Students Prepare for next level
Graduate studies require both time and dedication
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In the case of senior psychology major Leah Parker, the hardest part about applying to graduate school is deciding where to go.
“[First] you actually have to decide what you want to study, and that’s hard enough,” she said. “Then you have the pick of … all universities all over the world.”
Although she eventually decided to pick Eastern as her top choice for graduate school, Parker stressed the importance of researching every opportunity.
“It’s really important to find at least one faculty member in your department that you can go to with questions,” said Parker. “[Ask] your professors, because they know a lot more than you do.”
Tim Grassley, a second-year graduate student in the Eastern creative writing program, agreed. “I did lots of research on which school I wanted,” said Grassley. “I checked ‘US News & World Report’ and ‘Poets & Writers’ rankings, to learn about which schools were [good].”
According to Grassley, prospective applicants should be sure to give themselves enough time to apply. “You should start the process before the beginning of the academic term prior to which you want to apply,” he said. “[Then] you can finish the application and just tweak it. …it’s way less stressful.”
Grassley received his Bachelor of Arts in 2006 and initially applied for graduate school for the 2006-2007 academic year. However, he said he was not prepared for the rigor of the application process.
“The first time I [applied], the professors didn’t get [my letters of recommendation] in. I didn’t give them enough time,” he said. “I [didn’t] read [prospective] professors’ work. … [or ask] questions … as much as I should have.”
Lee Nilsson, a second-year graduate student in the Eastern history program, agreed. “After graduating from school, if you don’t get your [material] together quickly you’re going to get lost in the wilderness,” he said. “Self-delusion is powerful. The first time I applied, I applied to … too few schools … [and] they were [clearly] out of my league.”
Parker, on the other hand, feels prepared. She has spent her entire undergraduate degree preparing for graduate school.
“The process was planning my whole degree around not just graduating, but the classes I needed to do to get into graduate school,” she said. “Classes that aren’t necessarily required for your major, but [help] to get into graduate school.”
“I spent lots of time looking at papers professors at other universities had written, authors I liked and [thought] about [whether] I wanted to work with them,” Parker said. “You should be thinking about it from your junior year [if you want to go right after graduation].”
Michael Gerety, a senior music major who plans to study jazz composition, has been preparing himself since January. He explained that once he became serious about graduate school, his undergraduate experience changed dramatically.
“It changed my dynamics,” he said. “I don’t want to sit around and talk with people. I want to be in a room playing piano and writing. I’m focused on one year from now … getting ready to set myself up for the next 10 years of my life.”
Grassley and Nilsson, both of whom took time off between their bachelors and graduate degrees, spoke to the complexity of life outside of academia.
“After taking a lot of time off, getting back into rhythm was incredibly hard. I had to start reading a lot every day and writing every day,” Grassley said. “When you work a 9-to-5 job, your life is pretty defined. In graduate school, it gets messy again.”
Nilsson said that even though he did not get in the first time, he did not regret his experience.
“I moved to Seattle, I worked for Google, it just kind of happened,” he said. “You get to know different facets of life. By the time I got into graduate school, I was a lot smarter.”
“It’s good. There’s a lot of good to it. It feels a lot better than. … doing odd jobs that don’t inspire you,” Nilsson said.
Grassley ended with advice for future applicants. “There are really high numbers of applicants, and not as many people seeking traditional employment [now],” he said. “[Acceptance] is not something that will just happen. You really do have to try.”
“It’s not like you shift into coast mode. You have to … up your game.”