you'll probably want to take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Anyways, the move was great! I ended up really lucky in the housing search and used Craigslist to find both of the apartments I've lived in here. Exploring the city and getting into a routine of going to this grocery store instead of that one and this park being my spot to relax and destress, was fun. Seattle quickly became home for me.
One of the best decisions I made when moving to Seattle was finding housing with folks not in my program, or associated with my school at all. I also joined a church pretty early on. My program has a strong focus on community development and it's pretty easy to make friends within, but for the sake of emotional sanity, it's been great to have friends who have no idea what I do for 8 (or more) hours a day. I'd definitely recommend other folks going to grad school in a new place to invest in a community outside of your program, if possible.
Despite the media myths of grad school = buried in books and nothing else for the next x years, I've spent more of the past year intentionally building relationships, exploring my interests, and just enjoying life that I ever have. Though, this could very well be contributed to the location of my program in a major city.
With my program being pretty small (about 60 folks in total) I have noticed that the internal drama can be exhausting and pretty ridiculous at times. Granted, my field is a very personal one and the culture of the university calls us to bring out whole selves (baggage and all) to the table.
In some ways, the classroom experience was exactly what I was expecting, in some ways, it's less than I was expecting, but in other ways, it's way more than I was expecting.
As expected, there are lots more reading assignments than I was accustomed to in undergrad. But most of the time, I'm fine as long as I get the drift of what the assigned reading was about. It's less than I was expecting because I often find myself feeling like my classes and those responsibilities feel like an unnecessary addition to the work I'm doing with students in my assistantship and internships; that's pretty disappointing. But at the other extreme, there have been many times when I've had conversations in classrooms that I didn't think could happen in such settings and have genuinely changed the way I think about the world. I live for those conversations, and that's why I'm okay with spending more money than my mom makes in a year for tuition.
This is the one area in which I, admittedly, should have done more research before making this huge life decision. Seattle is EXPENSIVE. And, in my particular case, the coveted GA position doesn't cover living expenses, much less living and tuition. This has led to me working part time for a period, and taking out more loans than I expected. This is probably the biggest downfall of my program, but I was privileged enough to not have to take out any loans for undergrad so it's not a huge deal for me and I probably would have made the same decision if I had then, all the information I have now...although I probably would have been a bit more careful about how I spent my savings during my time off between undergrad and grad school.
I definitely feel like my chances of getting a job in my chosen field have increased tenfold in the past year. I've learned more than I could have begun to imagine, and it's made me even more excited to start my career. Also, necessary sidenote, I've reluctantly to see the benefit of strong alumni networks and I'm definitely grateful that my program comes with one of those.
Did I make the right choice?
100% yes. If I could go back, I wouldn't change anything. There was definitely a time when I wished I'd applied to more programs, there were times when I wished I would have gone to a program that was fully funded and in a cheaper city, there were times I wished I would have stayed closer to home. But if I could go back in time, knowing all that I know now, I would do it all again. This experience has been, by far, the most life changing year ever, and I'm excited to see where the next one takes me.
Please, feel more than welcome to send me messages about student affairs, Seattle, moving cross country, or anything else. I'm not as acitive here as I once was, but I will get back to you!
So - as I attempt to procrastinate my way into ignoring very real assignment commitments, I figured I'd write a post on "what happens next." As you may (or may not know) I applied to 6 programs, was accepted 3, and ended up attending my first choice program. I applied to 4 PhD Programs, a DPA program, and a DBA program. I got into 2 PhD programs and the DBA programs. Of course I've gone back to see what the other programs look like. One PhD program gets 30-40 applications and accepts 4 with hopes of getting 2. The year prior to my application they accepted only and were looking for faculty. No specific details. The other PhD only took in 4 students against a usual class of 10-12. Suddenly I don't feel so badly. I considered the DPA to be a sure thing - still not sure what went wrong there. So - now that I've reflected on my defeats - where is it all at?
I ended up with a summer entry - taking a summer course in my specialization (3 credits). For the fall I took two courses, one in the program main curriculum (3 credits) and another in my specialization (3 credits), along with a research residency (1 credit). The result - All A's (including an A+ - I didn't even know these existed!). For 2017 I'm in my residency year, which requires that I do one 9 credit semester and an 18 credit year. I took the 9 credits in the spring (which is now and the work I'm currently avoiding). One course has concluded (I needed a 62 on the final paper to get an A - so I should be ok there). The second course, which I'm working now (I need to submit two papers tonight, one is half written, the other is a short research report - I'm taking "short" to heart). This course has given almost nothing in terms of feedback, so I really don't know where I stand. The third the professor (who is also my program planning chair) went out early in the semester with medical issues. I don't know when or if she'll return, so this could complicate things. The sub in professor has been fantastic and I'm chugging along quite nicely. That paper is due in about 5 days. I will start it right after I finish these two.
Am I happy I went into the program? Yes. Do I regret it? Also, yet. It has been an overwhelming amount of work, but I can see and feel my growth as an academic. This is part of the life/career plan - so I'm fortunate to be moving forward and accomplishing the goals I've set for myself. For the rest of this year I'll be taking an independent study this summer to work on a paper that can lead to publication as well as a conference (which will be 3 credits and falls into the professional development section). In the fall I'll take another specialization course and another core curriculum.
In terms of progress I'm currently planning to sit for prelims at the 3 year mark and have set aside another year and a half for dissertation. This would put me out at about 4.5 years, well below average (from what I've read) and well before my 40th birthday (my goal). I'm just hoping I can sustain momentum and clear prelims without too much a challenge. To all of you just starting - I wish you the very best. Dig in, dig deep, and keep moving forward. Good luck to you all.
After an incredibly long day I rolled home. I ate some swedish fish for dinner (because that's what grad students do, right?!?). I took a shower and took the dogs for a walk. I opened my mailbox and the final response I had been waiting for was in there. Valdosta was the last school to get back to me and had sent an email telling me to expect results last week. The date on the letter to date of receipt was a nine day difference. I was rejected. I was kind of surprised. When I check their admission criteria I checked it all (over GRE requirements, over GPA requirements, lengthy job history, related MA). I had already made my decision and largely just wanted the ego boost associated with the acceptance (I know - barf here. I get that's kind of a gross way of thinking). Still, it's disappointing.
