Quick Update!

I’m always flattered when I open my e-mail and discover that a new subscriber has started to follow my blog, one that I’ve been neglecting for three long months. I would like to extend my most sincere apologies for leaving everyone hanging and can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for every follower or comment that I receive.

I’m happy to report that I’ve settled into my new apartment and everything is mostly set up. This summer has been rife with events, but I won’t disclose everything here. When things start happening in my life, I’m not really the type to post more and vent all of my feelings publicly. This blog in particular is a corner of the internet that I like to keep professional and rational. And yet, I think that personal posts wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing either, and maybe in the future I’ll post more about my life and who I am, especially as I begin to settle into graduate school. I don’t even have the same hair color that is displayed on my “About” page–I bleached my hair from jet black to golden blonde! Hashtag INFP, am I right?

I have no desire to discontinue my series on applying to graduate school, and to be honest I’ve had several ideas for various posts lined up for a while now. Thank you for subscribing up to this point, and expect more posts from me in the future!

How to Apply to Graduate School: Choosing Schools

3Feb2013aAlthough I thought that choosing which graduate schools to apply to would be easy, I ended up making a lost of last-minute decisions. In fact, the school I’ll be attending in the fall happened to be one that I applied to on a whim after a professor recommended the program. I would actually advise against doing this, because the deadlines will stress you out and you might wind up applying to far more or fewer schools than you had anticipated.

If you’re reading this entry (or having been following this series at all), you probably have a good idea of what school you would like to attend. Maybe you’ve taped the picture of your dream school to your fridge. Maybe you have the U.S. News graduate school rankings bookmarked. But although you might have your heart set on some programs, I’d like to offer a little bit of advice in regards to which schools are really worth spending the time and money applying to.

Narrowing down your list of schools early on will help you in a few ways. First of all, you’ll give yourself ample time to do background research about the school. You’ll also be able to schedule your applications and test dates with more ease, since deadlines vary based on the school (in general, I’ve noticed that higher-ranked programs have earlier deadlines, so bear that in mind if you want your applications to go out this upcoming winter).

The following are some useful factors to keep in mind when determining which schools you’ll want to apply to during application season:

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What Did You Read in High School?

usfpoeI had to stop myself from pressing “Post” last night on my Facebook status. It was 1 in the morning and for some reason I was recalling the memory of my high school English class. This was ninth grade, before I switched to the collegiate high school where I was granted a considerably greater amount of freedom regarding what I could read for school credit. Anyway, in ninth grade, my teacher stood in front of the class and explained to us what her curriculum was like. This was not only an honors class, but was in fact a “gifted” class, filled with those of us who had been part of the gifted program for seven or eight years.

Our teacher informed us that she would not be assigning any books or novels for us to read in her class because she wanted us to “spend more time with our families” (way to go, Florida educational system). She had no real reason to teach us anything, seeing as how we were guaranteed to do well on standardized tests with little effort. In fact, looking back I’m actually appalled at the instances in which my “gifted” class was assigned to an utterly incompetent, uninteresting teacher, based upon the fact that she or he would be less likely to suffer from a class that tested poorly.

All of the above is besides the point, though I thought I would articulate my freshman year experience more fully for added effect, I suppose. Most of the other 9th grade classes were reading Romeo and Juliet or To Kill a Mockingbird (the other classes also got to make a Romeo and Juliet “movie” as an assignment, and I was so jealous that I made my own with a few friends, even though my work wasn’t going to be graded. My friends didn’t know this at the time…). It seems like Shakespeare and Harper Lee are staples of high school reading lists, commonly found in the “Back to School!” section of Barnes and Noble Booksellers every summer and fall.

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Sugar Bowl: Week of 5/18/13

I’m sorry for not really posting once this week. A medical procedure that should have been minor resulted in a close relative being hospitalized for three days (everything is fine now, though!). I spent most of my week in a freezing cold hospital room and the rest of the week I spent reading.

Book review blogs might be a dime a dozen, but I’m wondering if I should post a little review of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Most of the time I’m sort of indifferent about the opinions of others on books (I’m reading Ender’s Game right now, which my friends love, yet I don’t think I like it). However, Norwegian Wood just provided me with a lot of food for thought. I don’t really care about writing a review regarding what the book is about or whether or not I liked it (let’s be real here, it’s Murakami), although I would like to publish a few of my thoughts provoked by some of the stuff going on in the text.

Anyway—on to the links!

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Sugar Bowl: Week of 5/11/13

I’ve been spamming up this blog quite a bit this week. However, I wanted to stick to my promise that I wouldn’t skip this week’s Sugar Bowl or post late. I’ve also adopted the habit of writing loads and loads of commentary along with my links, which I tried to do less of this week. Plus I just found a lot of neat stuff to read over the past few days and would do well to direct my comments about these posts, you know, on the actual posts. Anyway, click below to see my favorite links.

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How to Apply to Graduate School: Find a Mentor

3Feb2013aToday’s post will be a short one, though I do have probably another seven or eight installments planned for this series. Today’s tip is probably the most useful (or was in my case) and I think that if you have a lot of anxiety about graduate school, like I described in a previous post, then taking this step might help to assuage your nerves.

I have a friend who is terrified of her professors. She’ll send them the occasional e-mail with a question, but in general she prefers not to talk in class or visit office hours. As a shy person myself, I can totally understand her position. However, some of the scariest professors I’ve ever had have also been some of the nicest when I caught them alone in their offices.

