In the last few months I've been slowly moving along a path that I think will eventually lead to graduate school and, if it turns out to be something I want, an MS or a PhD. If I'm lucky, sometime between now and then I'll have figured out exactly what it is I want an advanced degree in. I've been leaning towards Materials Science, Colloid Chemistry, Medical Physics, or something in Environmental Science and Fuel Cell development. But I'm still entertaining ideas of going into teaching high school math and science or running off to Rome to learn the Chemistry of Art Restoration.
Needless to say, applying to Graduate Schools means taking entrance exams and writing essays and filling out applications. Preparing for these tests on my own, with my own purchased resources and with nothing but a stack of old college text books to guide me when I'm stuck, I spend a lot of time thinking back about the last time I went through a parallel process in my application to undergraduate colleges. About four and a half years ago, in the fall of my senior year in high school, I was a bright but under-prepared high school student trying to dig through 50 different college brochures arriving in the mail every month in the attempt to figure out what the next four years of my life were going to entail. It was overwhelming. My parents were first-generation college students themselves, who, when their own high school graduation date arrived looked around and found the nearest city university that opened its doors. Their enthusiasm and dedication to my success was helpful, but their lack of experience with the process put me at a disadvantage. They weren't aware of the resources that were available to me, and even something as simple as visiting my guidance counselor at school just never crossed my mind.
I'm proud to say that I did much of what I achieved on my own, but less proud to admit that I did it the hardest way possible. I didn't know about the Common Application, I never once took up the offers to communicate with currently enrolled college students or attend virtual tours from my own home. I took the SATs multiple times because I didn't know what to expect the first time I went in. In the end, I found a wonderful school that fit me perfectly, and all the pieces fell into place. But it would have saved a lot of time and money if I'd had some extra help.
So now, the second time around, I still cringe a little when I open a graduate program's website and browse through the list of requirements for application. But it really motivates me, thinking back about my high school self, to reach out and help make the process easier for a younger group of undergraduates about to embark on one of the scariest and most exciting new adventures they may ever have in their lives. I'm excited to find myself in a coaching position at Beaverton High School, because I get to watch freshmen and sophomores grow and learn, and I'll be a resource to help them when they reach the next big step. I'm excited to ease any burden I can on my students, who are going through such a rapidly changing age, and I love seeing them relax and enjoy the process rather than stressing about their failures or their piling burdens. Student-success gives me so much joy. I look forward to any opportunity I will have in the future to pass on my currently expanding experience -- mirroring an experience that seems so long ago -- to anyone who is interested in hearing about it.