I set out the school search with very strict criteria - the ability to remain in my job, no relocation necessary (so either local or residency sessions only), career related that could lead to something in academics, and a price that was affordable. In the end it came down to Valdosta, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kansas State, Indiana State, NYU, and Wilmington University. Texas Tech also offered a program that could have been a fit, but it hit my radar after I was well underway with other programs. I knew my GRE could be a limitation (my scores were respectable and higher than many fields, but in Business I was behind, especially in quantitative measures). I had a couple of F's on my undergrad transcript (from classes that the withdraw was never processed for when I relocated from PA to IL). My Graduate GPA was ok (nothing spectacular, however it's a combined GPA for my MA/MBA as it was a joint program - the MBA alone was something like 3.93. I struggled more in the MA program).
As I searched things unfolded. In some ways it seemed cosmic or that fate had a hand. Initially I had planned to apply to only Wilmington, Kansas State, and Valdosta. Valdosta fell off of the list. A friend who's in the program at IUP recommended it. I added it to the list. Kansas State came up in a google search. NYU sent me a solicitation to apply after the GRE. That solicitation lead to a google search that revealed Indiana State's program. I saw it and immediately it checked all of the boxes. Price tag, flexibility, field of interest, etc. When I received the acceptance I was over the moon. I was on a losing streak with both Kansas State and NYU. I was in at Wilmington (which I immediately turned down with no other offer in hand) and IUP (which was a very serious consideration). I was trying to wait out ISU's response and when I got it I fell all over myself. I didn't realize how deeply tied I already was to going here or how well I saw the program going.
I graduated on Friday the 13th and started my PhD on Monday the 16th (for the purposes of being up front I finished in December, but Seton Hall only offers one graduation per year). I had been tied up teaching 15-20 hours a week on top of my full time job, so I never got a break. The program is a bit convoluted in terms of navigation, but I'm getting the hang of it. I'm not sure if I should be elated or disappointed that i only got into 50% of the programs I applied to (though getting into my first choice is huge). I'm looking forward to what comes and the process. I'm hoping I can weather the storm nicely and come out the other side a minted PhD.
So the time has come. I have to decide among a few acceptances. Yes, I understand that this is a good problem to have, but it's also challenging to sort through what the best option is. If it's the best option - will the faculty be who I want to work with. I'm also waiting to hear from one more program.
To recap - I was accepted to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in their Communication Medias and Instructional Technology PhD, Indiana State in a consortium PhD in Technology Management with a specialization in Human Resource Development & Industrial Training, and a DBA program at Wilmington University. I'm still waiting to hear from a DPA program at Valdosta State. I was rejected from the PhD in Technology Management at New York University as well as a PhD program in Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State.
I had already passed on the acceptance from Wilmington. During my interview it seemed very canned. They asked a half a dozen typical professional interview questions (tell us about your background, what qualities are necessary to succeed, etc). They administered their own admission tests (one on finance, one on writing where I corrected a one page paper for grammar and syntax issues, and one verbal reasoning). They didn't accept GRE's. Judging by their assessments I can only guess that folks had been accepted who lacked basic business skills. I also wasn't sure that the coursework would be any more challenging or provide skills beyond my MBA. It was also a cohort based model, which isn't necessarily ideal.
Indiana State was a little late on the decision side. They were initially quite helpful, but that has slid off as I continued to reach out. I'm hoping that picks up, but the temporary advisor I was given doesn't inspire much competition (PhD students are largely left to their own devices). However, just trying to play coursework between five universities is rather challenging. That being said, the program seems to be the best fit for me, so this will likely be where I end up.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been far and away the most helpful. While the program isn't the perfect fit, it's quite interesting. It also offers all of the coursework in person (which will require significant travel back and forth) but could still work. I really liked the folks in the program and the smaller program size. However, due to it being a bit out of the box I won't get as much tuition assistance from work. I did apply for GA positions, but unsure how this will shake out. It's a cohort based program, but you can choose credit load, which does give some flexibility. This could be the dark horse in my decision making.
NYU and Kansas State are no longer a consideration based on the rejections. Unsure that Valdosta is the one, but I'll have to see if I get accepted and put it in the mix for consideration.
I thought his would be the easiest part, but it's still proving to be quite challenging.
So I had intended to start to knock these out one by one as I heard back, but life happened. I'll walk through what some of the experiences have been and how I thought things would shake out.
Kansas State - I thought for sure I'd be in here and it was my first response. My LOR's were from the department chair, associate dean, and my employer. The program fit with both the department chair's background who could make a stronger argument as well as my research interests. In the end I was rejected. I got a form letter that was a scanned PDF emailed to me. The letter contained a grammatical error (and I resisted my initial urge to correct it and send it back to them). It contained the typical verbiage one would expect (many applicants, research interests, etc, etc, etc). Annoying, but it is what it is.
NYU - I knew this was a stretch, however they had solicited me for the PhD program, so I went right on ahead an applied. It was their school of engineering (formerly the Poly, now Tandon due to a $100,000,000 gift - yes - that's the right number of 0's). I attended an open house where I was the only PhD candidate for the particular field I applied to. I thought things were well crafted, my LOR's strong. At the open house was when things started to become a concern. My understanding is that the department is fairly small. They typically accept 4, hoping to get 2. Last year they only took 1. 1 out of however many applicants (the person indicated they get 30-40). Also, the person I met I had previously emailed and called (no response) in addition to emails that went unanswered from various faculty, department chairs, and other heads of the department. So. To the garbage went their rejection email.
Wilmington U - This was one of the early contenders. The format worked for me being mostly online. Not being a PhD wasn't ideal, but I could've made it work. I did discover that the program is set up in a cohort model, which I tend not to prefer. At my interview (which I drove down to Delaware for) everything went well, but it became apparent that this wasn't the program for me. I was given assessments (finance, verbal reasoning, and writing that was correcting a sample paper). They didn't want my GRE - but gave these, which seemed to be kind of novice level. I was concerned that their DBA would be less academically rigorous than my MBA. I knew when I walked out it wasn't the place for me. Inevitably it would become my first acceptance. They sent a letter offering me admissions to two different cohorts (neither of which were the cohorts I applied to). They wanted a response in early March, earlier than I would hear from anyone else. I rolled the dice and declined, sending back the form. I never heard from them. I would've thought they'd want to know why someone had opted out.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania - This was one of my emergency pics after being declined admission at Kansas State. KSU was my first response, so panic set in quickly. Someone I worked with ages ago is in the program and seems to enjoy it very much. So I applied. While not a perfect fit I think it's something that could be very interesting and change the direction of my learning a bit. I drove out to interview with them and it seemed to be a fit. While driving home (about 4 hours) of course questions came to mind. I emailed the program coordinator who happily answered all of my questions and also told me I had been admitted. These folks have been the easiest to reach, given the best information, and generally have been the nicest - something I value greatly in this process. I don't want to go it alone in this process and it is largely a welcome change to have a school help you through the process.
