2023 was the year that I finally got through applying to grad school! It has been a long, long journey to get here but I’m glad I persevered. I can’t wait to get started!
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Also, shout out to Kyle for keeping me calm through all the anxiety and the many, many essay drafts for that personal statement.
My Journey to Graduate School
I graduated college in 2018 (also the year I got engaged and married) but there was too much going on that year for me to even contemplate applying to graduate school…
I first considered applying to graduate school in 2019. While I’d contemplated going to graduate school before that (very loosely), the pain of my last two years of undergrad still haunted me. Even just the thought of having to write an essay for grad school would send me into a panic attack.
Since I wasn’t happy with my undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s in Elementary Education Studies), I was worried that I would make the same mistakes with my Master’s degree. My life had so much uncertainty while I was an undergraduate that it ended up declining my grades and college experiences quite a bit during my last two years.
While I still graduated with my degree, I was haunted by the other possibility (aka not graduating).
When I could finally think about grad school without anxiety, I couldn’t bring myself to pick which topic to pursue. Should I do a Master’s in education? In political science? Marketing? Museum studies?
Applying to graduate school was a hard decision. I had to face all the moments of college I was unsatisfied with, all the moments I could’ve done better, and the many times I felt let down. It took me two years before I finally wrote the essay and clicked the “submit” button on my grad school application.
Taking Advantage of Community College Classes
During those two years, I transitioned from a public library to a community college and decided to take advantage of the reduced tuition rates and take a few classes. I figured it would help ease the transition and help me tackle the mental hurdle of going from no classes into a graduate program.
While I was at the community college, I ended up taking around 8 classes throughout the 1.5 years I was there. I took a few classes on computer programming (C++ & Python), a few on data science (R & statistics), and a few on business (small business & management).
Applying to Grad School at UMD
After taking two semesters of college classes through the local community college, I was back to feeling comfortable in an academic setting (instead of dreading it, like I had for the first year out of undergrad). I was able to reassure myself about my ability to handle classes, especially since I was working full-time while taking these classes.
The experience of being in classes gave me back my confidence in being in an academic setting. It also got me back into the mindset of academic writing so, when I finally tackled my application essay, I felt more comfortable thinking about its purpose and drafting the “right” thing.
I knew that the application process would open in the fall and that the deadline was in early January. I’d written down the dates from the past year so I could plan for the application cycle I wanted.
In the end, I still ended up rushing a bit. Though I bought the GRE study books, believing I would need them to boost my low GPA and create a better holistic application, I ended up never taking the GRE.
After speaking to a few people, I decided to risk applying without it. Since my program didn’t require it and experience tends to be more valued in my field, I decided to spend time on maximizing my resume and crafting the best personal statement I could rather than taking the GRE.
Writing the personal statement was probably the hardest part for me. I would still be working on it if it weren’t for Kyle. He was able to provide an outside perspective on why I loved my field; turns out, he WAS listening to me when I ranted about various things at work and in the industry!
The deadline for the graduate school application was January 6 (ominous, I know) and I submitted it a few days before, on January 2.
Graduate School Decision Letter
I still remember the day I read the admission decision email.
In college, I got paper packets with varying thicknesses, letting me know whether I’d been accepted or not. For graduate school, the experience was a lot more digital.
I’d gotten up early that morning, around 5:30 AM, to hit the gym. When I finished tying my shoes, I grabbed my phone to leave the apartment and saw an email from the University of Maryland had come in while I was sleeping.
I read the subject line (“UMD Grad School – Decision Rendered”) and clicked on it.
It felt like time was moving slower as I went through all the login pages. I finally got to the decision “letter”, a PDF, and I started tearing up.
I’d been accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science program at the University of Maryland!
In the darkness of my living room, I declared my decision to attend the program. Since it was the only program I had applied for, there was very little I needed to contemplate. And then, I left for the gym. It was such a surreal morning.
What happens next…?
Well, lucky for you, it’s been a few months since I applied to graduate school …
… and a few weeks since I got a graduate assistantship!
That’s right! Not only will I be attending grad school but it will be full-time classes with an assistantship that’s 20 hours a week AND year-round (which means no tuition payments for me).
Let me know if you have any questions about applying to graduate school or the experience in general!
During college, my life was full of ups and downs and uncertainty. Now, life looks very different: a stable home life with my husband, with financial security, and a close-to-the-end immigration journey.
I’m looking forward to tackling my need for academic validation (lol) and exploring new research topics during graduate school! I hope I’ll be able to keep you guys updated better than I did during college. Let’s gooo!
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