After I graduated with my undergraduate degree I was excited to be out in the "real world," but I always knew, in the back of my mind, that I would be going back for further education at some point. I planned to work for a couple years, and then go back to school in my mid-twenties, when I had a better understanding of what I really wanted to get out of my graduate degree. I didn't expect that process to take 7 years.
I had found a steady job, I enjoyed the people I worked with and the work I was doing, and I put furthering my education on hold. Although I wanted to go back to school, when I came home every day I was exhausted. I could not imagine thinking about even flipping through a course book, let alone writing an application essay. Without realizing it, I reached a point where I was firmly stuck.
I allowed myself to be intimidated by the process. When I considered how much time and effort it would take to prepare for school I quickly become overwhelmed and I would convince myself that I could always push off school for another year or so.
The tipping point came when I thought about where I wanted to be when I turned 30. I knew I didn't want to be where I currently was, and I realized that if the process was stopping me now, it would only get harder the longer I waited. I decided this was something I was going to do NOW, and the first step was to enlist a battalion of family and friends to support me, and hold me accountable throughout the application process.
The first and biggest mountain that loomed before me was the GMAT. Over the course of my 7 years on hold, I attempted to prepare for the GMAT 3 times. Each time, the process was painful. I can't say I ever met someone who really enjoyed taking a standardized test, however I had always detested the process. The last time I tried to prepare for a similar test was the SATs, 12 years ago. As I would sit down to take a practice test, I admittedly would psych myself out. I would count back the years since I last took a test, and count all the time I should have spent studying, and count all the things I didn't know. By the end of these study sessions, I would be so discouraged that I would be ready (again) to say this isn't worth it.
I finally got over the GMAT hump by picking a date. I signed up for the exam, and told myself that I would study as much as I could without going crazy. While the studying was still difficult, I changed my mindset. I no longer looked at the GMAT as a reflection of my worth as a potential student. I saw it as a task that needed to be done, and reminded myself that I would have other opportunities to show who I was in a number of ways, not just a test score.
More obstacles remained. I wanted to ask a professor from my time as an undergraduate student for a recommendation, however it had been years since we last spoke. Although I felt uncomfortable reaching out for a recommendation after so many years (I was sure that she would barely remember me), I found that the letter of recommendation was a great opportunity to reconnect. In fact, the whole application process was a challenge, but it was full of opportunities. I found that by reaching out to past professors, co-workers, family, friends, I had an extensive network of people who were as excited about my future as I was. Furthermore, as I started my application at Simmons, I found that my support network extended to the Simmons community as well. Alumnae and current students generously offered to share their experiences and answer questions. Professors were glad to answer questions about their work and their classes. The Admissions department worked to make sure that the application process went both ways, arranging opportunities to sit in on classes, ask questions about the School of Management, the application process, the programs available etc.
Getting my graduate education from "on hold" to "in process" was not an easy feat. It required time and energy, when both were at a premium. It also required a level of selfishness, which was a huge challenge in itself. I had to accept that by applying to a graduate program, I would be taking resources that I had been investing in my work and relationships and reapplying it towards my education. Finally, I was required to face all of my insecurities that had been keeping me in the same, stuck, place. I was able to take these steps by tackling each step, one at a time, while solidifying building and relying on my support network. Despite the frustrations and challenges that I had to face, I am so glad I decided to stop putting my education, and my future, on hold.