Indiana State - This was one of the more rigorous applications (5 LOR's). I applied for Summer, but would be open for Fall. They over specializations in the program, so I found that rather refreshing. I was able to track someone down at Indiana State who was quite helpful. The department chair also answered questions as needed and as I reached out. I was told in February that I could expect an answer the week of 3/14. Turns out it's also the same week as their spring break. I followed-up immediately after their spring break to be told they hope to have answers by the end of April, but can't guarantee this. It's slightly frustrating as this program is probably the best fit and will likely win out, should I be accepted. More to come.
Valdosta State - This was a contender early on, however I dropped it from the set as it was the program that seemed to be the lesser fit (DPA rather than PhD, no comps or dissertation, etc) but after bad news started coming I added it to my list. My package isn't due until 4/15, but I'm now only waiting on a single LOR (ugh).
Overall some disappointments and more stress than I anticipated. It's going to be a long 4-6 weeks after this.
I've been meaning to write this post (and another that is hopefully coming soon) for a while but life happens.
I was able to go visit my future grad program a few weeks ago and I plan to write about that next but for now, I want to talk about something I think will be a little more universal - the mental side of the grad school process, as far as I've experienced anyway.
For me, and I'm sure many others, grad school was always just a far off thing I knew I'd do eventually but didn't put an incredible amount of thought into until I was about halfway done with college (about a year in for me). Then, the time came to decide what program and school I wanted to apply to and it got exciting. I'm a higher education nerd with a bit of wanderlust so it was exciting to me to be able to check out all of these schools around the country, even if it was just through their websites. Next, it was time to apply and the pressure was on. Did I really have what it would take to get in? Did I develop the right relationships for strong letters of recommendation? Is this even the right time for me to go to grad school? It's been 4 months, will you finally just sit down and write the essay?! So after months of procrastination, I finally admitted my application. I just turned in one so that was it, no more stress, now it was just a waiting game. But then, the Internet threw a wrench in my plan to peacefully await a decision.
I started looking for stats of admitted students to the program. Did I make the right decision to apply to only one. Did I put too much stock in program location. And a bunch of other things it was too late to second guess considering it was already late January and the deadline for most programs had passed. Then I made a decision that probably wasn't the best for me mentally - I joined gradcafe. I never see it mentioned here on the site but being on here, talking to (and comparing myself to) people I'm essentially competing against was nerve-wracking. That guy has way more experience than me. He conveys his passion over writing better than I do. And even when it wasn't people in my field..you applied to 3 schools? 5 schools? 14 schools?! Man, those odds were way better than what I gave myself when I only applied to one. My stress levels skyrocketed but I was still in the same exact position of not being able to do anything but sit around and wait for a decision.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was only actually a couple of weeks, a decision came through. I got in! I was accepted to the program of my dreams and I was thrilled. But that feeling of pure elation barely had time to settle before I started doing more stress-provoking Google searches. Now I was comparing other programs to my own. That one offers more funding? That one pays for travel to interviews? That one offers more assistantships? All things I could do nothing to change.
A few weeks later, I was able to visit my new school and meet other newly accepted students. Many of my fears were soothed. I wasn't the only one worrying about those things. I couldn't have been happier with the campus, program, and professors once I was introduced to everything in person. I didn't feel imposter syndrome even when talking with all these other great people were also admitted and the current students who seemed to be on a completely different level. After that weekend, I left completely happy with the results of my progress and have barely been on gradcafe stressing, doubting, worrying since.
Now this isn't to say that I think gradcafe is bad. It's great to connect with others that are in the same situation as you, have the same interests as you, and understand the struggle of putting yourself through this rigorous process. But your own mental wellness should also be taken into account. There's always going to be someone who's application is a little stronger in some area. Maybe their GPA is one point higher or they went to a brand name school in the field or they have more research experience. But you have to trust YOUR process (not the process) and realize you have just as much right to be in the admissions pool as the next guy.
The grad school process is all about selling yourself, trying to get a school to realize you're a good stock to invest in. So at the end of the day, you and the work you've done up to now are all you have to rely on so don't lose faith! You're great. Now you just have to get an adcom to realize that
So this was in the mix from early on. I had initially decided not to apply when I started looking for programs. I was bent on a PhD and was concerned that I couldn't find any where I could continue to work full time and that would be affordable. I instead opted for the DBA program at Wilmington. After an early rejection (with more to come on this subject in my next blog) panic set in. I added (or re-added) Valdosta to my list. I scored an interview at another program and when I sat down in the room it was clear that the program wasn't going to be a fit. I would get an acceptance (more to come here, too) but turn it down. So as I moved on to Valdosta it was perhaps the easiest of the group. The statement was 1-2 pages. The application was pretty straight forward. It also required a resume and 3 references (normal, right?). The department was responsive, easy to access, and gave quick replies. I find this to be a very promising sign of a program where you can get support. Some of the others I'm still experiencing radio silence on (despite having questions that I would've liked answered prior to applying). The only downside I saw to Valdosta is that everything outside the application is paper based (resume, statement, and references all have to be mailed in). The good news is that they do update the system so I can see what they have received and what I'm still waiting on. So here's hoping for good news. I still have 3 programs to hear from, including this one.
So I had completely excluded this program from my plans. It's setup as a every other weekend format for coursework and about 5 hours from where I live (so I'd be commuting to my parents every other weekend then returning to work and life where I live). I wasn't going to apply as it isn't a direct fit to my research or course interests. However I had only applied to 4 programs. 1 had rejected me. 1 had accepted me and I didn't want to go there. I had applied to 2 other programs, 1 I've got a snowball's shot in hell of getting into and 1 I've probably got a decent chance at, but I'm not sure (and it's my first choice). Panic set in and I applied to IUP. They have been by far the most responsive, accommodating, etc. While the program isn't an exact fit to what I hope to accomplish, the fact that they've been available is huge. I've worried about the bulk of the programs I applied to being a problem with getting assistance at maneuvering through the coursework and dissertation. With significant support and resources (not financial) it seems as though sometimes it is work considering the program as it can be tailored a bit more, rather than trying to fit into a very small box. I heard back quickly once my file was complete and I have an interview scheduled for 3/14. It's relief and a breath of fresh air from a process that has been something along the lines of excruciating.
