Embracing Change: A Student Perspective on Grad School Applications

BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

The end of the semester is hard on everyone, students and instructors alike. However, I have a special appreciation and level of respect for fourth year students this time of year. Regardless of what you thought you would be doing next year, now is the time to figure it all out.

Graduate school applications are opening and closing so quickly you can’t keep up, you’re gearing up for your second-to-last set of undergraduate finals, you’re lining up internships and apartments for after convocation. Your five year plan is messy–you don’t even know what side of the globe you’ll be on in one year from now, let alone five. 

Even with all of this going on, you’re bubbling over with excitement. Applying to all of those schools has you thinking about what it will be like to move on. You’re wondering if you should shoot for somewhere warm, or if you’d rather stay close to home. Maybe you’re planning on moving back home (where your childhood dog is) for grad school. Your letters of intent have forced you to think about what you want to do and why, and you’ve never felt more passionate about your chosen field–or maybe, you’ve decided to change paths completely. 

For me, I’m mostly just feeling exhausted. I’ve read and re-read my applications so many times that they would probably still make sense to me even if every word was wrong. I’ve researched every school I can think of, narrowed down my top choices, and sent away my applications, and now I’m wondering if I’ve made the right decisions. I’ve neglected three quarters of my classes for a month and a half because I’ve been too busy with ‘more important things.’ I’m really beginning to wonder if any of this is worth it. If I even want to go to grad school anymore. 

Trust me, I do, and you probably still do too. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to still submit the application. You never know if you’ll change your mind, but wouldn’t you rather keep your options open?

Aside from all of the academic stress this time of year, Christmas is sneaking up on us F A S T, and it seems like there won’t be a chance for shopping until December 24th. We have reached the age where life is hitting us hard. Some fourth years are somehow trying to plan their wedding amidst all of this, and even aside from that, everyone has their personal battles going on with family, roommates, and partners. 

I’ve painted a bleak picture so far, I know. But don’t abandon ship yet! This is your acknowledgement and your encouragement. You’re working so hard! And you’ve come so far. You’ve conquered at least three and a half years at Augustana, through online school, budget cuts, masking, the loss of our beloved book store… the list goes on. But you’re still here, showing up every day, working towards your dreams. That is something to be proud of! 

Take some time for yourself, fourth years. Treat yourself to a special coffee, take a bubble bath instead of your usual five-minute shower one night, don’t set an alarm one weekend. You absolutely deserve it. Take that nap! Go easy on yourself, since no one else is right now. And then, when you feel a bit more refreshed and relaxed, tackle those last couple of applications, do another search for ‘what to do with a ____ degree,’ and write that paper you’ve been putting off.

Let yourself daydream about that school in California you’ve been thinking of applying to, and embrace an unknown future for a little while. Life has a way of sorting itself out, with or without our input. Enjoy your last few months at Augustana. Make enough memories for the next 50 years, and friendships that’ll last 100.

If you’ve read this far, you clearly were in need of a study break (take that nap).

Good luck, fourth years. Augustana is behind you every step of the way.

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