Out of the Woods on Waiting, Into the Woods on Deciding

When you’re applying to graduate school, March comes in like a lion and can go out like a lion or a lamb, depending on the decision-making process. If you’re a prospective student who is pondering your admission status, considering other programs, and just trying to figure out what to do next, I have been there.

If you’ve been admitted to Carolina, first: CONGRATULATIONS! And if you’ve been admitted to other programs as well, congratulations! You might find yourself with some deciding to do.

This time two years ago I was lucky to be torn between a few graduate programs, even as it caused me anguish at the time. Here are some of the strategies I engaged in to help me make my decision to attend UNC, a decision I am certain was the best for me and my career.

  • Pros vs. cons lists – I made a lot of these. A lot. I kept my list for UNC and here it is verbatim: “outstanding faculty, stellar national reputation, wide range of course offerings, great field placement/internship opportunities”. And my cons: “the building’s entrance is on the wrong side, mediocre cell phone reception, already a Carolina grad, too tough academically?” Now when my cons list includes issues about possible cell phone reception and door location, I realized that I was looking for things to balance out the great pros.
  • Talking to friends, family, and colleagues – I’m pretty sure that everyone in my life got tired of hearing me weigh out my life choices. Which school should I choose? Should I defer for a year? Or go right away? Would I be able to have a part-time job? Where would I live? Luckily the people I talked to were exceedingly patient and kind and consistently thought UNC was a great option to have.
  • Flipping a coin – This one didn’t work well for me, because I was choosing between three schools and coins only have two sides, but also because it was too flippant a means of choosing where I would spend two years of my life.
  • Getting out and focusing on my gut – In the end, my decision was made by leaving town for a few days and being reflective in the wilderness. I found myself at Max Patch Bald on the Appalachian Trail where I could think about my pros and cons, my feelings, my desires.
Max Patch Bald, NC (Steven McBride)(Image credit: Steven McBride, backpacker.com, http://www.backpacker.com/january-2010-max-patch-bald-nc/destinations/13728)

Two years post-decision, and a little under two months from graduating from UNC, I wish I could travel back and tell my younger self that the decision-making process should be easier. And to choose Carolina. But since I can’t help myself in the past, I hope some of this rambling helps you. I look forward to meeting some of you at Welcome Weekend!


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