How I Got Into Graduate School – Round 1, Part 2

Today was my Hebrew birthday, so that’s something, I guess. Happy birthday to me.

But to continue where I left off…

So here I am, in March 2011, with prospects looking pretty dim for the coming school year.

Through the Baltimore County secondary school grapevine, my mother hears of a woman who is planning on retiring from her position at a local Catholic girls’ school in order to foster the launch and growth of a full-time life-coaching business. So she sets the two of us up. At the second or third meeting, upon expressing my interest to go to graduate school for theater but not having had any bites on my three previous applications, she tells me a few things: 1) that three wasn’t enough for a first go-round, 2) application season is most likely over, so to set my sights on building my resume in the coming year with work and volunteer positions, and 3) to go to the library, get a book of majors, and pick 10-20 graduate theater programs around the country, and contact them with a letter of interest and some supplemental materials, but not the same ones I used on my previous applications. She asks me what else I have, what else that’s interesting about me. I show her the YouTube video that I worked on for the ASTR video contest (wow, I just realized that that statement needs context – note to self: tell that story too) and she claps her hands together and says “Marvelous! Just send out an email with a short letter of interest, your CV, a link to that video, and nothing else.”

So I do that.

Before long, I start getting emails from said schools. I get emails from schools in New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota. I even get a call from a university in Oklahoma, from a woman who I didn’t remember but remembered not only meeting me at ATHE in 2010 but seeing the previous incarnation of the video there as well (side note: today, this woman is a dear friend and colleague of mine who I can’t possibly imagine having forgotten!) with the first of the many puzzling yet pleasing pieces of information I’m to hear in the next few weeks: that she would love to have me in her program and could possibly slide me in for fall admission. She does mention that I’d have to mobilize pretty quickly, and that even though it is a slot in a program, the department is very small and in a small town in Oklahoma with limited cultural opportunities and absolutely no Jewish life to be found. The main point here is that she tells me to consider other options, but that she could possibly make it happen for me if I really wanted it. Which is a very comforting thought.

Then, on April 13, my email of interest shows up on the computer screen of the theatre department at the University of Houston, in faraway Houston, Texas. The response I receive is an overwhelmingly positive one, with many compliments to my resume, my YouTube video, and my personality. The response also poses a question at the end of the body of the message, asking me “by the way…would you be interested in Fall 2011 or Fall 2012 admission?” 

Hmm.

I fire back a response asking them what they mean by this, and not ten minutes later, a response shows up in my inbox, saying that someone dropped out of their incoming fall class, leaving them with a spot to fill, and I seem like a good candidate for doing just that, provided I can get an application in ASAP (but with no concrete promises that this will, indeed, happen).

Wow. Okay.

Over the coming days, I get into action. I fill out the application, send off GRE scores, call in some favors for last-minute recommendations (which is kind of fortuitous, since it happened to be spring break), and in about 48 hours, voila, my application has been completed and sent off. Upon receipt of the application, I get a phone call from the head of the department for an informal interview. Then, another phone call from another professor in the department, for another informal interview. Then, I get a call from a current student in the program to talk about the program from a student perspective, and Houston logistics. After she and I introduce ourselves over the phone, she says, “just so you know, they wouldn’t have asked me to call you if they weren’t already going to accept you, so basically, congratulations, but you didn’t hear it from me.” So things are looking pretty good – in my favor, you could say.

Fast-forward to April 25. Exactly two weeks after the initial contact was made. It’s Pesach, and I’m taking a mid-afternoon nap when my phone alerts me that I have an email, waking me up. I go to check…and it’s an acceptance letter.

I’m in.

And it took all of two weeks, as opposed to the months I spent preparing for the other applications.

Maybe the stars were aligned that day, maybe it was fate, or maybe I just plain deserved it, but whatever way you slice it: I got in, then I moved to Houston, then I started classes, then two years later I graduated after successfully defending a thesis. But we’re getting ahead ourselves here.

Because that’s how I got into graduate school.

Thanks, YouTube.

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