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Ah, graduate school. It’s one of the futures that Agnes Scott College likes to brag about to prospective students. To be fair, ASC has good reason: many Agnes Scott alumnae go on to get higher degrees, and women’s colleges in general inspire proportionally more students to continue their education than co-educational counterparts.

In this economic black hole that recent alumnae, current seniors, and at least juniors are facing, graduate school seems like a tempting alternative to facing a sparse job market. So you know, you are not the only person who has had this seemingly marvelous idea. When I applied to Yale University’s English Ph.D. program, I received a rejection letter letting me know that I had been one of 10,400 applicants. There are a lot of people out there trying to get an advanced degree, and I was one of at least 10,000 people interested in a doctorate in English literature.

Applying to grad school is an incredibly exhausting experience. (For the moment, let’s neglect that grad school itself is even harder.) Applications involve a lot of scrambling for transcripts, recommendations, sample work, resumes, and personal statements. Every element of your application requires you to place your fate in the hands of others, and I thought it was rather frightening!

In many ways, it’s for the best that I wasn’t alone. Many writing center tutors have helped Phoenixes struggling to pitch their inestimable value to their dream program in 1000 words or less. I also came in for tutoring, and talking to someone about my ideas and interests who had nothing to do with them was the most fruitful thing I did for my application. I needed to talk to someone.

Applying to graduate programs was an incredible experience. There are so many “correct” ways to apply, so many mistakes to avoid.* Cashing in on the sheer amount of fellow applicants can be invaluable. There were a lot of people like me, and the more I talked to people, the more practical information I learned and harnessed for my own application. I found communities of applicants on the internet frequented by previously successful applicants who were there to answer questions and review materials.** The networks of students and professionals here at Agnes Scott who will be more than happy to help you with your application are invaluable. Talk to them. Ask many detailed questions. Find answers.

But still, while I was working with all this process, I kept in mind that I was doing this because it was what I wanted. It was important to me that I stay grounded in my goals and interests, and without staying grounded, I don’t think I could have earned my acceptance to Boston College’s M.A. program in English Literature. I am looking forward to the hard but fascinating work that motivated me to apply in the first place.

 

*Personal lesson: You are supposed to waive your right to see your letter of recommendation.

** http://community.livejournal.com/applyingtograd

http://www.thegradcafe.com
Shannon
3/31/2010

congrats Savannah!!

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