Requesting Letters of Recommendation…the Right Way

When it comes to completing the graduate application process, one of the most important things I learned was to treat each piece of the application as if it is the only component that will determine whether or not I am accepted into a program. Personal statement. Make it the best piece I had ever written. The CV/resume should be without spot or wrinkle, formatted perfectly, as if that alone was my ticket in. Recommendation letters. Wait, do I really have control over these since a faculty member is writing it on my behalf? Of course you do! Continue reading

Writing an Amazing Statement (Tips from Someone who Survived)

I don’t know about you, but lately life has felt as if someone pushed the “forward” button and all of a sudden we’re in the month of October. And if you’re applying to grad school, you might be at the point when you are beginning to panic a little. Applications are due in 2-3 months from know and you might be asking, “How the heck am I Continue reading

Scariest Part of Graduate School

BOO! Image taken from http://www.hdwallpapersinn.com/haunted-house-wallpapers.html

BOO!
Image taken from http://www.hdwallpapersinn.com/haunted-house-wallpapers.html

TUITION! FEES! BILLS! Words scarier than the most blood curdling horror story for a graduate student.  I think the biggest concern for graduate students right after getting accepted, is figuring out how to pay for your new life as a burgeoning academic. It should come as no surprise that the pathway to higher education is never one paved in gold, with money trees and cash bushes lining the sides; the “poor college student” narrative tends to transform itself into the slightly more adult sounding “destitute graduate student” memoir. This should be looked at as an expectation, rather than a fear, however. There are ways of paying for it!

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Graduate School Discernment

At the beginning of my senior year, I happened to unfortunately be one of those soon-to-be matriculating undergraduates that didn’t know what they were going to do.  At the beginning of my undergraduate career, I knew the next 5 years of my life but of course, my path in life changed a couple of times that I never really made an updated 5-year plan.

I applied to various jobs sectors and when interviews never really felt “right”, I then looked into graduate school.  I actively asked my friends and family members what they were thinking and given what they knew about me, what did they see me doing (and more specifically what program).  I’m really glad that Continue reading

Graduate School? Talk to _____

Indiana University Bloomington (from iugradschool.blogspot.com)

There are some who already knew what they were going to do when they started their undergraduate career.  It took me, however, until my senior year.  Many of my fellow classmates were frantically going to job interviews, and I reluctantly went to a few, not knowing what my actual passion was.

It was not until I made a list of what was most important to me that I figured that graduate school should be on the list.  My family and friends always asked me what I wanted to do, and I always said, Continue reading

Going to Grad School vs. Entering the Workforce

Beach Ukelele Smaller version

A shot from Waikiki Beach during a Hawaii recruiting trip in Fall 2011.  Photo taken by Stephanie Nguyen.

I remember asking this question to different people–alums, faculty, and advisers– when I was a senior in undergrad.  Each answer I received was different from another.  In other words, there isn’t a right answer to this question, and it really depends on a few factors:

  1. The industry/field you are interested in actually NEEDS people with professional/higher degrees.
  2. If you want to teach in college.
  3. If you want to contribute original academic research.
  4. How burnt out you are from school (and yes, this is a factor!)

So the best answer for me was entering into the workforce.  I had a great time in college–I double majored (marketing and piano performance); I studied abroad; and I was very involved in clubs and student government.  But by senior year, I was a pretty burnt out.  To me, the idea of doing two to seven more years of school was as dreadful as getting my teeth pulled at the dentist.

I worked three years for my alma mater as an admissions counselor, and boy, did I have a lot of fun!  A few things I loved about working:

  1. There’s no homework!
  2. You get paid for your work!
  3. Saving (or spending) your new found paycheck!
  4. You can focus on your hobbies!
  5. Traveling on the company’s dime!
  6. Meeting new people!

Besides having fun, I learned professional skills like supervising, advising, and budgeting.  Most importantly, I learned more about myself both as a person and as a professional.  Personally, I used my free time to become a half-marathoner runner and to volunteer in the community.  Professionally, I realized that my passions lay in interacting and advising undergraduate students as well as understanding the process of running a university.  So, with the help of my current boss at the time, I decided that I was ready to apply for a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs.

So, I am a big proponent of working before going to graduate school.  To summarize, working for a few years will help you find direction in your life.  It will help you figure out if you truly want to go back to graduate school, and possibly help you figure out which academic field is the best fit for you.  Also, taking a few years off from school will help you appreciate academics more when you do go back to school.  Of course, having a paycheck doesn’t hurt as well!  Ultimately, though, this is a choice you must weigh based on many different factors of your life and your career goals.

So you have applied, now what?

Congrats you have sent off all of your applications. You have paid your fees and jumped all hoops. So one last question remains, now what do you do? There are two very different options. You can begin your preparations if you plan on moving in the summer. That is the fun and studious option. Personally I’d suggest you ENJOY THE END OF UNDERGRAD! wooo congrats you made it. The grades you will get the final semester will most likely not destroy your graduate school chances (although I wouldn’t suggest testing it). This is your chance to finally relax while still at your soon to be alma mater. You cant really specifically prepare for graduate school because you don’t know exactly where you are going yet and you don’t have the tension in your shoulders from getting piles of forms and transcripts together. Yes you are stuck in the blissful window of waiting. Reconnect with friends if you have been distant, find out what other people’s future plans are…or don’t. But whatever you do just relax and let your past efforts dictate your future. Good luck

And now your waiting? What to do next?

Now that you have sent in your application, you must be wondering what you should do next.  Double check with your school if you need to submit separate applications for fellowships and scholarships.  You will want to investigate these opportunities.  It’s a good idea to talk to faculty of your department to see what departmental opportunities there are to apply for.  Fellowships will provide opportunities for you not only to seek funding but also experience.  What is important about fellowships is that they allow you to be secure regarding funding and during your first year as a graduate student, you can explore other options if your fellowship is only awarded for one year.  If fellowships are not an option, begin looking for other financial assistance either through campus employment or working in the community if you are in need of funding while studying. Many schools and departments have research centers that may be looking for help.  Make sure to be exhaustive in your search.

If you have missed the deadline to apply for fellowships, create a folder and collect information for the next year.  Being prepared will help you keep a foot out front and have all necessary documents, recommendations, and information ready to submit at a moment’s notice.  If you are needing recommendations, do not procrastinate.  Professors will write you a better recommendation if they have time to prepare and not have to use a “canned” letter.

Stay tuned to next month about filing for a FAFSA.