Preparing for and taking the GRE along with applying for graduate school was one of the worst experiences of my life. I rank it up there with going to the dentist or the DMV. In fact, I would rather get work done on my teeth at the DMV than take the GRE or apply for grad school. Alright, so maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was a big pain. The GRE is the worst test I’ve ever had to take (and I got to take it 3 times, plus one time taking the Psychology subject GRE, which wasn’t that bad.) Grad apps are a pain because each school has its own little system of doing things. It’d be much easier if there was a universal system of turning in apps. Also, you have to pay anywhere from $25-$100 per school just to apply. So it’s not just a pain in your [insert preferred location of pain] it’s an expensive pain in your [same location].
I looked at several different options for grad school. I was focusing on doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology and didn’t really care where the programs were. The big thing for psychology graduate programs is faculty match. The school wants students who are interested in the research and work that the faculty are interested in. My interests are in trauma- I want to work with disaster victims, PTSD patients, and other types of people suffering from traumatic experiences. My career play is to work for the Air Force as a clinical psychologist. I looked at programs where work was being done in those areas and those schools included Auburn University, University of Minnesota, BYU, University of Wyoming, Eastern Michigan University, University of South Dakota, University of North Dakota, Indiana State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Yeshiva University (Bronx, NY), Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Cal State LA. The Cal State schools all had masters programs that interested me and were my back-ups in case I couldn’t get accepted to a Ph.D. program. I also applied for a teacher position with Teach for America.
My initial top choice was actually South Dakota. They have a really cool program that focuses on disaster mental health. All of the faculty there work closely with the American Red Cross and were heavily involved in the mental health aspects of recovery after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other big disasters. I thought that I had a good chance at getting accepted there. Other good chances were BYU, IUP, and North Dakota. I wasn’t really a long shot at any of the schools but they were all competitive so I didn’t know what to expect.
I got the last of my applications turned in at the end of January and the waiting game began. It was frustrating, to say the least, that the first few schools that responded were all rejections. After what seemed like forever, I was invited to interview at BYU, IUP, and with Teach for America. Interviews went really well and after each one, I thought “this is the school for me.” I thought I could succeed in any of the programs and was really looking forward to hearing back. BYU responded first, the day after the interview actually, and I was put on their wait list. I didn’t know how far down on the list I was but was excited to at least have a chance. I think I waited about 2 weeks before they sent me an email saying all spots had been filled. I also had received a rejection email from Teach for America.
The news from IUP finally came in and of course I was on the wait list. They at least told me I was #4 on the list. I liked my chances. They interviewed 60 or so candidates and I was in the top 20. The days dragged on and the April 15th deadline (that’s when programs should have their spots filled) was nearing. On April 14th, Rosa and I were headed to California for the Ragnar Relay when I got the news. I had been accepted! I had one night to think it over but I knew I would accept. The hard work had finally paid off and I am on my way to becoming Dr. Gardner. I’ll be attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Clinical PsyD program starting this fall.