Gearing Up for Grad School

Midterms ended last week and I finally found myself with enough time to begin looking at graduate school application requirements and officially begin the process of applying. I’m hoping to earn a master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education (also given “Higher Education and Student Affairs,” “College Student Personnel,” or similar titles at various institutions). Currently, seven programs have found their way onto my list, mostly thanks to this handy search tool on the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators website.

Seven is a little high in terms of number of potential schools, so I may eliminate one or two from my list over the next couple of weeks, but at this point I feel content with the programs I’ve selected.

At this point, the most stressful components of the process are requesting letters of recommendation and crafting personal statements. All of the people I asked to write letters for me accepted, but one graduate-level instructor of mine pointed out that she might not be as credible of a reference as a tenure-track faculty member because of her professional status. Thus, I’m trying to decide which tenure-track instructor(s) to contact and what to do if they say “no.” In reality, there’s a good chance the ones I’m considering asking will do it without hesitation, but I’m trying not to be over-confident; it’s always good to have a backup.

The personal statement piece is mildly terrifying as each school wants something a little different and, though many list content requirements, there’s not way of knowing what they’re really looking for. “Personal statement” is a very ambiguous term. How personal? Do they want to hear more about my coursework and professional qualifications or the life experiences that led me to Student Affairs. There are so many things to consider!

Fortunately, as I’ve gotten to know many Student Affairs professionals at Miami this semester (and had the privilege of meeting with most of them!), I’ve gotten a fair amount of reassurance about my readiness for graduate school. Each meeting quells my anxieties a little more, but I’ll probably be (at least a little) on edge until next spring. Still, no amount of nerves can overshadow my excitement at the fact that I’ve waited for two years to do this and it’s really happening!!

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