Sunday, March 11, 2012

Delusions of Graduate School Grandeur

We recently relocated to Boston and in the process of cleaning out files I came across my GRE scores when I was applying to graduate programs (see yesterdays post) in 1991. This was when I had completed my master's in history at Shippensburg University and working as an interim dean at Gettysburg College as well as an assistant lacrosse coach at the college. This GRE document revealed an extremely low verbal score (380) yet a list of elite institution I hoped to attend; I had no contact with reality and allot of delusions of graduate school grandeur. As a prof now, I've seen undergrads who I work with make similar mistakes and overestimation of their academic record. The second time I applied to graduate programs I considered both PhD programs in history and theology with hopes of entering full time Christian ministry equipped with a knowledge of African American history and Christian theology. Back then I aspired to be a Christian version of Malcolm X. Like Malcolm I always had a book or two on hand to read and I was constantly consuming National Public Radio keeping up to date on world events (Malcolm read papers but people like me with ADD do allot better with an oratory consumption of the news). My list of graduate schools in the fall of 1991 included Union Theological, Yale Divinity and history programs at Columbia, Princeton, Berkley, Duke, Howard, Maryland, and Syracuse. In reflection, all these graduate programs were grand cannon reaches for my academic record—I just didn’t know it then. During my second time trying to get into PhD programs I had learned the importance of communicating with potential advisors. One does so because they will serve as your advocate and intellectual personal training for the next five to seven years of your life. You need to know early on in the process if there is flow or not between you and a potential advisor; more tomorrow.

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