Reflections on Applying to Grad School

Posted by Willa Kurland (SDA) on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 11:36 AM PST

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in the Westin hotel lobby in downtown Seattle. I was heading home from work (South Seattle College), and wasn’t going to make it home in time for my advising appointment phone call with Dr. Yamamura. While I wasn’t planning to hang out in a hotel lobby (because who does that??), I knew I could grab a cup of coffee and find a quiet place to talk on the phone. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m traveling—something I love.

I have been thinking a lot about the fact that exactly one year ago I had the opportunity to attend NASPA Western Regional Conference, which took place in the Seattle Westin hotel, and was the beginning of my SeattleU story. At the time I could barely imagine myself living in Seattle; the fact that I was applying to an out-of-state school was big. This time last fall, I thought I wanted to stay in California. I clearly remember telling one of my mentors, “I don’t think I see myself moving to Seattle...”

But here I am. I’m almost done with my first quarter and I finally feel like I have some sort of routine. Yes, it took eight weeks...and yes, it’s all about to change. Some days are harder than others, but I’m finding a new normal. I feel less like a fish out of water at work and I know (relatively) how much time I need to complete assignments for class. While I can confidently say I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome (it’s real, ya’ll), and most days I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, I know this whole grad school thing is helping me grow personally, professionally a[SK1] nd academically. One of the most important reminders has to been to be patient with myself and others.

Looking back, I’m so glad to be on the other side of graduate school discernment process, the ambiguity of where I’d be next was never easy for me. If you’re applying to grad school right now, I won’t tell you to “trust the process,” instead focus on embracing it. Embrace the process, the ups, the downs, and the what ifs…because a year later I kind of feel like I’m back to square one. I don’t know what classes I want to take, I don’t know which internships I want to do, or which state I want to live in next, but I can say I’m looking forward to what’s to come. However, something I appreciate about this program is the ability to cater our experiences to our goals.

So while it may seem like going to grad school means you know what you want to do, that’s not necessarily the case. Luckily, through conversations with my peers, my advisor, and my mentors, I’m reminded I can’t compare my experience to others—but by knowing myself and my areas for growth, and being willing to try new things, I can’t make a wrong choice. We each have our own challenges to face and experiences to embark on. This is true for both applying to and surviving graduate school. So here’s to each application, each informational interview, and every tough question that leads to the next phase of “figuring out what I’m going to do”. 

 - Willa Kurland (SDA)