Are you a prospective graduate student looking for a grad program that’s the right fit? Or know a prospective graduate student in their grad school search? Lauren Marriott, second year Master’s student shares with HEASPA why she chose to attend grad school at The University of Texas at Austin. Thanks for sharing your experience with HEASPA, Lauren!
Why UT: Reflections on the Grad School Search and Why UT-Austin was on my list
In Fall 2012 I had a lot on my plate.
I was in my first full-time professional position at a university and I was adjusting to post-grad life: the 8-5 schedule, sustaining a long-distance relationship, constantly being mistaken for a current undergrad by parents visiting campus, or traveling to high schools visits where hall monitors would ask if I was late to my homeroom.
But here’s where it really got stressful. At the same time that I was counseling prospective undergraduates and their families about the college search process and how to perfect their application for undergraduate admission, I myself was narrowing down my list of graduate schools. I was doing my research, drafting my personal statements, and talking to peers, mentors and total strangers about where I should apply for my master’s in higher education.
I was sleeping, eating, breathing college applications and that mysterious process of “finding the right fit” that goes along with them.
So, if you are currently going through the grad school search and application process, two things:
- I imagine you’re stressed. It is stressful. You are being inundated with pitches, brochures, websites and info sessions and if you’re looking at multiple schools, they may be running together in your mind. It gets better and this too shall pass.
- YAY! This is an incredible privilege and an amazing opportunity. You cannot make a wrong choice, you will only end up making the right choice (FOR YOU, RIGHT NOW, that’s life).
With those two nuggets of advice out of the way, just let me say that I won’t tell you that UT-Austin is WHERE YOU SHOULD APPLY!!!!! BE LIKE MEEEEEEE!
I don’t think that is particularly good advice or a great way to make major life choices, and it certainly won’t magically make UT-Austin the best fit for you.
But you have stumbled upon the HEASPA blog and so I feel compelled to at least mention why UT-Austin came to be on my list, and what I learned about the graduate school application process.
When I was choosing schools to apply to, here is what I said I wanted:
○ I cared (and probably still do) about prestige. I wanted name brand recognition. I wanted to be affiliated with a school that I could be proud of and where my classmates would challenge me to be my best.
- Commitment to Public Higher Education
○ Its what had served me well and what I wanted to continue to serve. I knew I wanted to increase access and quality for the students that came after me.
- Real Development of Administrative and Leadership Skills
○ At the time, my understanding of what “student affairs” was was too “fluffy”. I wanted my graduate program to teach me research, let me work with data, budgets, supervision, and assessment. I wanted some real hard-and-fast skills to add to my career.
○ I knew I didn’t just want an education for the entry level when I graduated but that I wanted the education for the career that awaits me 15-25 years from now.
○ I was confident I could be a good practitioner but I discredited a myopic focus on college student development without also understanding the macro-view of the higher education landscape in which college students live, learn, and act.
- A location where I could explore and thrive
So here is the pitch that I gave myself for “Why UT” should be on my list:
- With The University of Texas at Austin, the prestige is there.
○ The UT-Austin College of Education is one of the top education schools in the nation. It is a nationally recognized and respected institution, but ultimately that is not what you should choose a school of education for.
- UT Austin is a, if not THE, leader in the US Public Higher Education Landscape
○ If you, like me, are interested in the politics and tensions of higher education policy and governance, there is no better context in which to study than at a top-tier public research flagship in a state like Texas where population demographics, politics, innovation and change affect the work we do in higher education every day.
- Micro-level skills and a Macro-level understanding
○ Here, I was able to take electives in counseling skills, career counseling, and facilitate a First-Year Interest Group in order to develop the skills that will aid me in entry-level positions supervising and counseling undergraduates.
○ It also provided a context where we discuss the major trends and the bigger picture in higher education.
○ I have been exposed to doctorate seeking students and their dynamic research at the nexus of academic scholarship and higher education leadership.
- Austin is a great place to be a young professional.
○ Its also just a great place to be period, but considering where I am at in my life and career, Austin is an amazing place to call home.
Ultimately, you will make your own list of schools to apply to, for your own reasons.
Do your research and use YOUR OWN METRICS to narrow down that list. Don’t just take someone else’s suggestion and stop there.
Know that in most cases, you can tailor the program you are in to fit your interests. That could be through research, practica, internships or roles you take on within your program or at the institution. (FYI your interests might change… maybe that’s a good thing. Let that happen.)
At the end of the day, let the things that interest you, drive your decision. Narrow down that list using your own metrics of what you understand currently about a program and what you know you want or value. And don’t be afraid to be compelled by the thing that intrigues you. I did, and I am better for it.