June 12, 2012
I left you with a cliffhanger: I’m applying to University of Georgia (UGA). Well, maybe it wasn’t much of a cliffhanger to you, but it was to me. You see, UGA’s program popped up sort of out of nowhere, and sort of last minute, so the whole process was a bit dizzying. Let me take you along for the ride from the beginning.
It all started one afternoon in February, when I took a GRE study break to surf the web. UGA’s program came up in my results list for the first time, so I took a closer look and found that they offer an M.S. in Geography with a graduate certificate in Atmospheric Science. It’s not a 100% match for what I want to do (no broadcast), but the website did mention that past students have gone on to work in television, so I was intrigued from the start. Then I remembered that the Weather Channel and CNN are both based in Atlanta, and my intrigue turned to excitement. That’s when the metaphorical roller coaster started going up. Yes, I am switching from a cliffhanger to a roller coaster; I prefer to be strapped in when I fall from things.
Deciding I had nothing to lose, I emailed in with some questions. I attached my transcript to the email, hoping that my bachelor’s degree in Geography and strong GPA would define me as something other than an irresponsible last minute applicant grasping at thin air. If you have a strong transcript as well, don’t be afraid to share! It’s just like including your resume when you inquire about a job – it makes sense.
The professor who responded to my inquiry (let’s call him Dr. Smith) was and remains to this day the most helpful and encouraging professor I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He told me that based on my transcript, I seemed like the type of student who would easily be able to handle graduate studies. With good GRE scores and a strong interest in thesis work, he said I would be a very competitive applicant. The roller coaster chugged higher up the first incline.
He even thought I would have a chance at funding. The roller coaster made it to the tippy top.
There was, however, one rather large problem: the application was due January 1st, and I didn’t email in until February 4th. The roller coaster shot down a 300-foot plummet.
I was way behind the game, kicking myself for not finding the program sooner (and screaming as the roller coaster came closer and closer to hitting the ground). Over the next week, Dr. Smith and I talked through every possible scenario… me applying late and asking for funding, me applying late and not asking for funding, me applying late and deferring for a year if I didn’t get funding. He was always very honest, trying to give me the best advice possible, and praising my strengths along the way. The roller coaster sped up a few little hills. But he kept coming back to the same thing – I would be better off to wait and apply next year – and the roller coaster fell quickly back down into the valleys.
Well, I was not going to wait another year. At that point, I figured it was going to be MSU or nothing. But… because I’m the stubborn girl that I am, I had my GRE scores sent to UGA anyway. Just in case. When I got home from the exam, I emailed Dr. Smith to let him know how it went. That’s where you came into the story last post.
Like I said, Dr. Smith seemed pleased with my scores. I think his response included some key phrases along the lines of, “oh, wow!” “highly desirable” and “congratulations!” I was blushing in front of my computer screen! That afternoon he took my case to his department head. By the end of the day they were asking me to get my application in as soon as possible. Dr. Smith said that if I had everything submitted by the following Monday, I might be considered with the regular pool of applicants.
Needless to say, the roller coaster took some unexpected sharp turns that afternoon. I was riding up on a high, whooshing around the corners with a silly smile on my face – but I didn’t know that the tallest drop was still looming ahead!