This guest post is a part of a 3-part series written by our consultant, Marcus. Marcus is a student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design pursuing dual masters degrees in architecture (MArch I) and urban planning (MUP). Prior to entering Harvard, Marcus graduated from Swarthmore College with a bachelor’s of art degree.
I…have always felt a desire to help those with less opportunities climb the daunting ladder that is higher education.
The Three M’s
As a first generation college student navigating the ivory towers of higher education, I have always been vexed by the lack of others like me in my scholastic environments, and have felt a desire to help those with less opportunities climb the daunting ladder that is higher education. Applying to graduate school as a first generation college student can no doubt be a confusing and time-consuming process, but with the right approach and planning, you can earn admission into the school(s) of your dreams. In this series of blog posts, I will share some of the lessons I have learned since applying and being admitted to graduate school, specifically Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design where I am entering my fourth year and pursuing dual masters degrees in architecture and urban planning. This introductory post will explain the first of what I have termed “the 3 Ms” that have guided me through the process: mindset, management, and mentorship. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all method, but hopefully these strategies can bring to light some helpful tips!
For me, applying and getting admitted to graduate school was a less difficult process than applying and getting admitted to my undergraduate school (Swarthmore College).
While applying to grad school can be intimidating, you’ve already been through a similar process before.
First, I applied to grad school while still a senior in college so I was already in “school mode;” while I did have things to worry about like keeping up good grades, participating in my extracurricular activities, and maintaining a healthy social life, I was still in school surrounded by friends who were going through the same process. While the same could be said in regards to applying to college, I already felt much better informed and more comfortable about researching schools, writing essays, and preparing my applications having gone through this same process for college. So, while applying to grad school can be intimidating, you’ve already been through a similar process before. Put yourself into this mindset as you will be asked for similar materials (transcripts, essays/personal statements, standardized test scores, letters of recommendations, etc.).
Remind yourself of your overarching goals and why you have set out on this endeavor.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated or overwhelmed (which is likely to happen), maintain focus and do not lose sight of the big picture. Remind yourself of your overarching goals and why you have set out on this endeavor. What is it that is ultimately driving you to apply to grad school in the first place? For me, this meant reasserting my motivation: to improve the quality of life for marginalized communities in urban areas through physical formmaking. Do not be afraid to share personal aspects of your background and upbringing in your essays, especially if they are a reason for why you have decided to pursue a graduate degree. Overall, you don’t have reevaluate every life decision and your goals are likely to change once you enter grad school (mine certainly have). However, keep your general goals in mind during the application process from start to finish.
Take time to rest, treat yourself, and declutter your brain from time to time.
Keeping a clear mindset can also mean thinking of family and those close to you back home, and channeling their encouragement. If you were the first in your family to attend college, then you will also most likely be the first to attend graduate school, which is a pretty big accomplishment, so keep that in mind throughout the process. Lastly, maintaining a clear mindset means taking care of your physical and emotional health. It’s okay to not think about applications for a day or two. Take time to rest, treat yourself, and declutter your brain from time to time.
From left: Lorraine, Ritu, Kaneisha, and Marcus