The summer before applying to graduate school

A blog contribution by Megan Tackney, a recent SIPA graduate and former Admissions Program Assistant. (We miss you Megan!)


It was just as hot and humid as it is now, maybe even worse. It was the beginning of summer in Washington D.C. and the women of Mintwood Place had decided to go to graduate school. I had lived in D.C. for almost 8 years and worked in advocacy at a women’s legal organization. My roommate was employed at one of the top political consulting firms in the country. Our third roommate, quite coincidentally also named Meaghan (different spelling), had moved out a year ago to go to SIPA, it was her dream school and it was all she talked about. We blame her for the higher education craze that took over our apartment.

That summer we began to prepare for the graduate school application period. I collected packets and tracked information sessions for every school I was going to apply to, a total of 7. My roommate had a Volkswagen beetle, which for some reason always smelled like crayons, and we would squeeze ourselves in, and find these events in faraway places without transportation, like Georgetown. I asked co-workers if they knew students or alumni from possible schools and if I could talk to them. I wanted to know what jobs they held now, what the student body was like and if they were regretful of anything, and if so, what?   I tried to imagine my life in every city or in some cases, small towns, which was sometimes just as important as the school’s academic program.

In addition to stalking alumni, we also had to take the GRE’s in the Fall. This meant studying and taking a test, something we hadn’t done in quite a while, but we were determined. Step 1 – We bought the prep. books. Step 2 – We made flash cards. We were going to learn 20 new words a week, which we actually did, in between some DVR sessions. Step 3 – We recognized our weaknesses. We tried doing the math practice problems together, but it wasn’t exactly successful. I got a tutor.

The schools also demanded essays – lots of them. Having the self control to write that many essays is really hard. We identified nights after work where all we would do was write and give the other creative and some terrible ideas on how we could sell ourselves to the top schools in the country.

That summer was intense and exciting. It was full of possibilities for the residents of our little apartment. With applications due in January the work continued into the Fall and included the new awkward task of asking for recommendations, which could be a blog post in itself.

In the end it was all worth it. We got into every single school we applied to and begrudgingly left each other. That was the last step in the application process, saying goodbye to our old lives and imagining the next. As I graduated last month, this is one step I have unfortunately not yet completed.