Take Two #76 Taking the next step to Graduate School
By Kyra-lin Hom
I want to start off by saying, my goodness, the weather has been gorgeous lately! An uncanny amount of sun, a bit of precipitation to remind us, yes, we do still live in the northwest – indeed, I do call that gorgeous. I get a little bit of downtime in the afternoon right after classes, and I've been spending it lounging in the back seat of my car with the windows down, sun and a soft breeze, a good book in hand until I inevitably have to leave for my next destination. Perhaps it's a little vagrant-like, but I enjoy it. It's not quite enough time for me to get anything done so it's the perfect excuse for a bit of lazy afternoon. A nice break from all the crazy, so to speak. What's the latest crazy, you ask? I'll tell you: grad school. I set my deadline, and it's fast approaching.
(To clarify for those who may be familiar with application deadlines, I'm applying for spring 2014.)
Preparing and applying to graduate school is a whole different ballgame than applying to undergraduate. Or at least it is for me. Back then I wallowed in the help of Mom. I was so busy with high school and extracurricular activities that I'd wake up for school in tears I was so tired. She took pity on me and basically managed my entire college application process. Once I knew what I wanted to study, we as a family picked out the schools I would apply to. All I had to do was write the essays and sign where Mom told me. She scheduled the campus tours, did all of the financial paperwork – everything. I can now say with absolute certainty that I did not fully appreciate how much she was doing for me. Doing this all myself is unpleasant at best and terrifyingly intimidating at worst.
I had one particularly terrifying moment when I realized a sister campus of my top pick grad school was being sued by its student body. That started a wonderful snowball of self-doubt about my future and just how well I knew what I was doing.
When applying for undergrad, I felt like I was embarking on a scholarly journey of intellectual discovery. I could do anything, be anything, and study whatever I found fascinating. It wasn't exactly a pragmatic game plan, though I wouldn't have listened if you'd told me so at the time. My aspirations were unrealistic not because I was reaching beyond my capabilities but because I had very little understanding of myself and what I thought I wanted. More specifically, though I knew what I could do, I didn't yet know what I was and was not willing to do in service of those goals.
In my case, I thought I could grit my teeth and bare the rat race that is the film industry. See, I love the artistry that goes in to writing and making movies, but I hate the social-political juggling you have to do to get yourself working on a film set in the first place. Turns out that when you begrudge the road you're walking on, you have a tendency to wander off for any excuse. It doesn't exactly make for quick or easy traveling.
That distinction between can and will cannot be overemphasized. Yes, I can probably become an astronaut if I want to. I am, however, completely and utterly unwilling to undertake that adventure. A personal pet peeve of mine actually is (and this will be ironic for a columnist) people who rant and rave about everything wrong with the world and then do nothing. I know and know of far too many people who 'know' how to fix the world but do absolutely zilch to implement their proposed solution. To borrow a buzz word, in America we're all about empowerment. But empowerment isn't thinking about change, it is actually making that change. What are you willing to do to empower yourself?
When facing down my graduate school options, I try to picture myself in ten and even twenty years. What are my best prospects with each program? What do I need to get there? And is any of that something that I am willing to do? I haven't made up my mind yet, but thinking through each option like this helps keep me from being overwhelmed. If you have any looming life decisions, give it a try. It certainly can't hurt. And the best part is you can even do this lounging in the sun.