So, it's been a while since I last updated this. The main reason for this is that there is little to no news. The adjoining reason is that what news there is likely would only lead to a pretty depressing post.
I'll keep it as light and cheerful as I can manage.
Since last we met, I've been rejected, either tacitly or directly, from an additional four programs, leaving me with two that have yet to send any information: Georgia State University and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. I'm not holding my breath that I'll get rejected from UMass-Amherst and then accepted to NYU, but stranger things have happened. I'm hoping that GSU sends me an acceptance, but since I've already been down this road before, I'm preparing for the worst (while, naturally, hoping for the best).
In order to move forward with my life (or at the very least make a lateral move) I'm applying to teach English abroad in Japan. My SO is doing it, I want to have some semblance of independence, and I like travel. It's win-win-win.
Going back to the constantly getting rejected from PhD programs bit, I understand that the admissions committees are busy and I am but a floating speck of dust in the cosmic scheme, but why wouldn't there be some system of feedback for these things? It seems like it would be simple enough to provide some pointers on where an applicant could improve their packet. "Did not attend Ivy League school for undergrad," or "You're kidding, right?" or even "Lack of formal academic training in Communication/Media Studies makes candidate unsuitable for program." As I've mentioned before, I have a lot working against me, so I'd like to know what it is that is keeping me out of the big leagues.
This is what I get for not being much of a planner, I suppose.
I'm not sure if any of you listen to Fleet Foxes. They're my go-to shower singalong music, though my boyfriend calls it "weird monk music." He listens to rap. Artistic differences, I guess. Anyway, their music really hits me sometimes whether comforting or not. I have a playlist on my laptop of music that I find grounding, and it includes songs like "I Can Feel a Hot One" and some others by Manchester Orchestra, a large amount of Fleet Foxes, a taste or two of both Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, and the like. I play that playlist when I study or do homework, or whenever I just need to get my sh*t together and calm down.
I was not accepted into the program at WMU. I found out on Friday by way of a letter that my dad read before me because it wasn't sealed. I can't say I'm surprised at this decision-- I had a feeling the day I returned home from Interview Weekend that there wouldn't be a place for me there. I respect this decision, because I don't think I was who they were looking for. I can't handle the constant party that their department seems to encourage. Being told that the current students go out drinking multiple times a week together is not something that I'm itching to be part of. As I whine about not wanting to party, I'm soaking in the fact that I'll be moving to Chicago in six months. I have an acceptance in hand from Roosevelt and an interview lined up with Elmhurst as well as campus visits to both next week.
That's right: Chicago!
I held Roosevelt up as my top choice, and now it's becoming real. I need to find somewhere to live. I know very little about living in Chicago, and I'll need all the help I can get. My family knows people all over the country and world, but somehow we don't know anyone in Chicago (well, I know a couple people my age there, but no one who could save me if I ran into trouble). I'm lurking on the City Guide thread for Chicago and all the rental sites I can find. I know Roosevelt has very easy access to all the train lines because it's right by the loop. They include a CTA Ventra U-Pass in tuition, though I don't actually understand how it works.
My limited experience in Chicago has always been great. I'm really excited to be living and going to school there, but there are so many issues I now face. Being rejected from WMU has set the ball rolling to the Windy City. Now begins a new journey filled with big decisions-- will my SO be able to move with me? Will I be working at the university or elsewhere? Where will I live? Will I get enough funding from the university to avoid major debt?
Where before I was comfortable in the excitement of not knowing, I'm now very uncomfortable in the excitement of decision-making. Here we go. Headphones in, chin up.
After being on this site for a while, I realized that applying to just one school made me one of the few, the proud, the...naive?
I felt confident about me decision until I logged on here and realized people were applying to 4..5..14!? schools. And I started thinking I might have screwed myself.
But then the news came -- I was accepted! To say I was elated would be an understatement.
To keep what could be a long story short: No, I don't advise just applying to one school even though it worked out to me, it's always nice to have a backup plan. But if just one school gets your blood flowing, you think it'd be a fantastic fit, and you realistically think you could get in, go for it! Don't let other people psych you out. You know you better than anyone else and this is your process and yours alone.
One was enough for me and I couldn't be happier with that decision.
Well, I've mostly gotten my voice back.
I've been trying to decompress and really work through my experience this past weekend, and I think I'm ready to write about it. I'm not going to focus much on the specific content of the three interviews because there are plenty of forums and threads that contain very accurate and helpful information on that. Go find it. Rehearse your answers in front of a mirror, and remember that you're being interviewed for a reason and not by chance.
Last Thursday, I drove to WMU. It took about nine hours, and I was hungry by the time I got to campus. My host picked me up, and we went off to the first social event and dinner. My host told me right away that the most important thing for the weekend was that I network with current graduate students and make them like me.
It was around this time that I realized that as much as I had prepared myself, I was in no way prepared for the other applicants or the current students. I'd spent hours reading my own resume and statement, the recent publications of the professors in the department and their CV's, and about the school. I even looked up the other applicants as best as I could-- but I didn't consider the current students. Looking back, I can't really say I could have know just how important it was going to be. So there I am, in my travel clothes (sweater and leggings- thank goodness it was even somewhat fashionable) in a pub/restaurant with a dozen other applicants and current students that outnumbered us. There I am, being dragged around by my host to another group of names and faces that blurred together almost immediately, and it's so loud I could barely hear the names in the first place. This person is mentored by Dr A, this one by Dr B, this one by Dr C. They study this, and that, and the other. They're from this location. Talk to him, now her, now her, now him.
I was able to eat maybe a third of the salad I'd ordered before it was taken by a server while I was being introduced to more people. I basically used by bourbon-and-ginger-ale as a teddy bear/ comfort object as I walked around. People kept asking me questions I'd failed to expect: "are you more traditional I/O or OBM?" Dude, I only found out about I/O a year ago. I don't know the difference. "So what organization do you want to work for?" Why would I know that right this moment? "So what's your specific focus?" Man, I'm an undergrad still. I'm here to narrow my present focuses, I don't have just one. (I'd decided not to tone my personality down for this process, which only bit me in the butt once and in a minor way. I also had decided to not lie or exaggerate much, which I think came in handy.)
