What’s My Impossible? Getting in to Graduate School
Believe you can’t get into graduate school? I did too. Here’s how I overcame my impossible dream of going back to school.
I was a great student in high school. And by “great,” I mean I graduated with a 4.4 GPA and was in band, chamber and choral choirs, co-starred in two plays, all while taking French horn and piano lessons. I rocked at high school.
But I couldn’t handle college. I dropped out during my first semester and went home, dazed and disturbed by my collegiate experience. After a few months of working at a fast-food restaurant and cleaning homes, I went back to school and limped through the remaining four years. I graduated, but barely.
After graduating, I worked at a bookstore and lived with my parents and tried to forget about my undergraduate experience. I had a plan: I was going to Scotland.
Specifically, I was going to the University of Edinburgh for their master’s program in writing. I’d hang out in old cafes and walk down cobblestone streets, then I’d casually write a few novels and become extravagantly wealthy.
Except that didn’t happen; instead, after nearly a year of working at the bookstore and anxiously checking the mailbox every day, I received the thin envelope holding news of my rejection in a few terse sentences.
And just like that, the glorious future I had managed to scrape together from the wreckage of my horrifying undergraduate experience was snuffed out. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to earn enough money to move out of my parents’ house. I wasn’t a good writer. I wasn’t a good anything. I was 24, and I was lost.
While I was still working at the bookstore, I decided to apply to graduate schools in the States. I remember compiling my writing portfolio and thinking, “This is a waste of application money. I’m just going to get rejected again because I’m an awful writer and might not succeed in grad school.” But I sent my application to a dozen schools, including an Ivy League school—just because I wanted to frame the rejection letter when it arrived. One evening, the house phone rang, and an older-sounding gentleman asked to speak to me. He explained he was a professor at Columbia University and he wanted to personally congratulate me on getting into the master’s program.
I had been accepted to an Ivy League school.
I calmly thanked him, hung up the phone, and then screamed. But it didn’t stop there—I was also accepted to New York University. I’d been telling myself I wasn’t good enough for so long that I couldn’t believe anyone else would think otherwise.
That’s the lesson here: The only person getting in the way of you is your own brain. All those popular clichés about believing in yourself are popular for a reason: Because they’re true. You can get into graduate school if you want to: You just need to try. Don’t give up if you’re rejected the first time, either; sometimes something even better is just around the corner.
As for me? I can now say I’m an Ivy League graduate. I achieved my impossible: I got a master’s degree in creative writing at NYU.
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