Yesterday's post on what not to do in graduate school applications got me reflecting on my own time as a grad school applicant, and my reasons for doing so. When reading applications, we like to see evidence of genuine and reasonably focused intellectual curiosity. "I love literature/history/learning about other cultures" alone just won't cut it. "I want to be a professor" is probably going to come up, but as a primary reason, it sends up red flags.
When I applied to grad school, I really did have an interest in learning more about what seemed to me a neglected corner of my discipline. But that was an underlying reason, not a proximate one, and the time has come, in the spirit of full disclosure, to admit what finally flipped the switch for me and prompted me to start madly researching grad programs (in October!) and sign up for the GRE:
1. Bad breakup that caused me to need a plausible reason to flee town as soon as possible so as not to fall into deep depression (or obsession -- I was in my early twenties, after all) over the ex.
2. Spite. (Did I mention that the ex in question had an advanced degree in my chosen discipline?)
In precisely that order. "Intellectual curiosity" was third, with "I miss talking about ideas" bringing up fourth place.
Fortunately, I found once I got to grad school that I loved it, and had some talent for it. But I definitely went to grad school for all the wrong reasons.