When I graduated from college, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to be doing. I interviewed for a couple jobs, but I really just wasn’t into it (I also bombed them, but that’s another animal). I had friends who were going off to work for huge companies like Microsoft and Intel and Google, and I wondered if they just knew exactly what that was what they wanted to do or if they just snapped up whatever was offered to them without really doing any serious introspection. It seemed like such a huge decision to make, and I had absolutely no idea how they found the time to ensure that it was the right one. I went home with no job offers and no specific plan for the future.
To be honest, I started off thinking about grad school as a way to put off finding a job. I was lucky enough not to have any debt after graduation, and my parents didn’t mind me moving back in, so I just decided to find a job teaching the SAT while I struggled to find some direction.
Everyone at some point probably struggles with finding direction in their lives. For me, applying to grad school programs turned out to be my compass. As I began mapping out my essays, thinking about the questions they were asking, I began to think about my life in a very specific way — it’s difficult to describe exactly what I mean — and I eventually realized that graduate school was a good fit for me. Sure, I envied the fact that my friends were out there sitting on their mounds of money working for well-known companies, but at the same time, I knew that I didn’t want to be doing something that I didn’t really like doing, just for the money and bragging rights. As I began explaining to universities why I would be a good fit for their programs and what my motivations were, I grew more confident in my decision to dive headlong into debt and pursue something that I felt more strongly about.
Once everything started “clicking” for me, the rest was easy. My essays practically formed themselves once I realized what my goals were, and I was able to really take the GRE seriously because I knew it was a necessary step along the path that I had chosen. Before then, the GRE was something that I “was thinking about doing” — now, it was something that I knew I needed to do, and my attitude toward preparation changed quite dramatically. I wanted to conquer it.
In the end, things worked out for me. I got a 1510 on the GRE, and I got into my first choice program. Now I’m sitting on the balcony of my new apartment, wondering if I should bother running down to my car and moving into the spot that just opened up across the street. First world problems, eh?
Where I am today is a product of two things: hard work and luck. Whether you have one or the other or both, just make sure that you know what you want. I don’t know how to tell you to figure it out, but I can tell you that without knowing what you want, you won’t know what to work for, and you won’t recognize lucky opportunities when you see them. I know I’m not really old enough to be handing out sagely advice like earplugs at a Justin Bieber concert, but I am sure about this one.
Well, I’ve said all I wanted to say. I guess I had something to say after all. All that’s left now is to wish all of you the best of luck in your endeavors — GRE, grad school, and beyond.