If you’re finishing up your junior year of college, you probably know of a few professors you like. When I was first toying with the idea of graduate school, I visited not only the department’s graduate studies director, but also my undergraduate advisor. I dropped by some of my favorite professors’ offices and asked them about their experiences with graduate school.

Finding a mentor (or several) is a great idea because it allows you to not only broach the task of acquiring recommendations, but you’re also able to get professional advice about where to apply. I (unknowingly) applied to one of my favorite professors’ alma mater, and when I told him about my acceptance he was totally ecstatic, saying that he could probably pull some strings and help me secure funding and even find a job and housing in the area (I wound up choosing a different school, but still, he was totally awesome).

If you decide to use a research or writing sample from a certain class, you could even approach the professor of that class and ask for very specific feedback on your assignment because you’re planning to use it in an application. Ask your mentor about how to write a statement of purpose. Ask about applying for scholarships.

I totally understand that it’s scary to approach busy professors. But ultimately, most want to help you and will give you their honest opinions and advice. In fact, there are professors in my old department who don’t even like me, but I still have awesome professional friendships with others by not getting discouraged. I would recommend that even the absolute shyest people try to ask for a little guidance from a professor (or even a graduate student or TA if that’s less intimidating) before beginning the application process. It’ll help to clear your head and you might walk out of their office with a few decisions made that you had been grappling with before.


Books to Display on Your Coffee Table

Do you remember in Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood when Al would talk about the food he wanted to eat when he got his human form back? No? Just me? In any case, I feel the same way about getting an apartment. I already have a running list in my head of all of the things I can’t wait to fill a new apartment with (this dream may not be a reality for a while, but I don’t mind). And by “things” I want to fill my apartment with, I really mean “books.”

Although I usually tend to hoard novels and nonfiction books about literary theory and culture, I also have a soft spot in my heart for “decorative” books. When I go to my friends’ apartments and houses, I always like to have something to do or look at. My best friend actually kept a Rubik’s cube and a variety of little nicknacks on his desk for my enjoyment whenever I was over. Books can have the same purpose—they’re neat to keep around and look at, plus they can serve as conversation starters for guests.

Read on to see my favorite “coffee table” books!

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Belated Sugar Bowl: Week of 5/4/13

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently graduated from college and moved out of my place in Orlando. Currently, I’m living with my aunt in Columbia, SC, and with any luck I’ll find myself settled into Winston-Salem, NC, in the coming weeks.

Although I would usually consider myself pretty laid-back, this feeling of not being in school or employed is making me feel extremely restless. I feel like I’m caught in limbo right now, and while my friends and family are encouraging me to take it easy for a while, I can’t help but plunge into looking for a job right away. I just want to start my new life as soon as possible so that I can start a new social life (leaving all of my friends behind in Orlando was pretty traumatic. I spent most of my going-away party sobbing uncontrollably, locked in my friend’s room like a freak).

In light of all of that, I was still able to stay (somewhat) in touch with the blog-o-sphere. I’ve listed the highlights below. I promise that this week I won’t be late!

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Sugar Bowl: Week of 4/27/13

Oh my God—I graduate next week.

I move next week, too.

The following are some of the things I’ve been reading this past week to distract myself from the anxiety of finishing my undergraduate education and starting a transitional period of my life. I’m pretty nervous about finding a full-time job in a new place, especially since I’ve been out of work for a while. I need to seriously work on my resume because it’s currently pitiful-looking.

Compared to last week’s mania, I feel like this week had far fewer blogs that really caught my eye. Then again, I might just be feeling too wound-up to really settle down and comb carefully through my feed. In any case, click below to see what I’ve been reading this week instead of working on the dozens of tasks I need to complete before next Wednesday!

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How to Apply to Graduate School: Don’t Panic!

3Feb2013aI wanted to launch a little series on this blog about applying to graduate school since I recently survived my first (and perhaps my last!) application season. I don’t start my Master’s program until August so I’m not really an expert on graduate programs; however, I did spend most of last autumn and winter scrambling to learn as much about applying to graduate school as I could. I didn’t feel ready to apply to Ph.D. programs (save for one, just for the hell of it, and wound up being wait-listed) because the job market for English Ph.D.s right now is absolutely dismal. Besides, I’m twenty years old, and seven to ten years is a massive commitment. I love school, and although presently my dream is to one day complete a Ph.D., that may not be the case when I’m twenty-two and accepting a Masters degree (assuming I finish my program, of course!).

Part of the reason I think it’s so important for me to write about this, even though this sort of information is easily accessible all over the internet, is that I really want to do a thorough job of giving tips and relating my personal experiences in a way that doesn’t foster crippling anxiety. I’ll be honest—graduate school applications gave me so much anxiety, I was unable to get more than four hours of sleep a night for a few weeks. I used to call my mom, in tears, because if I didn’t get into grad school my life would be over (obviously this was hyperbolic of me; but it still stands that my mom’s loveseat back in our population: 10k hometown is not an option for me). I look back on my behavior and think it silly, while at the same time recognizing that there are a lot of other people out there who are likely going to be just as neurotic several months from now.

My first official “tip” about applying to grad school, while not exactly productive, will make this process so much less painful: calm down. Being a nervous wreck will not make your application better, it will not make you test better, and your grades will likely suffer as you spend more time agonizing over your applications than focusing on your existing work. I’m not really an advocate of the power of positive thinking, but having confidence in yourself—a little bit is totally fine, I promise—will keep your life from dissolving into a four-month long, e-mail refreshing hell.

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