Graduate Admissions Purgatory

I’m not really sure how to write about this, yet.

I’m still processing, still worrying, and still having a hard time believing this is my life.

Five years ago, I received my letter of admission to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. This seems like pretty much nothing to the average person, but to me, it meant everything. I didn’t grow up like most kids whose parents encouraged them to do big things and pursue strong education–or at least, not the same kind of education, anyway. I really believe God must put certain people in our lives at certain times to give us the support and strength we need to do big things–sometimes these things are so contrary to every piece of the world we’ve ever known. For me, pursuing public education has been quite antithetical to my entire childhood and my parents’ values, furthermore, some, even still, might say it is antithetical to our spiritual beliefs. But, it was certain people, like my partner, Dan, who made the road a little easier–he pushed me to be stronger and better.

So here I am. Ready to graduate. Ready to graduate with high honors, even. I thought I wouldn’t be good at college–I wasn’t prepared, no one helped me get there, and I had a baby in the middle of it. Even though all of this was true, in 2016, my decision to pursue graduate work was solidified. I knew I wanted–actually needed–more.

And still, it was only a few months ago that my voice was shaking in my advisor’s office asking if she thought I’d be good enough to even try applying to doctoral programs. I tend to be highly critical of myself–I think a lot of people are like this–at least, I hope I’m not alone.

The application process is weird.

You find schools sort of based on who you want to work with and what you want to do. It’s not like you can just change your major the next semester. You really have to know what you’re doing, but the whole time you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

So, a prospective graduate student starts developing application materials early on by studying for the GRE, making a list of schools and people to work with and apply specifically to, asking mentors and advisors to write letters on your behalf, and by writing, and re-writing, and then completely re-writing again, some hodge-podge personal statements and maybe an essay here and there. It’s draining–especially to write about oneself and determine in written word one’s long term plan. Oh, also, the applicant must apply like an entire year before he or she would actually ever make it to the graduate school, which means if the applicant is an undergraduate, he or she is balancing applications, work, and the usual credit load (I was taking 21 credits at the time…whoo!).

And, once materials are in, you wait.

And, you wait.

And, you check your email.

Every five seconds.

And you hear nothing.

But you’re still checking.


And, this is why we call it graduate admissions purgatory because the applicant find herself paying for the sins of her undergraduate, or something like that, while she waits in this horrible indefinite limbo.

Some people never hear back.

Some people are waitlisted (which means more terrible waiting).

Even though I think my whole experience in graduate admissions purgatory was pretty, honestly, terrible, I was one of the lucky ones. I heard back from more than half my schools, was offered several interviews, and was offered a spot at every school I interviewed at. Even when I felt like my interview answers were garbage, even when I was literally the only applicant not wearing a blazer (I don’t even own a black blazer…I’ll Christmas list it), and even when I found myself sort of begging to be rejected to make my decisions easier once I’d been offered multiple spots.

I am grateful.

Because on the days when I re-read my admissions offers, I remember sitting at my advisor’s desk with a spread of documents–from GRE scores to blurbs about long-term goals, wondering if I was good enough despite being told repeatedly, “you have to apply. you are a serious candidate.

I remember the third day of sophomore year when I found out I was pregnant and thought I would have to drop out of the college I had worked so hard to get in to.

I remember my backstory and how none of my family supported my higher education.

And I remember that this is what resilience looks like.

In March of 2016, I knew I was interested in bringing the fields of psychology and education together, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like–I remember saying in my first practicum, “I want to be a school psychologist”, but I had a ways before I’d find out how to make that happen. I found Dr. Missall’s research at this time, and I remember sitting on my couch, sending my husband a text saying, “Have you ever thought about going maybe to Seattle? They have a really great program and someone I think I would really love to work with,” and I sent him tons of information about it. The place had never crossed our minds prior to that. At this moment in time, I was realizing my strong interest in the School Psychology field and the University of Washington would remain high on my list for years after that.

We visited last March, and we both fell in love with Seattle.

Fast forward to this year.

I thought I did terribly in my interview–I actually still think I did do terrible in the interview, but I think I demonstrated that I could be personable, which is important because academics are sometimes weird. But, I received my offer for admission on February 28th. This complicated my life because I already had several good offers, and I knew that the route in Seattle would be a little more challenging than others.

But, I am so happy to share that I’ve made my decision, and I’m out of graduate school purgatory. Our family will be relocating the Seattle area this summer.

As part of my application to UW, I wrote an essay using Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose”, comparing the difficulties in my life and the field of School Psychology to his words. You’ve seen it on my blog a few times before.

As someone who statistically should have never made it this far, I have to ask, did you hear about the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s law is wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.

The beauty about this decision is that this prepares me to be attentive to and aware of the well-being of so many others outside myself. We all have sincere room to grow in our consideration of others, and I can not think of a better way to spend my daily time and energy than to be considering, and serving, others, and researching ways to get better at that.

Thank you to all (although many may not have understood) who helped me through such a strange season in my life.

Special thanks to my family, Dan and Avery, for always being there for me. ❤

Back to my roots, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6.

– Jess


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