It kept going on like that. I kept my head above water, barely. I smiled and clutched my drink and didn't react at all when I dropped my tiny straw. Trust me, it was very impressive.
My host was exhausted from pulling an all-nighter the evening before, and we got back to her apartment around eleven. She'd prepared her room for me to stay in, and she and her boyfriend had a futon in the living room. I didn't find it that weird, maybe because I use my bedroom as a guest room sometimes too. Anyway, we were only there for a few precious hours of sleep each night.
Friday was a Research Day from 8-5, which meant sitting in a lecture hall listening to current graduate students present studies they'd either recently completed (mostly dissertations) or that they were still working on. I'd missed breakfast due to a miscommunication, so I was sitting at around 12 hours without eating. I was able to speak briefly to a faculty member with whom I'd be interviewing the following day, and she went out of her way to compliment me on my personal statement. That did a lot for my nerves, but my stomach was not as easily quieted. We had a two hour break for lunch and around fifteen of us to a nearby bar/restaurant. We ordered and paid immediately, citing our slight rush. An hour went by, and our server hadn't returned. Another half hour went by, and we started to get nervous. We got our food exactly twenty minutes before we needed to be back in our seats, and asked for boxes. I loaded my untouched assorted veggies and hummus into a styrofoam container and sadly headed back to the lecture. We arrived late and had to stand at the back of the room until there was a break. I tried to pay attention to the data instead of my future dinner. We wrapped up the day and went right to the dinner location.
I could not make this up: after being seated and served our drinks, largely alcoholic, we were told by a member of the staff that their chef had quit and walked out about twenty minutes before we'd arrived. Hello, 24 hours without food! One of the students made the call to move to a burger joint nearby, so we all drank our beer/whatever as quickly as possible and I started feeling tipsy right away. We got to the other place, and the only thing on the menu I could eat (meaning that didn't involve meat) was a side order of fries. I tried to choke some down, but I lost the fight. At this point I'm basically speed-dating. A current student would come chat for a bit, leave, and another would take their place. I had some great conversations and learned a lot this way, all without having to stand (which was good because I felt pretty woozy). My host and I left around eleven, and we all went to sleep.
Saturday came, and with it came three interviews. I believe I was the only applicant with more than two interviews, which was odd. Also, I didn't know I'd have more than one-- I guess I assumed that I'd have some sort of panel interview? That wouldn't really make sense, but I hadn't fully considered it. Anyway, I nearly overslept. (By the way we are sitting pretty right at 36 hours since I've eaten. That's right. 36 very long hours.) I arrived to the "holding room," if you will, and nearly fainted from happiness when I was greeted by a full spread of bagels and fruit. Food, at last! I was the first interview of the day for Dr. A, so I actually only had time to eat a mandarin orange before our meeting but it was enough to perk me up for a moment.
My interview with Dr. A was very conversational, and they mainly focused on my personal statement and the variety. I've been in debate groups relevant to the constitution; I've competed in events revolving around medical knowledge; I'm a founding member of a theatre honors fraternity on my campus; I'm an election inspector for the State of Michigan. I was honest with them in that I just did things that seemed interesting and fun and kept up with all of it as long as I was able to. With some things, the involvement ended when I graduated high school, and some things still float in the background of my life. We talked for our allotted 40 minutes and were interrupted by someone telling us that their next interviewee was waiting. Dr. A was very straightforward in the dire lack of funding their department has, and this was a shock to me based on the department's reputation.
I went back to our holding room and finally got to eat my bagel! And another orange!
More networking while I waited for my next interview. By Saturday, I'd begun to bond with a few of the other applicants and the mood in the holding room was generally cheerful. As far as I know, no one really felt like we were competing directly with each other, and no one tried to hurt any other applicant's chances. The feeling I got was that it wasn't up to us, so why not be nice to each other?
My second interview, this time with Dr. B, was also conversational but this time focused on my work history and what each job has taught me about myself and how my experiences relate to I/O. Their office was frigid, so I hid my hands while attempting to maintain a sort of "power pose" and not fold into myself. Dr. B asked how I planned to fund my MA, and they too mentioned a lack of funding. Again, we ran out of time. In both cases, I was told that running out of time was a good sign.
Lunch was an array of delicious hot sandwiches made by the current grad students with cookies, chips, and some veggies. I was so excited about being able to eat normally that I definitely ignored the rest of the room for a few minutes while I ate. During lunch, the faculty holding interviews joined us and so, more networking. I still had another interview after lunch, so I made sure to take a short walk down the hall to clear my head after the business of lunch.
My third interview was with Dr. C, who had some serious structure going on. They had a list of questions, with 4-5 circled for each applicant. They asked me very specific questions that I sometimes could not answer due to lack of knowledge in I/O and OBM, so I did my best to supply information that was comparable. They stated that they didn't fault me for my lack of knowledge due to my school's absence of any I/O or OBM courses, and also mentioned that they were impressed with my ability to supply the other information to substitute. They asked how I planned on getting more to read, and I replied that I legitimately didn't think I'd be able to find resources on my campus. They stood up, went to a bookshelf, and chose a book. Next thing I know I'm holding a copy of Bringing out the Best in People: How to Apply The Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement by Aubrey Daniels. They said "here, borrow this and let me know what you think. It's my favorite starter book in OBM." So I'm thinking, okay, they forgot that I'm not local. I sort of said that it'd be great to read on the long drive home, and they just nodded and said "Yeah, okay." So, okay maybe they didn't forget, then. This book caused quite the stir once I returned to the holding room. No one else had gotten a book. The current students even seemed shocked. I am not putting any meaning behind the book, I'm firm on that. Even if it shows some connection made on a human level, I absolutely will not believe that it in any way predicts the decision to be made. Now, Dr. C also asked me about financing, and by this time I was expecting them to bring it up.
As I mentioned in the Venting thread, the lack of funding doesn't fit with the reputation, output of research, or the rather elite selection process (only 2-4 students are expected to be taken on this year). What's the issue? I'm not privy to the reasoning.
