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Gradually Getting into Grad School: A Tribute to Oprah

Gradually Getting into Grad School: A Tribute to Oprah

“Just go right away and get it over with.” My university was trying out a new mentor system and this was the advice about grad school that I got from the alum I had been paired with. Thanks for the advice, “mentor” but I took a hard pass on grad school immediately after undergrad.

I just wanted to work. But, my two jobs in DC weren’t right for me because I didn’t major in spreadsheets and I actually wanted to apply the knowledge and experiences I had taken away from school.

I realized at my first job and through “The Newsroom” that I really wanted to work in communications, the media, something along those lines. Basically, all I wanted to do for work was get paid to write on my blog, sit on my butt, and watch TV. But, seeing as how that wasn’t happening, I figured the media would be more exciting than international development and would put me on the right track to reaching my career goal of being Oprah.

I guess we can’t be friends

A few jobs I had applied to in the past were media-related, but most of them didn’t get back to me. All of them seemed to require a degree in English, journalism, or communications or actual experience doing something relevant. And I had none of that unless you consider writing about boys and HIV scares on my blog relevant.

So, because no one seemed to want to give me the initial experience to get experience, I started looking at grad school programs for journalism. Why? Many people don’t think studying journalism is a wise decision right now with newspapers and magazines disappearing. But, I know someone wrote all those articles posted on Facebook, so I don’t think good journalism is completely dead.

Round One

I began my grad school application process in the fall of 2014. I chose to only apply to UC-Berkeley and Columbia because they didn’t require the GRE (which I hadn’t taken) for their journalism programs. But, they are also arguably two of the best and most selective grad school journalism programs in the country. On top of my limited writing experience, TWO of the three people I had planned to be my grad school references said no. What the fuck?

Me either

Despite this setback, I found new references and applied.

Here are my two application essays to Columbia:

Columbia Application: Essay A

Columbia Application: Essay B

For Columbia, I also had to complete a prompt about a news story that had happened in the past year and discuss the angle I would take in approaching the subject. Honey Boo Boo’s mom, June “Mama June” Shannon, had just gotten into deep trouble because she was allegedly hanging out with her oldest daughter’s molester after he got out of jail. Since I felt that my chances of getting accepted were so minuscule, I wrote about that as a kind of Hail Mary attempt to stand out. And sadly, I knew more about HBB than topics you would think a journalist should write about in early 2015, like the crisis in Ukraine or the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. I thought I approached the topic from a very original angle though. So I stood behind it.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get into Berkeley. When I got my decision email from Columbia, I expected a similar verdict. But, I got waitlisted – at Columbia, an Ivy League school, for a journalism program writing about Honey Boo Boo’s mom? The universe could be really twisted sometimes. My English teachers in high school weren’t a fan of my stuff (see Essay A), but Columbia thought there was a glimmer of journalism potential in me.

Round Two

Columbia eventually rejected me.

Despite half-convincing myself it was a one-off accident, I decided to apply to journalism school again. This time, however, I wanted to do things right and make no excuses about not having enough time, etc. I took the GRE and did pretty well for not paying hundreds of dollars for a prep course or even buying a book.

And then I whittled down my list of schools to apply to. I ended up choosing six based on their reputations, the specializations they offer, location, and where their graduates have found jobs. From the end of November until February, I spent many hours preparing my application essays and other required materials. I spent even more time stressing about how much I had to do and putting it off.

After wrangling my recommenders, waking up early to finish my essays in coffee shops here in Seoul (because I didn’t have internet in my apartment), and paying all of the outrageous application and transcript fees, I could finally relax and let the chips fall where they may.

I was pretty sure that if I had gotten waitlisted at Columbia the previous year, I could at least get into one of these schools. And I had moved to Seoul with the intention of only staying until the fall. But, then I got in my head and started thinking I could get rejected everywhere. That would suck because I’d have wasted a ton of time, money, and energy not to mention that I would have no exit strategy from Korea and no plan for what to do with my life next.

The responses started to come in, and I did get accepted places. Here’s the final tally:

  • Stanford: rejected
  • Columbia: waitlisted (again)
  • Northwestern: accepted
  • NYU: accepted
  • Syracuse: accepted
  • Arizona State: accepted

Not too bad to get accepted to four (and a half) of the six schools I applied to. That was fantastic. All of the schools had their selling points, and I had trouble deciding. The ones that accepted me all offered me scholarship money or interviewed me for specialization programs that come with financial assistance. A couple professors even reached out to me. The head of NYU’s magazine program told me she forwarded one of my essays to her daughter because it might be useful to her. What? That’s bananas.

I ended up choosing Northwestern mostly because you don’t have to specialize right away. My experience so far has been in writing, but what if I want to do something with broadcast or documentary? I know so little about the media field that I think I should wait until I have a firmer understanding before choosing my niche. Chicago will also be a cool new city to explore. It was my dream to move there for undergrad, so now it feels like everything’s come full circle for me.

Guess who else got big in Chicago

Northwestern Personal Statement

I’m nervous for a lot of reasons to start grad school. I have no debt from undergrad thanks to scholarships, cheap Oklahoma living, and a little bit to my parents. So, this will be the first time I’m racking up student loans and journalism’s not known for being the most lucrative career. However, my program’s only a year. And whenever I think about how much I owe and whether this experience is a waste of money, I can think back to sitting at my boring ass jobs in DC. I’ll be happy that I took a risk and did something that will give me real skills and some useful connections. Maybe it’ll give me purpose too.

