Do all 20-somethings working in a cubicle dream and/or threaten to go back to school? Grad school is like this greener pasture of hope. Instead of working 9-6 day after day, we have the option of reliving our undergrad years, but perhaps with a tad more maturity. We can go from corporate slave to sophisticated student, if only we take the plunge. It’s our ticket to a fabulous new career, our ticket out of our dead end jobs that sounded better before we were hired.
Last fall, I applied to seven grad schools. I researched for months, made a color-coded spreadsheet, studied and took the dreaded GRE (akin to getting cavities filled without Novocaine), and eventually applied to the top MFA “Nonfiction Creative Writing” programs in reasonable locations (I ruled out Montana and any schools in “the Dirty South.”) My list consisted of three DC schools, two in NYC, UNC Wilmington, and University of Iowa (the best writing program overall). I didn’t know which one I liked the best or if I really liked any of them at all. I just wanted to do something worthwhile with my life. I spent an entire paycheck on writing classes to get my portfolio together, taking the test, printing, mailing, and, of course, application fees, because after all, someone at a desk needs to process the applications and schools need money to pay for advertising, the exact corporate field I was trying to leave.
Finally in May (a full five months after applying), I had rejections from both New York schools, American, and Iowa. I cried when Iowa rejected me, even though I would’ve cried even more if I had to wear a Hawkeyes sweatshirt as a Penn State alum. I was waitlisted at Wilmington and accepted at George Mason and Johns Hopkins in DC. I visited the campuses, didn’t love them, so I moved in with my boyfriend in Jersey City instead.
I realized the university system is also part of corporate America, and that I would be paying (with loans) for something I could do on my own with the proper network. I could take non-credit classes, join writing groups, attend panels and meet real authors every day in Manhattan. Grad school is necessary for some professions, a time to focus on your craft, and it’s right for a lot of people. For me at this point in my life, it made more sense to lead a double life as a writer and a media planner. I don’t resent my day job anymore, because it’s paying for my passion.