Am I ready to go to grad school?

PhD admissions strategy

Deciding to submit an application for PhD programs was a challenging process for me. Although I knew that pursuing a PhD was my ultimate goal, the initial step felt daunting and overwhelming. Once I gathered the courage to apply, I discovered that many of the thoughts and concerns were not as accurate as I initially believed. Here are the four things I thought about in order beat decision paralysis and build the confidence to apply:

1. Perfection versus potential 


Before applying, I was worried that I hadn’t taken all of the prerequisite classes, built the most impressive resume, and checked all of the boxes that would make me a perfect candidate. But admissions committees are not seeking already perfect graduate students. On the contrary, they are looking for students who exhibit potential, drive, and the genuine desire to learn. If you're enthusiastic about your discipline and are willing to immerse yourself in the work, that’s more than enough! 

2. Is Time of the essence? 

When it came time to sit down and get my application together, I felt like all I needed was more time. More time to crystalize my ideas, formalize my thoughts about what I wanted to do, gain work experience, talk to more professors, talk to more students, forge closer relationships. The truth is you will never feel really ready. The truth is that you may never really feel ready. You may never feel like you have all of your ducks in a row. Sometimes it requires a little release and leap of faith to move yourself forward. 

3. Did I do well enough on (insert standardized test)? 


Overcoming the misconception that a less-than-perfect standardized test score is a deal-breaker is crucial. Admissions committees consider a holistic view, and standardized test scores are just one aspect. Highlighting other strengths, experiences, and potential for growth can compensate for perceived shortcomings. 

4. It’s not now or never! 


Taking your time to gain experience, explore interests, and reflect on career goals can be beneficial. Life unfolds at its own pace, and each day presents new opportunities to learn. If you can exhibit patience and consider your time as information-gathering, then waiting another year or gaining some work experience before entering academia might be of value. The pressure of 'now or never' shouldn't overshadow the value of personal and professional growth that time can afford. 

Talia holds a BA in Visual Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MS in Quantitative Economics from UCLA. She will next pursue a PhD in Cultural Economics.

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