Before You Apply #Versatility #GetAccepted (Post 3 of 5)


This month, I continue the theme of  graduate education and what to consider #Before You Apply.  This strategy consists of five concepts: Vision, Viability, Versatility, Vulnerability and Being Vested. Please go to the website to review the first two concepts and for more background.


Concept Review from last post: Viability

Consider: Is this program a viable option for ME?

Due diligence is selecting the right degree and the right program before you apply. The effort extended PRE-application will save you time and money once you are accepted. There is an ideal fit between your strengths and capabilities and degree program to which you apply for admission.


The issue of viability is also important because it ensures that your training will lead to the skills, networks, and industry access upon completion. Don’t let your insecurity about getting accepted cause you to miss identifying important information about the program. In graduate school, students represent the brand of the faculty. There are formal and informal gates requiring their seal of approval and support through each stage of the program. These may include: comprehensive exams, proposals, internship and/or a defense of the thesis or dissertation. That post also proposed over ten items to consider as criteria for evaluating programs.


Before You Apply: Ask are you ready to increase your versatility?

Versatility is the word of the day in surviving, thriving and leveraging your experience and expertise after graduation. While many people believe their current work and family life requires a lot of versatility, pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate requires significantly greater and deeper levels of this characteristic. One level of this is intellectual curiosity and flexibility. In my own theological training, social science and n clinical courses, it was useful to develop a loose attachment to important concepts, theories and approaches. New ideas (to the student) are constantly introduced, examined and turned inside out.

Students read assignment not to say that’s ‘done’ but to put it aside and often return with completely fresh eyes seeing its context or limitations after exposure to competing ideas. Critical thinking is like an overused pun when discussing course goals and objectives. Yet, my first degree practically ruined my ability to tightly hold on to specific concepts. My mind was especially skilled in playing the role of the critic. Even now, I can efficiently identify the faults and limitations of many proposed solutions; for this I give thanks to mentors and classmates who indulged in countless heated debates presenting complex contingencies for nearly any topic. Nevertheless, for those who love learning, these discussions lead to important socialization processes. In fact, many grad students agree that time spent in discussion over the world’s ‘Big Problems’ was both intimidating and inspiring offering the most favorable memories of the process.

Dr. Briallen Hopper (2019) writes about a universal secret love of grad school in the article, “Enjoying Grad School.” Besides intellectualism, grad school provides flexibility in professional connections and credentials due to the myriad of tasks required to succeed. These include communication, finding funding for education, work and study hours, negotiation with house/roommates, coordination with advisers, contributing as an assistant in research or teaching or both. Hopper also suggests some of these skills are also essential after grad schoolfacing continuous evaluation and rejection and learning to ask others for support.

In closing, here are some ways you can begin to develop or expand your skills in intellectual curiosity or versatility:

  • Identify the top 5 influencers in your future field and choose one to begin reading their most recent publication.

  • Identify the graduate student organizations on campus at you top school, and visit their websites.

  • For those same organizations, send an email to the graduate student leader and ask a few questions.

  • Read faculty profiles in the program.

  • Review the course list for the requirements for the degree.

  • Search for syllabi online for required courses.

  • Find out if there are opportunities for graduate students to work on research with faculty, post docs, etc.

This list contains a sample of the suggestions that I’ve made to current grad students who struggled with this skill. It is definitely not exhaustive.


Please like, comment and share this post if this post has been helpful. Next month’s post will discuss vulnerability. How much and when to share the ‘real’ you Before You Apply. Thanks for reading! See you next time.

Link to Chronicle of Higher Ed Article mentioned above:
https://www.chronicle.com/article/On-Enjoying-Grad-School/245486

GET ACCEPTED: Before You Apply (Is it Viable?)

This week’s post continues the theme of graduate education and why Pursue Higher Dreams Coaching has chosen to focus on motivating smart, savvy professional women to pursue advanced degrees as a way to leverage their careers. This strategy includes five concepts or considerations: Vision, Viability, Versatility, Vulnerability and Being Vested. Following some reflection on these points, most applicants will have resolved the key barriers to getting accepted into a graduate degree program.

Review from last week: Vision

Graduate education is designed provide knowledge and skills to catapult students from a general level understanding within a field towards a deeper, more specific level of application or inquiry. Additionally, this advanced level of understanding positions the student to enter an ongoing conversation with experts and influencers within the discipline. I propose it is this “access” to the table where the dialogue is happening that is one of the key advantages to earning a masters and/or doctoral degree.

It is imperative that YOUR VISION of the dregree connects you to issues and concerns that impact you and that you feel a sense of passion about influencing in the your career or life plan.

Considering Viability: Is this degree program VIABLE for ME?

Now that you are beginning to clarify your vision about what degree and what type of degree, we will address the second major consideration: VIABILITY. Graduate education is most useful when a student has done due diligence selecting the right degree and the right program. One myth frequented in some circles is that “any masters degree is better than none”. This implies that the type and quality of the program, it’s faculty and curriculum and concentrations are all insignificant if not irrelevant. Well, this is ludicrous in my opinion.

As comforting as this might appear on the surface, few students can afford to waste time and money to get credits toward a degree they can’t or won’t use. The good news is that this is the stage where a little effort PRE-application investigating your strengths, needs and limitations (see next week’s topic VULNERABILITY) will help you identify the criteria to evaluate each program. This is even more critical to your success POST-application. There is a magic formula of finding the ideal fit between you and your grad program. This secret sauce is often the difference for students of color and female students between degree completion and timeline to completion.

Assessing the Viability of a program (and fit with you) is also important to ensuring that the network you want to be associated with post dregree actually materializes. The type of training is also key to your mental preparedness after you are accepted. If it’s a 2, 3 or 5 year program then your goal at the outset is to finish within that time frame. For example, some students fail to inquire about this ahead of their acceptance. I attended a program that was fully funded for five years, but the average time to completion (nationwide) for that degree was 7 years at the time.

One reason students fail to ask these questions is that they have the mindset: I’m just grateful to get in. However, it’s not a gift to enter in program that you can’t finish. Not to mention, you also need support and mentoring to finish the program. Unlike an undergrad program, graduate students represent the brand of the faculty. You’re their offspring metaphorically speaking in some institutions. There is an unspoken seal of approval from the those that support your progress through each stage of the program. It rare to see a student who progresses to comprehensive exams, the proposal stage and certainly those who schedule a defense of a thesis or a dissertation without the full support of the programs’ faculty.

In closing, here are some questions to reflect on concerning the criteria of what programs to apply to:

1. They have the degree program I am interested in.

2. They have at least one concentration that I would enjoy pursuing.

3. There is at least one faculty member in the program who’s work I understand, respect and would (given the chance) approach as a potential mentor.

4. There are opportunities and resources for graduate students to pursue independent respeach if that is relevant to your field.

5. Clinical work and sites for practical are valued, available and introduced early in the program.

6. There are sufficient support services for academic, personal and professional concerns to be quickly identified and addressed.

7. There are other graduate students that look like you in the program, on the faculty and in the administration of the school.

8. The program’s graduation rate is at least as good as the national average for the field.

9. There is partial or full funding excluding loans and financial aid at this school.

10. There are alumni of this program doing the type of work that I aspire to do.

11. There is a student conduct policy or handbook easily accessible.

This list is not exhaustive but it summarizes some of the key criteria for grad programs based of the concerns of the graduate students that I had worked with for the last 10 years. Please Leave me your thoughts about this list of criteria, and share your thoughts on what else needs to be added.

Next week’s post will discuss vulnerability; how much and when to share what. Thanks for reading, please like and share this someone who would benefit.