For dinner we all had a chance to change to slightly less formal attire (I posted a breakdown of the attire seen in the Interview Weekend Attire thread) and went to an amazing Indian restaurant where we had a buffet style dinner of so much delicious food, I never wanted to leave. The wine was flowing, and this time the faculty was footing the bill. Everyone was more relaxed now, and many current students began questions with "so now that interviews are over, I wanted to ask..." One thing I picked up on then was that some applicants began to change their stories slightly. They'd admit to having less experience in some matter, or that they had to retake classes to get their GPA where it is-- they became more human. This was when I became so glad I'd chosen to be straightforward from the start, because people noticed that my story remained unchanged. I showed the faculty the most professionally honest picture of myself possible, and so I would have no false image to maintain. Lying is a lot of work, and I have other things to focus on. I didn't hear of anything major that was lied about, but there were a fair number of applicants who hadn't been the most honest version of themselves until after interviews. I don't think that's evil by any means, but I did make a different choice.
After dinner, the grad students took us to a huge and super loud bar. I had bonded well with some people and stayed mostly in a group of five to ten applicants and current students. I had someone drive me to my parents' hotel around half past midnight after drinks and goodbyes.
On Sunday, I slept for nearly the entire ride home, showered, and fell asleep before dinner and slept until I had to get up for my 8am Monday class.
Overall it was a really valuable experience, but I kind of hope I don't have to go through anything like it again. I was hungry, exhausted, and always felt like I was about to be late for something. I expect to hear back by the end of the month, and made sure to send out all the thank-you notes on Monday evening. I've gotten three responses out of the five notes sent, which is decent.
I suppose that's all for now, folks.
You know the drill: ask and I'll answer!
So now we seem to be a bit more sequential in my blogs. I've arrive at Indiana State 4th, which was also my 4th application to submit. The University was never on my radar, it was the result of NYU sending me the solicited application for their Technology Management program. I was typing Technology Management PhD into my Google search box automatically filled "online." Indiana State popped up. It's actually a consortium program that includes Indiana State (obviously,) Bowling Green, East Carolina, North Carolina A&T, and Central Missouri. You do select a home campus, however your tuition is billed by the institution teaching the class. There is also five specializations for the degree (which seems to be unique and I found very interesting). I was forewarned that sometimes it can get a bit messy registering and paying bills (as your are billed by whichever institution you are taking a particular class with). However, I found the folks I talked to turned out to be some of the most helpful. The program required 5 LORs (which seems unusually high compared to everywhere else that I applied). At this point I'm in a holding pattern waiting to see where I end up - I think that this could end up being my first choice program. TBD.
I received word on Tuesday from the University of Wisconsin at Madison that my application to their Communication Arts - Media and Cultural Studies PhD was rejected. This was disappointing (I ate a pizza and watched The Flash in my darkened room after work, which I'd have done anyway, but that's not the point) but wasn't a huge surprise to me for a few reasons. The first reason was that their MCS division had been shrunk significantly in the previous years and only had about half of the spots available of the next smallest program. This is a trend in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) as higher education is being gutted (as it is nationwide). This is particular to the humanities and, to a lesser extent, the social sciences.
Now I can prattle on about neoliberalism and the commodification of education in the United States, but I'd rather talk about myself. So, additionally, I suppose I may not have been the best fit for my prospective POI, despite the interest I perceived through our email correspondence. It could have been my abysmal undergraduate GPA (3.06. Never enter college thinking you'll be a doctor when all you made were Bs and Cs in science and math in high school. As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a planner.) or the fact that my two MAs had nothing to do with communications. Whatever the reason, they didn't want me. So, now I wait for the remaining six to render their judgment.
I continue to have Rambo-esque flashbacks of last year when I got completely shut out.
To paraphrase Frank Reynolds: "Wisconsin drew first blood!"
On this past Thursday, I came home with a plan to nap. Spoiler: I did not nap.
I checked my email, and found one from the director of the IO MA program at Roosevelt University, informing me that I had been accepted into the program. He had forwarded his decision to the Office of Admissions, and wanted to tell me now because they have someone new in Admissions and it may take a bit for the University's materials to get to me.
I yelled for my boyfriend, who came running because he thought I was hurt (whoops, sorry) and after I told him the news and that I was uninjured (if a bit lightheaded), we called my parents. Their reactions were so typical-- my dad in the background saying "see, I've always told you how smart you are" and my mother going right for, well, a more shallow topic involving appearances.
So, this is really cool. My first acceptance! I'm not a complete failure/ idiot/ garbage person!
RU's program is bigger than WMU according to SIOP with an average of 25 students to WMU's 7. Granted, RU has more faculty and internships to accompany research positions, so the higher number makes sense. The program director, in our emails since Thursday, has expressed that they are excited about the possibility of having me in their program. I know that's why anyone would be accepted in the first place and isn't unique to me, but it makes me feel pretty good. He also called me a "colleague," which was weird but cool. I still feel like a kid sometimes with this, and I keep forgetting that a lot of these people see me as a real person with value and purpose. What? Nah. There are a few faculty members who research things I'm interested in, but I only have some limited contact with one who I know through my advisor at my current school. Turns out that they worked together in the late seventies and early eighties, so I did my best to reach out to this professor not long before sending in my application materials. Again, I've exchanged only a few emails with him and the most recent email from him reminded me about the competitive nature of their assistantships. I found that a little odd, but I believe it was well-intended. If I understand the meaning of "POI" correctly, then I have none anywhere and didn't know it was even a thing. So, that's probably not helping me, but I can't yet tell if it's hurting anything.
When I told my mom the news, one of her first questions was if I'm going to decline my interview at WMU. This shows again how unfamiliar my family is with the entire process. The funding decisions won't be made by RU's IO department until the middle of Feb, and the University itself makes separate scholarship and funding decisions mid-March. I'm not going to risk anything by removing myself from WMU's applicant pool. The theme of this blog (and my life) is that I don't know what I'm doing, so I'm not about to make any cocky decisions.
Speaking of that interview, it's coming up quickly. I'll leave home on Thursday morning, drive the whole day with one or both of my parents, and arrive in Kzoo early evening. I'll have time to pack tomorrow, though I still have no clue what I'm going to pack. (Why are all of my adult-y, nice clothes mainly black?) The events are scheduled in tightly over the weekend, and I'm in the dark about how it works. How many other people are being interviewed? Who am I up against? Who pays for my meals while I'm there? Will my host have me in a bed or on a couch? When will the decision be made, and what of funding? Will I like the people and the campus? Will they like me?
I know toddlers have a reputation for asking endless questions, but I'm pretty sure I could ask more right now.
