“Dream. Try. Do Good.”

For those of you who haven’t watched (and cried through) the classic movie, Love Story, this is a film from the 1970s that centers around a Harvard hockey player and a Radcliffe intellectual who have absolutely nothing in common other than their deep love for each other.  When I first began considering plans for graduate school and researching my options, my mom told me, “Well, if you’re applying to Harvard, you gotta watch Love Story! It was filmed at Harvard.” I’d love to tell you that movies and television aren’t a major factor in my life decisions, but let’s face it – who didn’t want to be a teacher after watching Mr. Feeny on their television screens every Friday afternoon in Boy Meets World marathons?

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In all seriousness, I know the application process can be incredibly daunting. Before you even begin to think about letters of recommendation, sending off transcripts, and writing personal statements, you have to find the school that’s best for you. I’m a big list maker, so my advice is to write your own list. What are the top five things that you are looking to take away from your graduate school experience? Do you want a program heavily based in research, or one that places you within a school or organization during your time there? Are you looking to live in a city atmosphere, or is a campus more your style? Write out all of your dreams for the ultimate graduate experience, and then list them by priority.

Next, turn to that beautiful World Wide Web. Scour those graduate school websites – they’re PACKED with useful information, and draw a pretty clear picture as to what your time will be like when you arrive for your next great adventure. Finally, I personally believe that there’s no better way to pick the graduate school program best suited to your needs then visiting the campus itself. I’ll never forget that feeling of stepping onto the Harvard campus and listening to professors and current students speak passionately about their field, and warmly greeting me with excitement for the year that would follow. It’s hard to explain, but there was an energy here unlike what I had felt when touring my other prospective schools. While formal visiting options are limited during the application review period, you should definitely check out the HGSE virtual tour.

I know, it’s a lot to take in. However, you’re currently reading this blog post, which means you’ve probably already explored HGSE’s website! Congratulate yourself; you’re getting there! Take it one day at a time. Organize a calendar of your deadlines, and make feasible goals that will allow you plenty of time to get that application filled out. Finally, when you’re sitting in your room at 10 PM and fighting back tears because this essay just isn’t sounding right, step away. Pop in a movie (might I recommend Love Story?) and let your brain relax. Sometimes stepping away is exactly what you need to find exactly what it is you’re looking for. Good luck! 🙂

Stacy Tell is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. An aspiring Reading Specialist, Stacy is passionate about helping students to become lifelong readers.

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