Before You Apply #Versatility #GetAccepted (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: 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!

Excellence in an Age of Complacency

Last week, I got to address 24 inductees into the Psi Chi International Honor Society at a local college. This society was founded to encourage members to maintain excellence in scholarship in psychology and to advance the field (Mission Statement for Psi Chi). This post is written for new professionals establishing themselves as experts in their fields.  As an educator, one critical goal is preparing students to conduct exemplary research, to disseminate and apply it in a way that enhances lives and solves problems. Many people obtain PhD’s because of a desire to be not only an expert in a disciple but to make a larger difference by empowering others through education.   From this context, I shared seven principles observed in role models – scholars and practitioners – who influenced me at the beginning of my career.

Dream Big, but set small daily goals. Abstract thinking is great for dreaming and setting a vision of who you will be and how you will make a difference in the world. However, self-determination theory tell us that intrinsic motivation is the key to transforming big dreams into daily goals.  Creating and mastering daily goals is the real key to building a set of habits that last after the excitement wanes.  So the first prinicipel is to balance your big dream with your daily routines.  Daily shifts in behavior add up quickly to big gains over time.  Try to identify the minimum amounts of effort needed every day to create your Big Dream. When set a that new habit in motion.

Be Smart. Be Humble. While it would be great to know everything, we don’t. No one does. Today’s achievement is worth celebrating (These students were in the top 10% of their class).  Set a goal to learn something new every day for the rest of your life. Being smart may come naturally for you, and it will take you far.  However humility plus smarts will take you further.  Character is hard to teach. Even when we think we KNOW, it’s okay to let it pass without comment. In fact, sharing unsolicited knowledge is irritating and rob others of their own meaningful learning experience.  Just as important is to have the courage to admit what you don’t know. Honesty and humility are underrated the professional world, but your success are not tied to perfection. Show up with an insatiable desire for knowledge and service, and people will go further to help you learn.

Make learning a habit. I am not going to explain why lifelong learning is important to this crowd of overachievers (J). But I will say that it gets harder as you go further as you move up the ladder. It’s also MORE important as you progress. Creating a habit is easiest when we expand on our current routines. When our planning is built around “triggers” that let us know that it’s time to act, our newer habits will be stronger than intentions.  Select a part of your schedule with deep roots, and just add another “link in the chain” with your new habit. When I was working on my dissertation, I wanted to expand my reading beyond my topic. It was nearly impossible to think how I could possible add one more thing to my schedule. Studies confirm this to be a successful method to rely on contextual cues over willpower to create new habits.   One routine has been entrenched for years is my morning coffee while writing in a great journal. So I made a list of books that I could read in chunks (15 min. a day) and put them by my journal in my bedroom. I have applied this technique to cleaning my house, learning Spanish, and many other areas over the years.  Next time you commit to “read more,” instead try “When I go to eat lunch, I will take my  book and for 10 minutes between my salad and my dessert.”

Be grateful. Many people have supported you up to this point, and they will likely continue to support you through the next stage as well: grad school, a book, job relocation, big promotion, conference, or dissertation ahead. Find small ways to say thank you as often as you can to your key supporters. Most of us is only as strong as our social support team. My grad program was known for encouraging graduates hand write thank you notes on the engraved stationery.  Be the one in ten job applicants that remembers to acknowledge the people.  Everyone is just as tired, busy, and stressed as you are.  Make the time!  This practice will serve you well in the professional circle because it is so rare.  An email note of appreciation is free but it’s also priceless.

Be You.  What makes this world fun is that we are all different.  What makes this world crazy hard is that we are all different. Learn to accept yourself, your strengths and your idiosyncrasies together. You aren’t perfect but you are ALL you’ve got.  Be the best version of YOU that you can be by making consistent investments in your own self-care.  There are far too many depressed and anxious clinicians, scholars and educators.  We need YOU to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.

Watch your back.  The principle remind us that people are watching us.  Someone is standing behind you waiting for your leadership.  Most of us are where we are because someone showed us the ropes. They took the time to say (In love) you are doing it wrong. They noticed we were crashing and burning, and they took the time to help.  Be that mentor for someone else.  As you progress, you will get even busier, but the people that you mentor will one day be your allies and your colleagues.  Treat them well and invest in them the way that someone did for you.

So my last tip or Principle on Excellence is “Write your own tip!” Everyone’s path is different. You don’t know what lies ahead, and if you think you know, I guarantee you 5 minutes after you get comfortable, something unexpected will occur and you will need to re-group.  Be willing to take your time and make mistakes. Excellence is not really about getting it right or getting it done first. Excellence is moving beyond complacency and simply NOT giving up.  Work “as if” you know you’ll make it.  And one day, you will realize it’s true:  the Big Dream is here.

Closing Thought

What would you try if you absolutely KNEW you could not fail? – author unknown

 

Please share your comments and questions with me on this blog!