Grad School, Opinions, Special Projects

Resisting my fears of graduate school

Graduate school is terrifying. Scratch that, the graduate school application process is terrifying.

Applying for college as a high schooler — a time when most of us have little idea of what we want to do with our lives, and where we want to do it — is scary enough. At some point in college, some of us realize we have to continue with our education even after we earn our bachelor’s degrees.

Students like myself, who decide to pursue a post-graduate degree, subject ourselves to reliving the application process that we experienced as high schoolers. Except this time, more is at stake.

This time around, I know exactly what I want to study and what kind of career I want, but I also want to study and work in a field that is pretty niche in the United States, which compounds the stress.

I have spent an absurd amount of time cross-examining graduate programs and their faculty pages, making sure the programs have competitive internship opportunities, and determining if the location of the program is close enough to the cities I need to be in for my future career (hello unaffordable metropolises!).

Not to mention, the application fees are higher than undergraduate fees. My personal statements need to be compelling without sounding obnoxiously arrogant, and my reference letters need to be written by professors who really know me (which is difficult, considering we’ve been attending college during a global pandemic).

After that, I have to measure my odds of actually being admitted into certain programs and if I can even afford them. Because — that’s right — graduate programs are more expensive and offer less financial support.

Considering everything I’ve just explained, this process should make me a panicked mess and completely devoid of hope. Some days, I am exactly that. As a first-generation student who knows only one person in my desired field, it’s impossible to not be wracked with anxiety about this process.

Yet, I remain hopeful and actually really excited about what the future holds, whatever that may be. The prospect of studying exactly what I want, in a city where I want to be, to pursue a career I am passionate about, propels me to overcome my fears of rejection and failure.

I am incredibly fortunate to have family members, friends, and professors who are supporting me through this process. My parents listen patiently when I ramble ad nauseam about the different universities I’m considering, and my professors do their best to answer the infinite questions I have about academia.

I am eternally grateful to every person who has given me a word of advice and lent a listening ear as I navigate this next phase of life. Thanks to the people in my corner, I haven’t given into the nerves I fight everyday in the application process.

Now, here’s to hoping I don’t lose my mind during the admission process.

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