Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Application Process

First, I've received so many thoughtful and kind responses following my blog post from earlier this week.

The purpose of this post is to explain the graduate school admissions process. Specifically, applying to graduate schools abroad was a new experience without too much advice. I remember when I first started the application process, I scoured Barnes and Nobles and Amazon in search of tips for Americans to apply to schools abroad. I was left empty-handed. Instead, I sort of entered the process blindly with the help of a graduate school admissions counselor at Syracuse. She was invaluable as we talked about my personal statement and how to best exemplify my accomplishments in the four years at Syracuse. Nevertheless, I still felt that sometimes I was lost. 

When I realized that I wanted to apply to graduate schools abroad, one of the first things I did was to research programs. Clearly, this is an obvious step, but when changing one's higher education goals, researching is important! I started off with around 15 different universities that I could see myself attending. All of them had political science, public policy, new media communication, and public administration programs. Spending time researching what alumni of the programs are currently doing, the academic rigor, the opportunity for research and internships, and the overall reputation of the university. 

When I had a list, I began the basic application. Similar to the Common Application that high school students use to apply to college.  In high school, I was an overachiever, and that has not changed. Thus, I found myself filling out the basic forms into the wee hours of the night. One of the biggest tips that I found was to put on a movie or a television show (i.e. The West Wing) and work with that in the background. It seems simple enough, but having a distraction when imputing your resume line by line into an application is a good thing. 

For the resume portion, I opted for the two-pager when applying to graduate school. While I had already entered my work experience, activities, and awards, a resume was still required. Spending hours receiving feedback on my resume from a variety of sources is essential. Remember, you are selling yourself, your accomplishments. It's important to spend time even reviewing the consistency of an ampersand to the use of the word "and." Presentation!

One of the most time-consuming parts of the application process was the personal statement. Expressing one's goals (public service) through a two page essay is hard. I had 15 different drafts before I had the essay that I could use to apply. Of course, each program did require a tweak, but a base essay took 15 different drafts. In my essay, I focused on my internship experience, how I had come to love the world of politics and public service, my desire to study abroad, and my honors thesis. I emphasized my desire to study graduate school abroad because I wanted to have an international focus to help better serve the American public. I concentrated on my thesis because it was a two-year research  project, and the final draft of my paper came to over 100 pages. Demonstrating what I've done and what I want to do was how I conveyed who I am. 

There were other parts of the application process: recommendations, writing samples, etc. Those mattered just as much as the three parts that I listed here. The grad school process was just another part of the end of Syracuse. Figuring out what to do after Syracuse had been a long-time coming as I wrote in my last post. The application process thrilled me as I was actively pursuing something that I wanted to do! 

For those considering applying to graduate school abroad, feel free to contact me. I know I've answered a few questions from several already, and I will always be more than happy to do so.