Guest Post by: Holly Newell
People have different reasons for considering graduate school. They may be interested in a specific job, a promotion, research opportunities, or enhancing their education. For others, it’s as simple as “it was a part of my plan”. I was the latter. If I’m being honest, it was not always a part of my plan, but, after spending upwards of twenty years in school I didn’t know what else to do. School was my comfort zone. Graduate school seemed like a natural next step.
After finishing my undergrad, I spent the next year researching and applying to different graduate programs. You may be thinking, a year? Yes, a year. Applying to graduate school is a time-consuming process. I cannot stress how useful an application timeline can be, especially if you’re working or a student. Finding time to study for the GRE, take the test, collect letters of recommendation, write personal statements or entrance essays, send transcripts, develop a resume, and prepare the application on top of everything else. It can be overwhelming. Do yourself a favor, make a timeline and stick to it.
Once you’ve submitted your application, you can sit back and anxiously wait for weeks on the letter that will tell your fate (while you’re waiting send your references thank-you cards). When I received my letter, I was ecstatic. Having spent the better part of the year preparing for this moment, I could hardly breathe. It only took the reading the first sentence to know, I was not accepted. As you can imagine, I was stunned and disappointed. I was left trying the answer the same question I started with, now what? I was back at square one – a recent graduate with a lot of ambition and no professional experience in my field.
Looking back almost 5 years later, I could not have been luckier, and I am forever grateful for their rejection. The next four years cannot be described as anything less than life-changing. It started with an ah-ha moment while watching a group of teenagers I had worked with all summer, at a science-based youth employment program, receive scholarships. From there one thing seemed to lead right into another.
Eventually, I found myself accepting my first office job coordinating a summer camp program at the University of Utah, and once again, considering graduate school. After talking with my coworkers who had recently completed various Masters programs, I decide the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department’s Experiential Education track was the best choice. Thankfully, my GRE scores were still valid, and my references were happy to write letters of recommendations. Writing the ten-page entrance essay while working full-time did make me question my decision, but I pushed through.
Now, as I write this post, I am a few long days away from completing my first semester of graduate school. I’ve managed to continue working full-time during the semester, leading several people to ask, “how are you managing school and work full-time?” That simply it, I’m managing it. It’s not easy and although some things have fallen by the wayside, it’s manageable. The biggest change is feeling like my time is more valuable. Living by multiple calendars, spreadsheets, and reminders trying to squeeze everything in, and more importantly trying not to forget anything – it’s tough. But, there is no question that it is worth it.
My biggest piece of advice for the working student, make time for what makes you happy. Don’t get so bogged down you lose sight of why you’re there. It may seem like a daunting task while trying to balance all life’s demands, but you deserve it. We all have the same amount of time in the day, it is up to you to decide what to do with it.