Before you apply: Can you be vulnerable? (4 of 5)

This week I am continuing the theme of questions to ask yourself before you apply to graduate school. The theme of this post is the issue of vulnerability. The question to ask is can you be vulnerable? Or are you willing to risk being vulnerable in order to achieve your goals and get the support you need while navigating the twists and turns of the journey towards your degree.

Review of the last post on #versatility

Versatility is how one survives, thrives and leverages the expertise gained by achieving their masters or professional degree. On one level you must assess whether or not you have intellectual curiosity to understand the basis for classical theories and content. Can you release your firmly held beliefs and tenants long enough to challenge and critique the sacred assumptions.

You must Learn to present and argue dual positions – both for and against – cherished practices or policies is a well respected skill that will serve graduates well beyond the Academy. This last post closed with age strategies to build or expand on versatility.


Before you apply: Can you be vulnerable?

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable.

To make yourself honorable is to show your strength.

Crissi Jami, American poet and essayist, Your Tango

Accepting vulnerability in graduate school is accepting the reality that you will be “wrong” a lot and you will be told that you need to do better even when your not wrong: Your ideas, your writing assignments,your formatting your sources basically everything. If you are in grad school and you have perceived that you were being attacked frequently it’s not your imagination. Some faculty would say that it is their job to critique and evaluate you harshly and that it is in your best interest.

My belief is that critique is not helpful all of the time; just because those of us with PhD‘s often experienced the trauma harsh criticism in graduate school, means that it should remain that Way for the next generation of students. Physical and emotional harm is not a legacy we need to continue in Higher Education?

The goal of this series is to prepare you for what could happen after being excepted into graduate school. Before you apply is designed to provide information and access to resources before you apply to graduate school. Therefore strategic vulnerability is a trait to be developed and harnessed; whatever negative emotions may come up for you, feeling vulnerable is not your imagination.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and chang.”

Casandra Brené Brown, PhD, MSW, Author

A key reason I include vulnerability as one of the top five questions to ask before you apply is that it’s one that quickly snowballs to impact your wellbeing. On One hand, the process of applying to graduate school requires you to augment your view of yourself. In Particular, it requires you to present yourself with Rose colored glasses and as the best version of yourself. Soon after being accepted, you are suddenly catapulted into a cohort of other high achieving, brilliant candidates. Given our human nature, the urge to compete and measure up within the pack, our egos can be easily bruised with even one bad mark. Even unconsciously you may begin to feel inadequate and less brilliant around your peer group. Even if you are doing fine in your classes and making friends within your group, the sting of competition can damage your self perception.

Therefore being vulnerable is really about being willing to except your human-ness and to express a level of authenticity regardless of how well you perceive your peers or professors are evaluating you. So if this hits home to you, what should you plan to do….

Tips for preparing for vulnerability in graduate school:

  • Establish a relationship with the university counseling center or a community mental health professional.
  • Make time to schedule contact with true lifelong friends.
  • Learn to ask for support when needed.
  • Establish a rigorous self-care routine that includes daily and weekly time to refresh and recharge.
  • Learn to listen to feedback and evaluate the motives and intentions of the giver. All feedback is not good feedback and those who are well-intentioned will not be vested in whether or not you take their advice.

I found that the more truthful and vulnerable I was, the more empowering it was for me. – Alanis Morissette, (Canadian singer-songwriter)

Thank you for reading this post! If this has been helpful to you, please like or share the link with others in your circle of influence who would benefit.

Also, Please check out previous posts on this topic, sign up for our email list, and check out other resources for applying to graduate school.

#getaccepted #beforeyouapply #vulnerability

Post 4 of 5

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!