Friday, March 20, 2009

What I've Learned About Applying to Grad School

I thought I'd describe my foray into grad school applications - the frustrations, what I would have done differently, and how I got to where I am right now. Maybe it will help someone applying to a similar program, because I definitely went into it without knowing anything.

First off, I guess I should mention that I applied to school counseling programs at seven different schools-
  • The University of Southern Maine (USM) in Gorham, ME
  • The University of Vermont (UVM) in Burlington, VT
  • UMass Amherst, in Amherst, MA
  • Boston University (BU), in Boston, MA
  • Syracuse University*, in Syracuse, NY
    *I cancelled my Syracuse application pretty quickly, once I realized that there was
    no chance of living there.

  • The University Maryland at College Park, in College Park, MD
  • Marymount University, in Arlington, VA
Each had different requirements, programs, number of credits, tuition, etc. I ended up making a spreadsheet to keep them all separated. I had also planned on applying to the University of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver, but dropped those from the list when I knew I wouldn't be in Denver. That and the fact that UColorado wanted me to pay to be fingerprinted - apparently a state requirement. Between the fingerprinting and the application fee, they were asking for upwards of $100. That was a no-go.

I guess one of the main things I'd say is that you shouldn't hesitate to contact them. On several separate occasions, I had to take it upon myself to find out information that they weren't going to bother telling me. For instance-
  • I had actually gotten through to the second (interview) round with Maryland, but they had been sending all my email to and I had never heard back from them (wtf!?) I had to fight with them on the phone for an hour to convince them that I had in fact applied to their program, and they needed to find my application and figure out what the hell was going on. Then - tada! - it turns out that I not only had applied, but was being asked to interview! Funny how Maryland is supposed to be the best counseling school in the country, but has given me the most grief...
  • I just found out today that BU won't be making their decisions for at least a month, so going there is completely out of the question. I've already interviewed with and heard back from everyone else.
  • Syracuse, Amherst, and Maryland were missing parts of my application after the due date, and had just considered my applications "incomplete". I hadn't realized that one of my recommendations had gotten held up in the mail, and would have been screwed had I not tried to call them.
On that note, I should also mention that there is typically no good way to find out if your application is complete. The schools rarely (if at all) update their websites. You should probably just contact them to make sure... also, good luck getting the proper contact information, as it seems to rarely be posted correctly. Most of the schools have websites that are incredibly confusing and difficult to navigate, and often have outdated or simply wrong information. Don't be surprised if you find a program's website giving two different application dates, number of credits, or cost of tuition for the same program.

Anyway, I realize this has gone much longer than most people are willing to read... I think my main advice for now is to check and double check your information as much as possible, because these schools aren't going out of their ways to help you out.