Let’s Do the Time Warp Again January 31st, 2008
Tonight I spent a moderate amount of time thinking about where I was last year around this time: CSSA Campus Days (the on-campus interview event) was but two weeks away and I was very uncertain about what would come from the months of writing personal statements, nagging references to finish letters of recommendation, and obsessive mail-box checking for big, thick envelopes bearing good news. The application process to graduate school all but consumed my life from October until March, when I finally received word that I had been accepted into all three programs to which I had applied (I won’t name names, but I will say one was located in New York City).
Up until that point, I assumed the hardest part of the graduate school application process was writing the Statement of Purpose (and trying to find different ways of writing “I like students”) and interviews (and trying to find different ways of saying “I like students”) – but boy, was I wrong! For me, the hardest part was sitting in front of three acceptance envelopes and feeling paralyzed with fear that I would make the wrong decision. Don’t get me wrong – I feel very fortunate that I had a choice to make at all – but as the decision deadline approached, I was thisclose to closing my eyes, pointing blindly at an envelope, and letting fate decide.
And it was not even about choosing between the programs – I can say without a shadow of doubt that the CSSA program was the best fit for me and my educational goals. But then there was the many other factors to consider – family, my partner, New York City vs. Corvallis, geographical location, climate, housing, resources, again, New York City vs. Corvallis… but ultimately, I knew that whether I went to the program that was one hour from home, six hours (OSU) or a whole lot of hours, I was still going to have the support of my family and friends, and that I couldn’t escape the rain even if I tried. And okay, I’ll admit that, yes, it sure would be nice to be living in Manhattan right now, but I’m pretty sure my GPA and bank account would suffer for it.
Without a doubt, it was a tough decision for me to make, but ultimately I knew that if I was going to make the commitment to go to graduate school, I needed to go where I could get the most out of the experience – I believe the expression is “Go big or go home.” The commitment to go to graduate school is by no means a promise you make with your fingers crossed behind your back. I have my whole life to live in a big city, to live in a region where galoshes are not everyday footwear, to be close to my family. These are by no means insignificant factors in any decision-making process, but I felt like I was using those reasons as an excuse for not pursue something because I was afraid I would fail.
It probably would not comfort any of you that I really do not have a point to all this (I rarely do) – just that I know many of you who read this are prospective CSSA students who might soon have a big decision on your hands. While now, a year later, I find myself happy as a clam here in the CSSA program, you have to chart your own course. I recommend any one who comes to Campus Days to really take full advantage of your time here – survey the town (it shouldn’t take but 10 minutes!), talk to current students and alumni, attend the information sessions, and find out if Corvallis or OSU offers what is important to you. For those of you unable to attend Campus Days next week, request to be put in touch with a current student or faculty member (if you haven’t already!) who can answer the questions you need to make an informative decision. We all have been through the same stress, anxiety and pressure you might be finding yourself in now and I feel confident that I can speak for my cohort that we want to help you find what is best for you.
Good luck in all your graduate school application endeavors and I hope to meet some of you next week!