WMU: Interviewing this coming weekend
RU: Accepted, funding TBD
And as always, let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. My next entry may not be until after the interview unless something happens. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a good week going forward, and good luck.
I still haven't heard anything from any of my programs, but that's more or less to be expected. At least until the first week of February or so.
In the meantime, I shall provide for you a playlist of songs to listen to while waiting. This is best enjoyed while waiting for admissions committees to render decisions, for pizzas to arrive, for the triage nurse to call you up, or waiting for the world to change (that song will, fortunately, not be featured here).
1. Elevator Operator - Courtney Barnett (For when you're having those existential issues)
2. Waiting Room - Fugazi (I am a patient boy, I wait, I wait, I wait.)
3. Can't Get Enough of Myself - Santigold, B.C. (Want to feel good about something for once? This is the song for you while you're waiting and falling down the pit of self.)
4. MFN - Cibo Matto (For when you want some weird and awesome background music to a panic attack)
5. Gimme Love - Sleater-Kinney (Imploring admissions committees to send a placement and 4-5 years of funding your way)
6. Keine Lust - Rammstein (For those times when you just can't)
7. Hawks and Serpents - The Sword (For those times when you need to destroy everything in your path)
8. School Spirit - Kanye West (For those times you regret spending an enormous amount of money on college and have nothing to show for it)
9. Bassem Sabry - Of Montreal (For your dark and violent funk)
10. Careless Whisper - George Michael (Pro: This will chase out all the bad thoughts. Con: It will replace them with saxophones.)
11. This Could Be Us - Rae Sremmurd (For when you get rejected)
12. Dance Yrself Clean - LCD Soundsystem (For when you have nine minutes to kill and no one is around to watch you sway to the rhythm)
When I started looking for Doctorate programs, this was the one that started the search. Having spent 15 years in banking a PhD in Personal Financial Planning seemed to be a perfect compliment (despite working on the commercial/lending side). Tracking down someone to talk to was difficult. The department chair was out on leave. The program admin/coordinator took some time to respond. The program required a 10 page statement (ugh) and while the application required a writing sample, I would later be told it wouldn't be reviewed. The admin also retired partway through the semester so I got no guidance on items going in (the application required electronic copies of transcripts, not all of which I had). When I spoke to the graduate admissions department I would be told that I didn't need to send official transcripts unless I was admitted (but the department told me I did). The program seems very well structured despite being formatted for distance with residency. I'm starting to think a lack of assistance and accessibility is more the norm than the exception. This was also the first program to send a decision (declination). It was a bit of a rub where there were grammatical errors in the rejection, most of which I wanted to correct and send back. So far I've restrained myself.
So for my second entry I'll be reviewing the NYU application process. NYU was nowhere on my radar, nor was a PhD in Technology Management. After taking my GRE (my GMAT scores that I used for my MBA/MADIR were awful) and scoring in the top half to top third I got a free application offer from NYU. After looking at the program I thought it might be a fit and at no cost - I was ready. While the price tag is staggering compared to many programs I looked at - I figured I would see where it would take me. It also seemed like a natural fit to my career (banking) and my earlier education. Proposed research surrounded retraining and compliance in an industry being heavily influenced by technology and the use of technology for sustainable development in Latin America. The process was straight forward and easy. I did reach out to the chair/head of the program via email - it went unanswered. I reached out to the administrative manager via email and phone call. They both went unanswered. I reached out to someone who had appeared to have a supervisory capacity (thought their title has changed on the website) That email also went unanswered. I reached out to an alum who adjuncts in the program who gave strong insights and also connected me with a current student. The student got me in touch with a professor who was quite helpful, thought not a research match. Their research seems to fall into three areas, I'm guessing largely due to having three research faculty. Since the program resides in the Tandon School of Engineering (the former Poly) I'm unsure what the requirements will be for admission. It seems to be quite a small program, but carries the NYU brand. At this point I'm just waiting to see where things may go, thought the process was a bit disappointing in terms of response/accessibility of faculty and administration.
I've done this before. The application process, not the blogging (though I have done that too).
I'll interrupt this digression with another: I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Russian, a Master of Arts in Russian and Eastern European Studies and a Master of Arts in Slavic Studies. This is important to know because not only did my academic career diverge in the middle of my undergraduate years, it did it twice within the final days of my terminal graduate degrees. This could be indicative of a character flaw (mercurial, prone to boredom) that might be useful if I were more intelligent or creative. It could also be indicative of a lack of self-awareness and insufficient research before making potentially life-changing decisions. I would agree that I suffer from many of these faults. I think the nicest way I can sum it all up is that I'm not much of a planner.
I would, however, argue that I have made it this far (I have two MAs and I work at a big-box retailer. Dreams do come true!) and that I'm relatively young, so I can always go teach English abroad and conveniently lose my passport. So far that's the best escape plan I have for avoiding the massive amount of student loan debt I have.
ANYWAY. Like I said, I've done this before. I applied to about 8 Political Science doctoral programs thinking that a thesis combining Russian Studies with the study of Popular Culture would help admissions committees overlook the fact that I've taken about two Political Science classes in my life and had no one in the field writing me letters of recommendation. I don't suggest doing this. My mistake was convincing myself it was a much more interdisciplinary field than it in fact is. That, and basically not being suited in any way to attempt to enter it. Consequently, I got shut out. My advice is to talk to people in the field you're interested in before investing a lot of emotional and literal currency in a lengthy and arduous admissions process.
I've apparently set my entire life up to be mostly a long example of what not to do in almost any given situation.
But new things! Exciting things! I found out there's a whole area of study for people who are so institutionalized that they can't imagine not being in an academic setting, but also watch an enormous amount of television and like to make connections between television programs and things that aren't television programs (There really are only the two things).
This time I emailed prospective advisors in advance (!) with a description of my research and a follow-up question as to whether I'd be suited to their program. Almost every single person I emailed responded positively, and a couple who didn't pointed me in the direction of others whom I might be able to work with. Oh, I suggest doing this a few months before August (Late May-Late July). This will be after the chaos of the end of the spring semester and before the chaos of the beginning of the fall semester. Some people didn't reply at all. I still applied to that program because it's a good fit, but I'm not holding my breath.
That's that, then. I'll keep you updated with results from this season's hottest admissions process. As of yet, I have no news.
Let's start with the first application filed for this post.
