What?!Yeah, I know. I decided to be pretty private about the whole thing because I wasn't sure if I'd be accepted to any of the schools I applied to or if I would ultimately decide to enroll. It's honestly been such an emotional rollercoaster, but I'm grateful for all of it.
"We'll see...."The past six months have been a lesson in taking steps of faith and being surprised by the result. I decided to apply to graduate school out of a hunger to learn more, to build some quantitative skills, and to explore the possibility of pivoting from public administration to public policy research. Call me a delusional idiot but I only applied to some of the best policy schools in the nation (but was prudent enough to not even try for UChicago and Berkeley; they quant too hard for this chick). My reasoning was, if I get rejected from each and every school, that's a clear signal from God that heading in this direction was clearly not meant to be.
Writing application essays was pretty great; I like writing and being self-reflective, so it didn't feel like a chore though I did exert my best effort in composing them. It forced me to answer the questions of Why do I want this? and Do I really want this? I'd like to think I constructed some compelling arguments.
But the waiting... Oh my word. There was a two-month delay until I heard back from one school, then I waited another two months to hear back from the other two. I didn't spend every single day in self-doubt and self-recrimination over my application materials, but let's be real, it crossed my mind on a regular basis.
Schools these days deliver their admissions decisions in such a needlessly stressful way. All three schools sent an automated, neutrally-worded email directing me to log into their application portal. In the ten seconds that elapsed between clicking the link, logging in and viewing the admissions decision, my heart was about to explode out of my chest!! When I received the offer of admission from each school, I immediately popped up from my desk and roamed the halls, looking for Pat (my certified "work mom" who completed letters of recommendation for me). I think I had a crazed look in my eye because coworkers would stop me and ask, "Are you okay?" With shaky breath I would assure them so, all the while thinking, where the hell was Pat???! I couldn't wait to tell her.
Those moments were absolutely surreal. I was living in a dream... And then the financial reality hit.
The true meaning of "cost prohibitive"I'm not saying that I recommend this method, but as I decided which schools to apply to, I decided not to dwell too much on the total costs of each program, thinking I would cross that bridge when I came to it. My logic was that if God was going to open the door, there would be some sort of financial aid package that would lessen the enormous blow of the cost of living and tuition. Also, why prematurely sweat the costs of a program to which I might not even be admitted?
In other words, I assumed things would simply work out. I mean, things ultimately did "work out," but not in the straightforward way that my mind assumed they would.
Once I received the offers of admission, I started to crunch the numbers, and my jaw dropped all the way to the floor. What even the hell was I thinking? In the words of my mentor Terry, "I mean, I know you've saved, but not that much!" We both laughed at that because, well, it's true.
Graduate school is a foreign world to me. In a purely Utilitarian sense, I wasn't sure if the net benefits exceeded the net costs. I started asking around, and had no shortage of friends and family with their own "debt stories": how they decided to take the plunge and whether they ultimately regretted it. I also started to conduct research in earnest into these three programs, reviewing the curriculum (testing for rigor and relevancy), grilling current students and reading up on faculty. I came to the conclusion that I could not make an informed decision without going out and physically visiting each of the three schools for their admitted student events.
"Comparative perspective"Let's just say that New York, Providence and Cambridge are all very, very different places. I had a blast exploring, observing cultural norms and comparing public transportation systems (fun fact: I had never been to any of these places before). The programs themselves were also quite varied. "So have you completed your aggregate scoring of all three schools based on multiple criteria?" my coworker Gretchen inquired. "I haven't set the weighted scores just yet," I joked. No such spreadsheet exists, but you can be assured that I was keeping a mental score of each program's strengths and weaknesses, and it was changing by the day.
Despite three months of lead-up filled with agonizing over the enrollment decision, it wasn't that tough to make in the end. I'm old enough to know that there's no "perfect" program that's made "just for me," but taking the major factors into account, listening to to my heart and observing multiple signs of confirmation from God, Brown was the one.
Joyous liminalityI leave for Providence on May 30! I'm in that unique in-between place of wrapping up things at work, reflecting on the past, thanking God for the blessings of the present, mourning leaving Seattle and the people I love, and lining up all the practicalities of a cross-country move. In all this God has faithfully provided.
"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. [S]he who goes out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with [her]" (Psalm 126:6).I've definitely gone through difficult times in the past, but I'm grateful for times like these: of plenty, favor, joy and adventure.