Graduate school: to be or not to be? Answering that question can be daunting. There are so many things to think about, including writing a statement of purpose, asking for letters of recommendation, and (hopefully) receiving acceptances. I am here to help share how I successfully navigated the turbulent waters of applying to graduate school.
Where do I begin?
It may seem early, but I started the summer before applications were due. I made a document with all the relevant information:
- who I wanted to ask to write letters of recommendations;
- each school’s application deadline;
- exactly what each program looked for in their statement of purpose; and
- the different application materials needed for each school.
I kept a separate document with research: current professors who taught courses I wanted to take, what assistantships the schools offered, and more. Research is important, especially when it comes to assistantships and assistantship deadlines—sometimes assistantship deadlines differ from the program application deadline.
Writing a statement of purpose should be easy, right?
The most important aspect I took away from the application process: write several (and then several more) drafts of your statement of purpose. When you think you have finished writing it, have someone else (a fellow English major or a mentor) read it and offer feedback. Then, repeat the process. This step made a crucial difference to my application.
What about letters of recommendation?
When asking professors to write letters of recommendation, ask them in advance (I asked professors in August), send them a current resume or CV, and remind them of projects you worked on together.
I submitted all of my applications, now what?
First, take a deep breath and celebrate all your hard work. Then, try to wait patiently for the next three months as acceptances (and, unfortunately, rejections) are sent out.
What if I receive only rejections?
I cannot encourage you enough to apply again and try not to take the rejection personally. Getting into graduate school is tough. Hundreds of other applicants vie for sometimes ten spots. For instance, the MFA program at Georgia College accepts only two or three (sometimes four) writers per genre every year. Several students in the MFA program at Georgia College encountered rejection the first time they applied, but were successful the second (or third) time around when applying. Do not give up! Take the next year to improve your writing, whether creatively or academically, whenever you find free time.
In hindsight, I am happy that four of six graduate schools that I applied to sent me rejections. If I had not been accepted to Georgia College and decided to go there, I would not have met the people in my cohort, I would not have taught the students in my freshman composition classes this past year, and I may not even have ever written the poems that I’m writing right now, because I would not have worked with Laura Newbern, who taught my poetry seminar this spring, and Marty Lammon, my thesis advisor.
Applying to graduate school is stressful and, at times, you may find yourself wondering why you chose to do it in the first place. I certainly asked myself that question three years ago when I started my applications. However, I learned a lot about my determination and my own strengths, especially when it comes to writing. The hard work paid off, and I would not change anything. Go forth into your own applications with courage, Deltans!