Dealing with Struggle: Grad School Application Difficulties

Here is the latest installment from our guest blogger, KSS.

From what I’ve gathered thus far, the preparation for graduate school is likely to mimic the struggles and setbacks of the actual grad school experience. For one thing, gathering together necessary application information is no small feat. This challenge is magnified if you have any time lapse at all between your undergraduate education and pending graduate education. Having completed my bachelor’s degree six years ago, I frequently find that my alma mater needs “extra” time to look up seemingly simple inquiries that were no trouble during my enrollment period. Apparently, I’m now so dated that not only does my degree-granting department not remember me (they don’t remember the vice-president of their honor society?), but they are also challenged to find any record of me. The obstacle of time presents an additional element of frustration when you are dealing with rigid, pending deadlines for your dream graduate program.

So, one must really learn to combine forced patience with a clever, resourceful attitude. The more you can do for yourself, the better off you’ll be. Also, being very clear and communicative are going to call more attention to your plea for help when dealing with departments and schools that have phased you out, no matter how exemplary you were during your stay. Even when I was risking irritating the very people whose help I needed badly, I’d put out an extra phone call just to check in and see how that information search was progressing.

Saving records from former school days is another essential piece of the grad school puzzle. Many programs request an academic writing sample, something not easily generated if one has been graduated for some time. The lucky few retain their school assignments – both the graded, hard copies and some saved electronic version. I thought I was part of the lucky few until I visited Kinko’s with my floppy discs in hand, certain that my prior coursework was a few clicks away. Turns out, it’s much farther away than a few clicks. Very unfortunately, the discs I saved for years harbored no academic coursework of any kind. Hmm, that’s a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

I am still in the throes of dealing with this latest setback and brainstorming ways to track down this crucial aspect of my graduate school application package. Thus far, I’ve awkwardly contacted an ex-boyfriend in hopes he might have some academic relic of mine since we parted ways. My mother, also a pack-rat, is dissecting her home in search of some paper I might’ve mailed her showcasing my “A”. My garage, home and old, inoperable laptop have all been thoroughly investigated. Desperate times indeed call for desperate measures. I’m steps away from paying to have my dead laptop’s hard drive extracted and pillaged.

So, things are still unfolding and there’s plenty more time for further obstacles along the way. Nonetheless, my chin is up, my attitude is solid and I am quite determined that I will triumph in the end. I think this is all useful practice for graduate school where – heaven forbid – similar disappointments can occur. Campus legends speak of dissertation stalemates with professors, deteriorating funds or changes of direction mid-program. Letting go of desires for perfection and ease are smart and best acquired before you get to one of the biggest character tests life has to offer – graduate school.