Eight Types of People Who Want Me to Feel Sorry for Them (But I Don’t)

Eight Types of People Who Want Me to Feel Sorry for Them (But I Don’t)

It seems that everyone’s a martyr these days. I’m so busy. I’m so tired. I’m so single. Please let me rant about my complicated lifestyle that I have chosen for myself. Although I have been accused of “playing the victim” several times in life, it’s a dirty habit I’m trying to kick. If you want to feel sorry for yourself, fine. That’s a personal choice and I don’t think it will really get you anywhere. If you want me to feel sorry for you, you best look somewhere else. Because I got no time for dat.

1. Bikers- I get it. You want to stay active and save money by biking to work. You’re also environmentally conscious and can get to places way quicker than I can walking. But, when you complain about how people don’t know how to drive and they threaten your safety, I usually side with the dumbass drivers. Bikers, please create some sort of national assembly where you can solidify the rules that you abide by and disperse these rules to all cyclists around the country and world. Do you ride on the sidewalk? Do you wear a helmet at all times? Do you stop at stop signs and stoplights like everyone else? My problem with you guys is that you’re all over the place. When I walk around the city, I often feel endangered by YOU. Wait for me while I cross the crosswalk when I have the right of way and maybe I’ll have some more compassion for your cause.

2. Vegetarians/Vegans- There was this one vegetarian girl at my high school and I thought she could be such a bitch about her dietary choice. “We can’t go to this restaurant because I can’t eat anything.” “The school cafeteria needs to offer more vegetarian options for me.” Me, me, me. Did you give up meat to help the animals or yourself? I was a semi-strict vegetarian for a couple of years in college. I say “semi” because I never wanted my being a vegetarian to cause a scene. When my friend’s mom learned that I was a vegetarian, she asked if I eat Spam. My own grandma made lasagna with meat because she didn’t really understand vegetarianism. At those points, it was just easier for me to just suck it up and eat what’s put in front of me. The animal’s already dead and nobody wants to listen to a lecture from me about ethical and sustainable meat products. I’m not saying to eat things that don’t comply with your diet, I’m just saying stop whining about it. Go eat some non-dairy, non-soy, vegan humble pie.

3. Everyone in Grad School- As a young professional a few years out of college, I often come into contact with people in grad school or people applying for grad school. I don’t really understand the fascination with it, because I just spent four years getting a degree that I’d actually like to use. But everyone’s entitled to follow his/her own course in life, and for some that means pledging your first-born child as collateral so you take out MORE student loans and write your dissertation (along with everyone else) on ending the Israel-Palestine conflict. I know you think that your status as a published author in the university’s journal will have the UN hunting you down, but sadly, a higher degree doesn’t guarantee a job. See below:

Why Attending Law School Is The Worst Career Decision You’ll Ever Make

8 months out, no job… I guess my Ivy League Master’s Degree was a waste of money

So, I know you love talking down to me about how your schedule is just ridiculously busy and how I can’t understand what you’re going through because I ONLY work 40 hours a week, but don’t try to get me to feel sorry for you. We both had options after graduation. I (unintentionally) chose to get a job where I do nothing and get paid too much money. You chose to have a negative bank account and read lots of books with boring covers. Let’s just agree that our lives went in different directions, but neither is easier, better, or more beneficial to the starving people in Africa.

4. People who work in Nonprofits- So you went from being a martyr in grad school to a martyr in a nonprofit. And you don’t understand why you’re only making $30,000 a year when that’s how much you took out annually for tuition alone in grad school. I’m sure you are benefiting homeless youth with diabetes or seeing eye dogs for seeing eye dogs. But if you want to be able to afford expensive fair trade coffee made my Rwandan orphans or wear a designer gown to your charity organization’s annual gala, you should have thought a little more about your salary requirements when you were applying for jobs.

5. People who aren’t in relationships but want to be- Don’t get me wrong, I’m as untouched as a toilet seat with pee on it, but we have to use our singleness as an asset and not mope around. While couples are wasting all of their money on fancy anniversary dinners and birth control, we can eat our storebrand mac and cheese directly from the pot with a wooden spoon and have no one judge us. We don’t have to worry about anyone awkwardly breathing in our ear while snuggling after sex or holding anyone’s clammy hand during a movie. So, let’s not bore our single friends with stories about how we can’t get a date and how we know at age 24 that we are going to be alone forever. One, you’re preaching to the choir, and two, desperation leads to cat ladies.

6. Unpaid Interns- Landing an internship while still in school can be a really big accomplishment. The process is often competitive so congrats on being chosen. However, once you start interning, you have to realize that you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Even the janitor gets paid more than you. I know that live tweeting what everyone eats for lunch and sorting the mail is super stressful, but no one else really wants to hear about it. Go write your independent research paper that no one is ever going to read or ask some more Capitol Hill staffers for their email addresses.

7. Introverts- If you think that being an introvert means non-stop social media posting about how you’re an introvert, I’m no behavioral psychologist, but I can spew out a few fancy words about you and none of them will be “introvert”.

8. Stereotypical Sorority Girls- You have Beta Bro Brunch, Theta Theatrics, and an Intro to Communications pop quiz all in one week? How are you going to survive?! No one has ever taken on so much responsibility as you. I mean, you’re stunting coordinator for the chapter’s dance at Homecoming where you’ll get imaginary points that will go toward winning an imaginary prize AND you had to walk a dog for 35 minutes to get community services hours. These skills are going to get you places someday. (Not really)

In conclusion, it’s ok to vent about your life’s obstacles, but most of the time you have no one to blame but yourself. Stop complaining and stop inviting me to your pity party. Invite me to a real social event…please.