GET ACCEPTED: 5 Considerations Before You Apply

This post highlights the importance of graduate education and why Pursue Higher Dreams is now focused on motivating Smart, savvy young professionals to leverage their impact by pursuing advanced degrees. Our strategy can be summed up in five concepts. These include: Vision, Viability, Versatility, Vulnerability and Being Vested.

In the next several posts, I will discuss each concept and how it relates to the process of getting accepted into a graduate degree program that’s right for you. While this approach definitely works at the schools I’ve attended, I would argue that it is very successful in almost any application or admissions context. However, I look forward to your comments and questions on how this topic applies to your unique situation.

Vision

The key to any significant life decision is to check your end goal. Despite what you may have heard, graduate school is NOT designed to be a “stop gap,” OR what you do between jobs or because you’re miserable in your current position. Graduate education works best when it is clear how that degree is connected to the next level in your career or life plan. The first question I often ask someone thinking about grad school is: ‘what is your vision one, two, five and ten years after graduation?’  Without addressing the degree’s viability in terms of launching you to your desired vision, it’s so important to have a clear vision of how a masters or doctoral degree will help you achieve the next step.

Vision is also important in terms of understanding the HOW of selecting a graduate program. By ‘how’ I mean identifying the key criteria or non-negotiables. For example, when I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology, I researched a wide variety of programs.  My one nonnegotiable was funding. I knew I was not willing to work, raise kids and be a doctoral student. This was because I saw so many people take 10 years to finish a program while juggling multiple priorities and a job. Therefore I ranked the ability to have tuition paid and a stipend as top criteria. Fortunately, the programs that have funding for their doctoral students are also high quality programs. Living in Chicago at the time, there was no shortage of competitive psychology program options nearby.

In addition, my vision expanded as I begin to research the programs with funding and learned more about the attributes of these programs and the lives of their students. I began to understand the culture AS a doctoral student at these institutions. So clarifying my original vision led me to a deeper understanding of  the culture and later the types of faculty mentors available. Knowing this before the application process puts the applicant at a significant advantage. By selecting this type of program, I was then highly motivated to prepare in advance for the challenge ahead. Additionally I was willing to risk the investment of time on the front end to have the funding resources later. This extra motivation also fueled my desire to have the doctorate in general. By the time I actually applied, I envisioned myself at the interview.

Lastly, vision fuels passion. Seeing it (even in your mind) is a step toward believing it. The more I read about each program and it’s key players, the more I wanted to know. Indirectly, there were other benefits to my newly discovered passion for knowing the “Who’s who” of my field. But that’s for a later topic. As my vision for the best fit in a psychology program emerged, my vision for the type of faculty mentor I’d want came into focus. In a doctoral program, developing a strong relationship with a mentor is significant.

Next week we will talk about the issue of Viability. How can an applicant determine the value of a degree or even a specific program before they apply and GET ACCEPTED? Stay tuned for next week’s post. Please like, comment or share this blog with anyone you feel would benefit from it!