As I finish up my last few months at Kutztown, the impending doom of graduate school lingers. Seriously though, I’m extremely excited for grad school, but the unexpected is intimidating. Deciding to go to grad school is a choice where there isn’t a right or wrong answer—you go or you don’t go. I think that adds to its scariness, but I digress.
I applied to 7 grad schools for this fall. In retrospect, I should have applied to more. If you’re planning on going to grad school, keep your options open. I can’t stress this enough. Apply to as many schools that you financially and morally align with during an application cycle. In reality, you won’t get into all the schools you apply to. Honestly, you’ll probably get more rejections than acceptances. That’s just the way it works, unfortunately. You can increase your chances of getting accepted by applying to as many schools as possible.
Another thing I wasn’t prepared for is application fees. At the low end, you’re looking at $50. Most application fees are around $75-$110, depending on the school. Say you’re applying to 7 schools like I did, and the average application fee is $75. That’s easily at least $450. Most potential grad students apply to at least 15 schools in a single cycle, which is an average of $1,100, give or take. Luckily, there are ways to get fee waivers. I was able to get one for one of my applications because I went to the open house (always go to the open houses, even if they do not explicitly use a fee waiver as an incentive). Not only was this a very thoughtful gesture, but it alleviated some of the stress I was feeling about the financial obligations of applying to grad schools.
Being an English major and a writer, I applied to 4 M.A. in English programs and 3 MFA in Creative Writing programs. If you’re interested in getting your MFA, be warned that MFA programs are hard to get into. I don’t think I’m getting into any of the programs I applied to. Not because I think I’m untalented, but because they are extremely selective, with some incoming classes being as low as 8 students. So, an MFA may take longer to get due to it being complicated and just simply difficult.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get into your top school(s). It’s almost never about a lack of talent or intelligence, but how you align with the school. If you want to focus on 18th century British Literature, that’s amazing, but there may be someone at the school that already specializes in that area. Try to find a niche that is unique, yet fits with the school. If the school has an emphasis on social justice, apply that to the specialization you’re interested in, but make it fresh and individualized. Additionally, a lot of schools will reject you if they think another school will accept you, so that is another reason to be rejected. Of course, there are countless reasons why a school could reject you, but a mindset to have throughout the process is that everything happens for a reason. What’s yours will find you.
Applying to grad school is an emotionally, financially, and mentally intense experience. Rejections hurt and will make you question your worth, career, and even intelligence. You’ll probably have many mental breakdowns and shed lots of tears; but, the excitement and validation of getting accepted is the best feeling in the entire world.