Wilmington - Offers the lowest ranking of the programs I applied to. It is a DBA program (that should in theory focus on practice more than research) that could be attractive should I opt to remain in banking. It also offered the easiest application process. There was no GMAT or GRE required. It required a 2-3 page statement, 3 references (handwritten), and transcripts. I hit some snags with the program (I was applying prior to my MBA and MA being conferred, which I was told wouldn't be a problem - it was). I went through the process of tracking down recommendations, transcripts, etc. to be told that they would hold my file until conferred. Mind you I had rushed to submit this application (ahead of other programs I'm potentially more interested in) because I was told the cohorts fill quickly based on the rolling admissions. I pushed back with the University due to the conflicting responses I had received and was sent up the line to someone else who told me they would go ahead and score my application. This was offered with a big BUT. They have 4-5 interviews scheduled for the remaining 3 or so spots. I've received an invitation for an interview, but it appears I'll be hoping for someone to defer if I get through this process. I'll be in Wilmington on 2/3 to see what unfolds. I'm not hanging it up yet. It could be an interesting program and maybe it'll work out?
I've never been one to sit back and wait. It's frustrating and feels distant. I'm nosy by nature, and I figure that my future university should know me as well as possible anyway. I think the universe is tired of me nosing around, because things just started moving really quickly.
I've seriously applied to three schools, grudgingly to one, and have more casually submitted partial applications to others. Let's talk about me as an applicant in general, first.
I'm female, 21 years old. I'm Hispanic and from a military family. I have a "learning disability" that seriously impacts my life.
I have a good employment history with occasional promotions, and have worked at a large bank for the past two years.
I've been named to the Dean's List 6/7 semesters, but my first semester of freshman year (the time I was not named to the Dean's List) was also when I was going through the testing and diagnosis process for my aforementioned disability. I currently have a 3.6 cumulative GPA and 3.8 Psychology GPA.
I studied using Kaplan's 2015 GRE prep book and took the GRE this past November. I received final scores of V: 162/ Q: 152/ A: 4.5. I found the book and accompanying materials helpful, and used the Kaplan GRE Vocab app on my phone to go through flashcards frequently.
My minor is Communication Studies, but I've also taken courses on Criminal Justice, Business, and am a student researcher in a Neuroscience Lab on campus. I was in a community musical theatre company from ages 5-18. I talk way too much. I'm from a rural area in Michigan, and have gone to my hometown University. I have no family history of graduate education, and am a second-generation American.
Great, moving on. Next, schools.
First, there's Western Michigan University. Though it's in MI and I'm in MI, it's farther away than my other schools. WMU does have in-state tuition, which I obviously qualify for.
I've applied to their IOBM Masters program, but they also offer a PhD. According to SIOP, they accept an average of 7 students into the IOBM MA each year.
On 1/11, Western called to offer me an interview for their program, and the weekend event is Feb 4-7. I will be hosted by a current grad student, but because I'm a wimpy scared baby my parents will be driving there with me and staying in a hotel nearby during the interview weekend. I mean, they offered, I'm not about to say no to anyone offering to keep me company on a long road trip!
My academic advisor knows one of the professors in I/O at WMU, and thinks I'd be a great match for her.
Western seems to have a great program, and I've heard only good things from the few current students I know. I'd be able to get a nice apartment for a very reasonable rate, and staying in the state is nice for insurance and blah blah blah. However, the city of Kzoo is less than perfect for I/O, and my current employer does not have a presence in lower Michigan so I would not be able to remain with the company, no matter what.
Oh, and as I was writing this I received the detailed schedule of interview weekend. It seems that IOBM, BATS, and BA will all be present. Also, my grad student host just emailed me, and she's under the impression that she has to pick me up from the airport. Like I said, I'll be driving. Whoops! Someone gave her some bad intel, friends.
Next on my mind today is Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. I've applied to their I/O M.A. program, and am currently working on getting my LoR gathered for the separate application for graduate assistantship and scholarships. RU does have a PhD as well.
My employer has solid presence in the Chicago area, and I would very likely be able to transfer to a convenient location and continue my part time employment while attending RU-- especially because RU holds classes in the evenings. My advisor is "old friends" with one of the IOBM professors at RU, and I'm emailing him back and forth to arrange a time when we can skype or chat on the phone. That'll be sometime next week.
Now, a little update. I logged on to my applicant account for RU, and today there was a new document required: official college transcript with degree. Since I haven't graduated, that's difficult to provide and the application for assistantship is due Feb 1st. So, I called their admissions office. More confusion. I spoke to a woman who was very confused about my undergraduate transcripts, and after some investigation she realized that my records were weird because my application is already pending a decision. WHAT. Like, excuse me, hold on, no. What?
So I expressed my shock to her, but she assured me that I should proceed with the assistantship app as I am. I asked some questions about sending in my LoR, all good. It'll save me some postage the way I'm doing it anyway.
I have to mention: I have a feeling about RU. For some reason I am drawn to their program, and feel like it would be a great fit for me. My limited exposure to Chicago has been wonderful, and weather isn't a concern of mine. It would be a huge change, but I'm not afraid of that.
The third serious application I've sent is to Elmhurst College, just outside Chicago. Their I/O Masters is highly rated by SIOP and within my preferred application area.
Elmhurst doesn't seem to have an application fee, but they also seem to have extremely limited funding opportunity and no graduate housing resources. Their application process has been the most strange so far. I've been told I sent my GRE scores to the wrong office and that I'd have to pay to resend them only to have the scores found in the correct location later. I've gotten rather curt emails from their admissions office, and later was contacted by the assistant directer of admissions who asked me to send further correspondence directly to him. Checking my email just now, I found a new message asking me to activate my Elmhurst Technology Account that I've just been issued. What in the world does this mean? Why do I need this? Have I been quietly accepted, and the emails were sent in the wrong order?
Besides, I haven't even sent my LoR to them yet.
Let's recap this, because my head is spinning and a lot has happened today.
1. Interview at Western. My host for WMU interview weekend thinks she needs to pick me up at the airport, even though I've indicated that I'm driving.
2. Roosevelt already has me listed as "pending" a decision to accept or reject me, and the application for assistantship/scholarship is due Feb 1st.
3. Elmhurst issued me a Technology Account that leads to a "campus portal" and the email said that they hope I "will be an active member of the Elmhurst College community," but I haven't even sent them my LoR yet and haven't been officially accepted or rejected. Confusing.
Today has been REALLY weird. I think there's Netflix and wine in my near future.