As an aspiring professional, I just want to find that big break. That one city, that one job and that one academic program that'll further my goals in making an impact on the world. Yes, I sound like the stereotypical millennial. But I like many people my age, work continuously to get to where we want to be. Whether it's for the success or the impact that we make, it's a need for progress. And as a person trying to finance a graduate program, it's hard to continue. Here are some of my tips for those of you out there in the process of applying, accepting, and potentially going to graduate school.
1. Know what you want to do.
Whether it's Russian Literature or a fellowship working to cure cancer, find something that you won't mind spending more time, money and valuable career building resources on. I have personally known what I wanted to do since I was in high school - tell people's stories. Whether that was through journalism, forensic anthropology or social documentation (all of which I've considered pursuing), I knew what I wanted my work to do. The medium or field in which I tell stories is pertinent but not set in stone. Know where your passion lies and follow where it takes you.
2. Apply to EVERYTHING.
I know, I hate writing statements of interest and project proposals. I'm looking for a Master's program which, while competitive, isn't as complex as say PhD programs or MD spots. But you'll regret not applying. Most schools have a limited period of application especially if they only admit new candidates yearly. If you are dedicated to continuing your education and career, it's a small sacrifice to reach out to recommenders and edit applications to perfection. There are also fellowships, scholarships and funds available through application. Of course, it's hard applying to everything all at once; you may be short on cash or have little time because of work or school. Do everything you can and hope for the best. And pat yourself on the freaking back because you just did something very difficult and self-reflecting.
3. Be willing to compromise.
I say this because there are certain factors which may make one school more worth it than another. Depending on what your requirements are for a program, a program slightly tweaked from the exact expectation that you have could be worth it. I know that a lot of my choice has to do with financing my education. While there are loans available to me, I don't plan to go 50 thousand dollars in debt. I want my graduate degree to be worth both the experience and the economic impact. So if there are some programs you're impressed by offering you more funds and opportunities than your dream school, consider switching up your plan.
4. Make the best decision for you.
I was accepted last year to the Master's in Visual Anthropology program at the University of Southern California. However, I didn't end up going for financial reasons. While I was disappointed that my professional endeavors were paused for a year as I took this time off instead, it was ultimately the right decision. I've lived on my own and have been bettering myself and my professional prospects. I had time to relax after a stressful four-year program and recuperate. It would have been hell continuing my education without a break. So know that you owe no one for your success and do what is best for you. You will get that dream job, dream city, and dream academic program.