How to survive grad school applications

An essential guide to planning for the future


With chill winds sweeping across campus and graduation on the increasingly-visible horizon, there’s only one thing left to do for many students moving on from Queen’s — begin applying to as many graduate programs, internships and jobs as you can stomach.

Having completed this process last fall — I’m now in a Legal and Political Thought Master’s program — I have a pretty good handle on how to make it through unscathed and thought it was time to pass along the knowledge.

I’ve found that really preparing to graduate is the one thing that makes the prospect of building a small, concealed habitat under a desk in Stauffer, and living there forever, seem profoundly appealing.

The first thing to expect when applying to grad school is sudden and overwhelming uncertainty about what you want to do, where you want to live and why you’re even going back to school in the first place. The same goes for career jobs.

One strategy to consider for clearing this hurdle is writing down what you value most and evaluating opportunities based on how they align with that list.

However, my best advice is to apply broadly and without discrimination. Comedy Writing and Performance at Humber? That could be useful! Sommelier certification program at Niagara College? I’m pretty sure that’s actually the dream!

If you can’t decide what you want to do, just throw your name in for anything and everything.  If you’re not ready to jump into the real world just yet, maybe it’s time to pack up and head to Europe while you figure it out. It will take every moment of your “free” time from now until you actually cross the stage to receive your degree but who knows?

The next thing you’ll want to prepare for are the frequent and spontaneous meltdowns. These will be triggered by friends telling you how well they did on their LSAT, your parents asking if you’ve heard back from any schools yet and any lingering self-doubt you might’ve thought you’d done away with.

Keep in mind that we’re all heading to different places in life, so it wouldn’t make sense to all take the same path.

If that doesn’t work, I highly recommend carrying a travel pack of Kleenex at all times, as well as a puppy to comfort you or distract others as needed. I also advise you to start planting the seeds now that you’re struggling with really bad allergies this fall, so that you can pull that excuse out of your back pocket at a later date.

Last — and most important — developing a really great 25-word response to questions about next year will help you feel more confident when you’re put on the spot. “I’ve applied to a few grad programs and jobs, but I’m still figuring out which city has the best yoga studios to support my practice,” is one option I’m happy to pass along free of charge. Most people who ask this question only want to tell you their own plans, so don’t worry about fleshing out too many details.

To sum up, planning for life post-grad can be full of ups and downs. The thing to remember is that if you’re adequately prepared and able to completely detach from feeling emotions, you should have nothing to worry about.

Keep your GPA high, work on your personal essays and … um seriously does anyone have a puppy I can borrow just for like six weeks?

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