Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Dirty Little Secret

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.


Belle said...

Yep. Yep. No, but close... it's nice, now, to see how strange our reasons were. Better to know that it all turned out well.

Which helps, when you're hip deep in grading.

Anonymous said...

Your post is a reminder that there is such a thing as TMI in grad applications! But, you must have written a convincing application in order to be admitted--and you wouldn't have stayed without strong interest and even stronger talent. I'd instead chalk this up to one of the many contingencies that influence our paths in our early 20s (and perhaps in our 30s, 40s, and beyond?)

Good Enough Woman said...

There are a lot worse things that you could have done based on reasons one and two!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

There are other--faster--ways to get out of town. It certainly says something about your interests that graduate school seemed like a worthwhile option. And "spite" is another way of saying you wanted what he had, whether you put it that way at the time or not.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

You guys are all too kind. And no, none of these things went in my application statement!

When I reflect on it myself, I'm simply grateful that a seemingly impulsive decision turned out to reflect so well what I really wanted to be doing with my life, even if I didn't fully know it at the time.

Anonymous said...

I don't think any undergrad knows enough about what it means to go to grad school or to be a prof to be motivated by the "right reasons." You reasons are perhaps more personal than others', but they seem perfectly right to me. What matters most is whether the individual can adjust his/her plans once they do begin to figure out what professional academia is all about.

Still, I hope that the ex is out there somewhere feeling spited.