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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.

Birthday. No Sex.

Birthday. No Sex.

I really hate my birthday. It’s not something I look forward to. Every year’s the same. I’m still single and still not famous, just another year older. But, although I try to avoid it, it keeps happening. So, I suck it up and usually find some way to celebrate with friends. It’s pretty much impossible to coordinate all of my DC friends’ schedules, so being the goober I am, I made an online survey for my closest friends to fill out to decide whether I should have a party at all and if so, when. I got a kick out of some of their responses.

What is your favorite type of alcohol?

  • Vodka or rum

  • I want to drink all of the alcohols with you but I will be on a plane to koala land!

  • Tequila, gin, whiskey, rum. Just NOT VODKA. (You kno dis.)

  • Rum pumpumpumpumm. Also cider.

  • All of the above

  • Bourbon

  • Champagne!

  • vodka!

  • Doesn’t matter, cheaper/trashier the better

  • gin and tonics!

  • Tie between vodka and gin. But really I’ll drink anything 🙂

What kind of snacks do you want?

  • Dip baby!

  • Pickles are always a hit. You can also use the juice for shots!

  • Pizza?

  • All the snacks. Except for hummus and shit like triscuits.

  • Cookies and goldfish (live ones) Jk

  • Chocolate

  • I’m not picky

  • Whatever you have for me

  • dont care

  • Diabetes inducing


  • Cheese and crackers, potato chips, hummus, any of the above.

  • Bourbon

Do you want to have a good time or are you going to be a lame ho?

Good time: 12 people (92.31% of respondents)

Lame Ho: 5 people (38.46% of respondents)

What should the theme of my party be?

  • ANTM

  • Mammals & grandmas

  • … Gay… Stuff? Idk, Heather. I’m not good at themed stuff. Although if you provided me with an excuse to wear heels that would be p cool.

  • Cats.

  • Celebrate Peter time?

  • Sex. No babies.

  • Chelsea’s sad she can’t be there

  • Let me think on this

  • Diva Day–everyone dress up as their favorite Diva! Wish i could come 🙁 I will be out of town–leaving Dec. 11th. buttt have so much fun!

  • Celebrity mugshots or the whole party is the rupaul challenge where they’re celebrities

  • ANTM, and you are TYRA.

  • “Congress Can’t Shut Us Down”

  • good times with lame hoes

If you read my last blog post, you know that I went to Oklahoma for a weekend trip and lost a few good friends during my travels. I came back the week before my birthday and wasn’t feeling too excited about throwing this party that I had already made a Facebook event for. But you only turn 17 once, so I figured that I should follow through and make the best of things. Over twenty people came to a party put on ONLY BY ME and no one was a dick, which warmed my heart a million times.

The turnout to my birthday party as well as the presents and special messages I received on my birthday really blew me away. I value true friends a lot, so I get really upset when one of my friendships seems to crumble like it did in Oklahoma. However, my birthday made me realize that there are some people that truly care about me, and those are the people I need to surround myself with. Advice: Don’t fixate on asses that just waste your time and emotions.

Sappy conclusion:

I care about people in my life a great deal and am fortunate to have made so many happy memories with them. They all inspire me to be a better person and keep chugging along when things get tough. A big thank you to everyone that has played a part in my life so far and sent me a shout out on my birthday (even if it was a simple FB wall post). I hope that your life is filled with love, happiness, and cats. May the spirit of Oprah bless you and your loved ones during this holiday season and lead us all to success and (in my case) fame.


Pita Mustafa


Belittled Boy Blue

Belittled Boy Blue

I’ve been in DC a little over two months now. When I first came back from Armenia, I had a paid internship lined up. After working there for only a few weeks, I somehow got hired to work at USAID and make more money than I had anticipated making before I was 30. Ok, maybe not THAT much, but I really like my salary.

As time passes, I become more and more acclimated to the US capital, its layout, its culture, its people. Some things I like (public transportation, feeling important, lots of stuff to do, massive gay population). Others I’m not a fan of (homelessness, racial inequality, gays that are sassy as fuck). But overall, my one major complaint about this city is the rude-ass people who constantly try to belittle me.

To bring us all up to speed, I’m a moderately intelligent and successful young person. (If you don’t like this statement, go away.) I did well in school, I had some internships, I’ve been abroad. So why do I feel so put down by these people? DC attracts some of America’s brightest and most pretentious recent graduates. They love to talk about themselves and how amazing they are and thus, they love to put everyone else down, especially other intelligent people like me.

I’m very thankful that I got my job only a couple of weeks after physically being here. Many people love to exaggerate how much they networked to get the positions they have today.  I think “networking” is a big crock of shit and therefore, would not have a job if my career depended on the all-important “n” word. But DC-ites (pronounced “dickites”) are permanently stuck in network mode. Any conversation becomes a competition.


person: So what do you do?

me: I just started working at USAID a couple months ago.

person: Wow. Do you like it?

me: Yeah, it’s cool. It’s interesting work and a real job, not like my past internships. I even get security clearance.

bitch who knows nothing about what I do at my job: I don’t really understand why you’d need security clearance. It’s not like you do anything THAT important. At my job…

Another way people express their superiority is by hiding their past. Like in an awkward, uncomfortable way. I love sharing my background both personally and professionally and hearing the same from my coworkers and new friends. This allows for human connections to be made and (god forbid) networking. But for reason unclear to me, some of the people I work with are hesitant to share any shred of personal information. I still don’t know where people are originally from, their relationship status, how long they’ve worked at this office. At my job in Oklahoma, my boss could talk about her dog FOR. HOURS. And she did. But I loved it.  Here, that’s probably considered taboo and “unprofessional”. Gag! Get over yourselves and your made-up professionalism rules.

But, probably the DUMBEST conversation I’ve had here in DC (maybe ever) was in the Russian class I started taking on Saturdays. On the first day of class, I turned to the people next to me during the break and tried to get to know them. Since I already knew their names, I asked what they do. A stereotypical question for DC but a conversation starter nonetheless. This is how it went with one girl:

me: What do you do?

girl: I work on the Hill. (SUCH a DC answer)

me: What do you do on the Hill?

girl: (acting confused) uhhhh

me: Like, do you work for a Member of Congress or for a committee…?

annoying girl: I work for a Member of Congress.

me: A Senator? A Representative?

robot: I work for a Senator.

me: A Senator from where?

robot: I work for a Republican Senator.

me: I’m done. (did not say this out loud)

What the hell is this, 20 questions? I really don’t give a shit what you do. I’m just trying to make small talk. You could have just concisely stated your position and we would have moved on. Nope, had to make it this drawn out process because you think I’m going to steal your identity or follow you home and sell your body parts on the internet with all this “secretive” information you’re supplying me.

In conclusion…

Get over yourselves, people of DC!!!  I’m sure everyone’s told you you’re the shit and that you’re important/special/deserving/talented/motivated/superior. But I’m here to tell you a tall glass of bitter bitch named Peter Jones is in town so you BUTTER step off that pedestal that mommy and daddy put you on. Because