My grad school applications are DONE. This is a huge accomplishment.
And here’s why:
First, I am not exactly what you’d call “detail oriented”. I used to think I was, but at some point I had to realize that my oversight of important details on a variety of projects was not a random, occasional or unpredictable occurrence. When I had my company I had an assistant whose main job was to notice all of the details that I didn’t and then do something about them. It required her to work more hours than I could actually afford, but I couldn’t afford NOT to have her, could I? Missing all those details, like deadlines, and phone numbers, and which day of the week it was, would undoubtedly have cost me more.
It’s basic business math, people.
Anyhoo…so having self identified as being detail oriented deficient, I went out of my way to try to make accommodations for this disability. I created an excel spreadsheet with columns for each piece of information about each school I was considering. It had the name, program website link, application deadline, program length, acceptance statistics, financial aid statistics and details, distance from DC, length of writing sample required, and then a column for any other important details I might need to know. Like if the writing sample had to be mailed instead of uploaded to the electronic application.
Then I got a spiral notebook and made a page for each school I was applying to, and kept it in my bag at all times. I put a tab on each page with the name of the program, the topic for the personal essay and then I listed the action steps required to complete each individual application, including details like ordering transcripts from undergrad and my first grad program, with boxes where I could put a check mark after I’d done each thing.
Every single time I was ready to submit an application, I hit a stumbling block. A detail I’d somehow overlooked.
Turns out, no matter how great an organizational system you have, you have to actually USE it for it to be effective. Who knew?
It’s not that I ignored the system, it’s that I got so comfortable with seeing all those words and lists and check marks and highlighted things, that I thought I was reading it, but really I was just looking at it. Subtle, yet extremely important difference.
Fortunately there was nothing a UPS office, the last dredges of my savings account and some quick thinking couldn’t fix.
And speaking of that UPS office – I was there twice. And the same (super cute) guy helped me both times. The second time I walked in he said “hey – I know you. Graduate school, right?” And I realized he’d become a member of the growing team of people who I had relied on to get me through this application process.
Because, while applying for graduate school seems like it would be a solitary process. It wasn’t. By a long shot.
I asked at least three different people to edit my writing sample, not counting the writing class in which I submitted part of the sample for an assignment.
I asked three different people to help me with my six different personal statements, at least three times with less than 48 hours before the deadline.
Some of the schools wanted 2 letters of rec, some wanted 3. I thought that the early deadlines were all only 2 letters, and the 3 letters ones were later deadlines. But that turned out to be a misconception. Which would have been corrected if I’d READ my notebook/spreadsheet, instead of just LOOKING at it. But we’ve been over that already. Stop being so judgey.
Everyone totally rose to the occasion though, reminding me, yet again, that I have wonderful people in my life. Or people who suck as saying no and setting boundaries. Either way, it’s a win for me.
And each time I ran into a problem, some small detail like a specific font size, or a unique way of coding a supplemental piece, usually about two hours before the deadline, I’d cry “OMG! I’m a writer! A creative type. If I were good with handling a million little details then I’d be able to function in the real world and wouldn’t need to hide out in academia, now WOULD I?”
That was actually the title of an early personal statement. Thank god for my team of readers.
2. I’m a procrastinator. Which is bad enough on its own. But combine that with the whole no attention to detail thing, and its a recipe for disaster.
And for spending crap tons of money on overnight shipping.
I do know better. I mean, I’ve been a procastinator all my life. And I always regret it, and swear I won’t do it again. And yet, I do, but always with reasonable justification.
Like when I started out on this application process and realized that the deadlines spanned from Dec. 15-Jan 15, with one, the most important one, falling on January 1, I told myself that I would get all of the applications done by Dec. 15. If I had to do two by then, might as well do all 6 right?
Since I pushed everything until the last minute on the Dec. 15 applications, I decided to hold off on the rest so I could spend more time on my writing sample and make it even better.
Except every time I opened it, I was scared I was going to find some huge mistake or formatting error and then I’d freak out knowing that I’d submitted a bad sample to the first two schools.
It’s the same reason I always refused to talk about a test right after taking it. As soon as I heard the whispered “Hey – whatdidyouget for #3?” I’d immediately plug my ears and go lalalalala, until they’d stopped or I was asked to leave the classroom. I don’t like talking about something I can’t fix. I prefer to sit with hope, (however farfetched), that I did better than I think.
So I decided I’d finish the rest of the applications by December 23 so I wouldn’t have to worry about it during the holidays.
Even if I wasn’t going to work on my writing sample anymore, I still had personal statements to write. And every school wanted something different, while ultimately looking for the same information: why I wanted an MFA in creative writing and why from their school.
After being shut down on the “I can’t function in the real world” approach, I had nothing but writers block.
In answer to why that specific school, “because you’re less than 8 hours away from DC and don’t require me to take the GRE’s again,” was shot down by the team too. Causing more writers block.
Know what the best cure for writer’s block is?
So I’d wait until about 48 hours before the deadline, and finally pound something out that was essentially saying “because I can’t function in the real world and you won’t make me take the GRE’s again” but in much more creative and intellectual-ly sounding words. Lots of them. And then I’d beg someone to read it over and make sure it wasn’t too obvious. And eventually, always at the very last minute, I’d get it done.
And eventually, with much moaning and sighing, and a last desperate dash to the UPS store, I finished the last one. Fully one hour and 15 minutes before the deadline. HA!
And now everything’s done except the waiting… and the hoping…
Notifications could start coming as early as the first week of March.
Which means the next six weeks are going to move very, very, slowly.
So I’m probably going to need a new support team. Because the application teams deserves a break.
And let’s be honest people – I’m not going to be able to distract myself from the fact that I have no Plan B all by myself. Its going to take some serious alcohol and sugar consumption.
And maybe presents. Shiny ones. Cause those are really distracting.
I’m just sayin’ .