I am starting to prepare many of the resources that we will provide to applicants admitted to our program and a lot of what we provide is logically based upon common questions posed after offers are made. Some questions raised are quite particular and will require personalized answers based upon certain circumstances, however other questions and topics are a bit more broad and there is no reason to wait to start your investigation to avoid consternation at a later time. It can be frightening sometimes to get what you wish for, only to be unprepared to act on it.
I was watching a news special recently and a part of the story reminded me of wishing wells. I have always thought that the tradition of tossing coins into fountains, streams, ponds, water falls, or wells is a bit strange. When I was a kid I remember coming across a fountain filled with coins. I asked my mom something like, “Why are people throwing money away? Shouldn’t they save that money?”
She tried to explain that some people felt satisfaction in doing so because making a wish provided a bit of hope. I think I was born with a cynic gene because I responded by saying something like, “Well they must not have much hope because a penny is not worth that much.” (the fountain was filled with pennies).
The news story I saw that made me think of this was about students in South Korea leaving padlocks inscribed with their hopes and dreams locked on a lookout with a view over Seoul (story is here). I also ran into a padlock tradition in Paris where lovers visit a bridge, secure the lock to a bridge, and then throw the key into the river to symbolism their unbreakable love. It is interesting how sometimes we find comfort in symbolic actions.
Any way, it is nice can be nice to have dreams and engage in symbolic acts, however I am big fan of preparation and action. My hope is that you did not submit your application with the intent of just waiting for an answer to come – wishing for a letter or email telling you what you want to hear. When you get the news you should be prepared in some capacity. I will do my part to help in the coming weeks. I have a series of entries planned on the major categories of letters we send for example. But there are also things you can already be doing. Here are a few ideas and thoughts.
You likely applied to more than one school. So what happens if you are admitted to more than one program? My recommendation would be to start a pro/con list. Some of the categories will need to be filled in at a later time (i.e. scholarship offers if applicable) but there are other categories that you can start on now. Geography, faculty, curriculum, and housing are just a few of the things that you can start to consider.
You will likely only go to graduate school once so you want to make the right decision. Sometimes it pays to pay more – or at least to sacrifice. On somewhat of a tangent, before moving to New York City I owned a home. I had lots of space, a front porch, a back deck where I could BBQ in the rain, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a refrigerator with water and ice in the door, a garbage disposal, dishwasher, and a clothing washer and dryer – my little slice of the “American Dream.”
I knew that if I made the choice to move to New York City I would have none of these things. I would be moving into a small apartment that I did not own and would not build equity in with none of the aforementioned amenities, but I still sold my house and moved. It does not seem logical on a spreadsheet, but I also knew that New York was unlike any place I had ever lived and there is no way I was going to pass on the opportunity. I had done a lot of thinking about life and decided that trading a suburban life for a city life was a choice I was willing and ready to make – and boy am I glad I did. It was something I had thought about for a while and my mental preparation made the decision easier.
Maybe the school you really want to go to will not offer you as much money, but you still really want to go there. Maybe it is worth it, maybe it is not. However starting to think about it now is certainly a wise investment. You might be moving to an entirely new place and it is not a bad idea to start cruising rental or housing sites. As I wrote in a previous post, you should also definitely not just wish that scholarship aid is going to cover your expenses. Rather than wishing for aid I would definitely recommend setting aside time to investigate possible options.
So, my wish for you is that you spend time contemplating, researching, thinking, and talking to people you know and who can act as a sounding board. As for me, I do have one wish – I wish I had more hours in the day to read applications – if I could just padlock my calendar and keep it from moving forward I would be in good shape. Since this wish will not happen I guess I should stop writing and get back to reading.