Road to Grad School: The Hunt Begins

With my long-term partner now back in her homeland, and about to start her PhD at the University of Michigan (a pretty great school), I’m left stranded a long, long way across the pond. I have a visit scheduled in for December to go and see her, in the middle of prime Lake-Effect snow storm time. At least I’ll get to see some proper Geography in action, even if I will risk hypothermia just leaving the house!

My aspirations post-degree have always been Postgraduate study. In the UK, whilst estimates vary, it is accepted that between 30 and 50% of the population have an undergraduate degree level qualification. Thus it is evident that you need something to set yourself apart from everyone else, in order to secure that ‘dream job’.

I’ve done a lot since I’ve been at Exeter (Cornwall Campus), and I’m quite pleased with my resume. I don’t think it is enough at the moment to get into a great grad program, but I’m sort of lucky. I was ill, and thus took a year out. This leaves me two more years at Exeter, and a heap of motivation in order to secure that place abroad. With the guidance of my partner, I’ve come to understand how the grad school application system works, too, which will be very helpful in the coming months.

So in the immediate future, I need to start looking at the GRE and putting a lot of preparation into it. I really good score can give your application a strong boost. A poor score could see your application wiped out at the first hurdle, especially at the top US Grad Schools. More importantly though, I’m still searching for that X-Factor. I’ve organised a conference, led an expedition and won a student’s union award- but I’m still missing that big name, or perhaps that bit of gold dust that says ‘hey, this kid is special’. Opportunities abound, in a way. I can head back to Malaysia, collect my dissertation data and perhaps assist in the establishment of a flagship ecological research program there. The British Council offers a number of compelling schemes abroad, including nearly fully-funded Chinese internships. There is also the option of more generalist ‘big-brand’ internships, though I don’t think that would be a great match for me personally.

Whilst searching for that x-factor, I’m not lying on my back, dreaming of the future. I’m being proactive, looking at all manner of schools in the US. Ok, that might be a lie. I am definitely lying on my back, dreaming of the future, but I feel equipped and ready to start the long journey forward.

Onwards and Upwards!

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