grad school application blues

Here’s what I’ve learned about grad school so far: It’s a huge pain.

I’ve been researching graduate schools for a few months now, so I knew in my heart of hearts that applying would be a pain. (There have been more than a couple instances of remembering the nightmare that applying to undergrad was. So many deadlines, so many requirements, so many attempts to sell yourself as spectacular). But now that I’m starting to really get into the nitty gritty details of the application process, the reality of the pain that applying will be is becoming clear. 

Today I’ve spent a lot of time studying for the GRE and working on a personal statement. Both are challenging and frustrating in their own ways.

Here’s why:

The GRE is a test that is supposed to assess how well you would do as a graduate student. You’re supposedly being tested on your critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and analytical writing skills, which definitely makes sense, given the nature of graduate studies. There are many study materials available for the test, and I’ve been trying to spend time with them. However, I think there comes a point where you know what you know and you can’t do anything else to prepare. When it comes down to it, I’ll either know the words on the Verbal Reasoning section or I won’t. Not to mention that I haven’t taken a math class since my senior year of high school and I’ll be tested on algebra, geometry, and statistics in the Quantitative Reasoning section. (Can you tell that I’m bitter? I’m not looking forward to taking this test next week).

Personal statements are a whole different kind of overwhelming.  A personal statement is your only chance to provide the schools you’re applying to with something other than test scores and letter grades about you. Sometimes you only get as few as 500 words to convey your goals, your interests, and what drives you to pursue admission to whatever program you’re applying for. It’s such a challenge, especially for me. As someone who likes to consider herself a writer, I agonize over each and every word, wondering if the one I’ve used is the best choice. My personal statement is the one chance I have to give the faculty of the programs I’m applying to a glimpse into who I really am. 

I’m so much more than a test score or a 500 word essay. And so is each and every other person that’s applying to grad school (or undergrad, med school, or professional school, for that matter). 

But here’s the good news: When it’s all said and done, I’ll be one step closer to pursuing the perfect career path. So despite all the trouble it is to apply, it will be worth it in the end. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.