Grad school applications: Pick your palette

The process of applying to grad schools, for me, has been something like painting the walls of a house.

You go to a hardware store and stand in front of the endless wall of paint palettes. Then you start asking yourself questions: Which one goes best with my room? What color do I truly enjoy?

You know you don’t want a black, grey, white or brown. Then you painstakingly narrow it down to the one that is truly “you.”

After months of deliberation, you’ve decided on sunset orange, but now it’s time to pick the paint type. Water or oil-based? Semi-gloss or eggshell finish? Should you splurge on the highest quality or settle for one in the middle? How many gallons do you need?

After countless hours of research, consultation with paint pros and advice from expert painters, you think you know what you want. But as you watch the employee mix your new color together, you think of the other color possibilities that could have been.

If it isn’t already evident, I tend to be an indecisive person. I like a lot of colors, which makes it tricky to narrow them down sometimes. But applying to grad schools for me has been challenging because there are so many details along with each choice.

When I applied to my undergrad at the University, there was the option of having an undeclared major (of which I took full advantage). However, there is no exploratory period in graduate school; your field of study is one thing you must choose from the start.

After that is nailed down, the process is similar to applying for a bachelor’s degree. You choose a school and program that fit best and look into tuition and other costs. Of course, there are more hoops to jump through, like taking more standardized tests — GRE, MCAT, GMAT or LSAT — for whichever field you’re aiming to focus on.

All this extra work over break can be difficult, time consuming and exhausting, so it’s easy to lose steam — especially if you have a long list of programs and schools you’re focusing on.

Between the essays and technicalities, I have found it necessary to stop and re-think my priorities. Why am I applying in the first place? What do I expect to get out of it? How important is it to me?

Let’s broaden the questions and step back a bit. Why did any of us choose to come to the University for an education? How are we collectively making a bigger difference in our society? While we each have our own reasons for being here, after we receive our bachelor’s degree, we already have a leg up, according to the US Census

“Between 1990 and 2013 … the percentage (of young adults) who had completed a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 23 to 34 percent,” the report said.

So that means we, as students, are building a generation of more educated individuals as we continue through our time here.

For those of you are applying to graduate school like me, we’ll be adding to the 7 percent of young adults with a master’s degree or higher, according to the US Census (this number had increased 3 percent since 1995).

And as I write submission essays and grind through the minutiae of graduate school applications, I can stop and imagine the colorful walls that I will paint after all this work.

Reema is a senior in FAA. She can be reached at [email protected]