Bumping this thread once again.........
I graduated from a big-name, private school in California with a BA in geology and a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2011 with a 2.9 GPA. I had many wonderful experiences an undergrad (work experience in my field, 3+ years of research, building amazing relationships with professors and community activists) but I was never able to pull my overall GPA up over a 3.0. I was dealing with major depression, burnout, coming out of the closet (oy) and family issues/parental pressure throughout my undergrad...there were some days where I just couldn't find it in myself to fucking get out of bed, and I was always really afraid of getting help (stigmas associated with mental illness is no joke) until well after I graduated.
I beat myself up for a very long time about what I did and didn't do during undergrad, but I now realize that it was 1) a (majorly expensive) learning experience that has made me a stronger, better, smarter human being and 2) that there are things that I needed to take care of (like taking care of myself and finding out a career path that would allow me to combine my passions for science, EJ, social theory, and cultural studies) before I embark on a fantastic voyage through Graduate School and Academia.
[in retrospect, I wish I'd taken a semester or two off to just chill out and figure out who I was outside of school. If I could have afforded it, I would have loved to have taken a few months to travel/volunteer somewhere and let my brain rest...]
Since then, I've had the privilege of interning at the National Park Service as a GIS tech (and presenting the work that I did there at a huge conference in my field--PM if you're interested in learning more about the program!), working in informal science education (continuing to work in the same programs that I did as an undergrad--I commute to my alma mater a couple of weekends a month) and working at a small environmental nonprofit organization where, despite our tenuous funding situation, I've had some great opportunities to meet amazing people (one of my mentors, a professor at a local college, wrote me a letter of recommendation), doing good work (environmental justice work in MY community, which feels gratifying), and figuring out what it is what I want to do in grad school (in a nutshell, study relationships between human adaptation to climate change + gender + water + human health + community organizing/social movements in urban environments).
I'm mainly interested in applying to programs in geography:
- IU: PhD, geography - after flying out to visit, getting a chance to see the city and meeting with EVERYONE in the department, it's my top choice!)
- UW-Madison: MS, geography - after talking on the phone with the person I wanted to work with--who said that she was impressed with my lab experience--for over an hour, definitely my second choice!
- Clark University: PhD, geography - I've contacted the people I've wanted to work with and read some of their books...they're feminist geographers and I love their work. Tie for second!
- University of Kentucky (PhD, geography - I feel like I didn't have as great of a rapport/feelings as I did about the first three schools, but I love their political ecology program and I'm a good fit for their department. Third choice!
I'm also applying to at least 2 other MS programs in forestry/watershed management/enviro studies/hydrology with later/rolling deadlines (right now, UConn - rolling). While I'm a great fit for those and I know I'd be getting some great skills in those programs (e.g. GIS, water law, biogeochemistry, fundamentals of forestry/social theory/etc. I missed out on as a physical science major)
My GRE scores aren't amazing (v160, q149), but I have:
- strong LoRs from peeps in related fields (geography is so interdisciplinary it doesn't matter that they're not officially "geographers"...technically, though, I guess 2 of them are physical geographers and 1 is a human geographer if geologists = physical geographers and polisci/human rights/cultural researchers = human geographers),
- mostly As and Bs challenging/interesting major and minor classes
- lots of interesting research & work experience,
- previous, meaningful contact with all researchers at schools that I've applied to.
I'm also an African-American, queer female in the physical/environmental/social sciences and applying to schools where low racial diversity is an issue (2 of my top schools are in small towns/cities in the Midwest). At least one of the schools I'm applying to is aggressively recruiting PoCs to rectify that lack of diversity. I don't really feel comfortable touting my "diverse" background in my application (I didn't at all in my SoP), but I casually inquired about diversity-related funding in my phone interview at UW-Madison and let my other departments know that I was definitely interested in being considered for funding opportunities aimed at increasing diversity in the field.
I guess if I get rejected to all of the schools I've applied to this year, I'll take a break from work to travel, drop $$ on one of those fancy GRE prep courses and maybe complete a GIS graduate certificate at Penn State (does anyone know anything about that program? It sounds interesting.)
So sorry for being long-winded, everyone! I just wanted to get some angst off my chest and share my story...hopefully it'll help someone else out there.
f you've read this post to the end, thank you! Here's to finding success and happiness in the new year!