Desert Flour

A 20-Something's Musings on Life, Love and Faith

Graduate Application Anxiety

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Applying for Graduate School programs out of state creates a lot of anxiety.

Not only the expected application anxiety as you try and create witty, representative essays that speak to all of your amazing merits vs. your actual desperation for acceptance. Or the endless rewrites of a simple paragraph describing your volunteer experience because you have to fit a lifetime of experience doing service into 150 characters (including spaces).

These challenges – while daunting – were expected.

Perhaps also expected was the anxiety caused by second guessing yourself.

It’s very easy to have all of these self-doubts when looking at the sophisticated rankings of these schools and the meager matriculation rates. I don’t think I am applying to any school with an acceptance rate greater than 8%.

So you really question – am I really prepared to beat out the other 92% of applicants trying to get into this school? Am I really the best for this school? Why should I even apply here if their average GRE scores are 20 points better than mine? What if during my interviews the advisor doesn’t like me? What if I say something stupid? What if I don’t even get an interview? What if I am just rejected from the start because they can’t figure out how to match my test scores and transcript with my new name change and just toss my application?

This stream of questions then leads to the advice that one should “cast a broad net” when applying for graduate schools.

Which in my case manifested into 9 different school applications scattered across the US. And this is a pretty conservative number of schools to apply for within my field.

But that range of diversity can also be quite distressing as it means we have no idea where we could be living next November. We could be in California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida or still in our same apartment in New Mexico.

Map Grad Schools

At least you can’t take us out of the Desert! Mostly…

These schools are also so diverse it’s hard to even paint a picture of what our life could be like once we get there. Will we be renting a house with a yard in Northern Dallas? Or will we be subletting a room in high rise apartment in Downtown LA?

No matter what happens it’s going to be a huge change from our current situation. Currently, we live by ourselves in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment, with both of our families only a 15 minute drive away. We both have stable jobs that we enjoy and have surrounded ourselves with a multitude of friends and social support connections.

Moving to a completely foreign environment will totally disrupt all of this. Change is challenging for me and even more so for my Hubby.

I realize what I am asking him to do will be even harder for him.

If we move I will be looking forward to some kind of purpose – some program to fulfill; some new colleagues to meet; new classes and new students to interact with. But he will just be moving to a city, to be with me and not really have a sense of whether there will be a reasonable opportunity available for him there.

A great source of anxiety for us both is that I will be moving towards my doctorate degree and he will feel stuck in a city he doesn’t like and where he doesn’t know anyone and potentially where he will be forced to do some job that doesn’t fulfill or challenge him. (you know.. if he can get a job.)

And it will be on me if things go badly.

So in those moments of hope where I have confidence that I will be able to surmount this huge application obstacle and receive acceptance into some program – I could also be doing devastating harm to my husband and putting some severe strain on our new marriage.

No pressure.

Despite these relationship reasons – we also have a wonderful group of friends that we rely on and who rely on us. We will also be abandoning them here when we leave to go pursue a new life in a new state.

Honestly I can’t even really blame them for hoping my applications will fail. (Ok well maybe I can feel a little chagrinned – but not resentful.)

This is hard. The whole process is hard!

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of being excited at the possibilities and loving the programs I could be a part of for the next 5-7 years – but it’s also terrifying and stressful. This is one of those huge decision points in our young marriage that will change the course of the rest of our lives.

And this is all just the beginning. Setting our course all by clicking a hyperlink with red text: “Submit Application”


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