Announcing the Biggest News of My Young Life

As some of you may know, I spent the months of October, November and December this year filling out graduate school applications.

This was more or less my face the entire time. 

If you've never had to apply to graduate school, know that the process is as invasive as a tax audit, and roughly as time-consuming as writing the next Great American Novel. Depending on the school, you will be asked to provide your basic contact information, records from every school you've ever attended, an itemized list of every course you've ever taken and its subject matter, an academic CV, reference letters from a half-dozen of your favourite professors, a two-page essay that summarizes your life story and your purpose for living, a formal statement about your research interests, copies of past publications, writing samples, several glamour headshots, your dog's birth certificate, a copy of your most recent daily horoscope and a signed affidavit from a witch doctor declaring that you are almost definitely not haunted. 

And do you even know how hard it is to get an appointment with these guys on short notice?

Every single university expects these items to be customized for their particular school, which is all well and fine, but in a field like Clinical Psychology where you're more likely to be mauled to death by an angry moose than accepted to grad school, hopefuls are expected to fill out 8-12 applications, at least. The time commitment is bad enough, but there's also the cost to consider. Every single one of those applications costs between $80-$120, and each school needed a score report from the nightmare-inducing GRE exam I took last August, which added up quickly. To top it all off, I still had to keep up with my regular schoolwork while doing all of this, trying hard to maintain the sorts of grades that would make me eligible for graduate school. By the time the last document had been sent off in time for the December 15th deadline, I was effectively a burnt-out husk of a human being.

This was me.

A few months went by with no word. And then it started. Rejections were coming in from schools I'd interviewed with or otherwise felt confident about. Meanwhile, my friends were starting to rack up acceptances, some of them from more than one school. I was happy for them, but panicked about my own life. I'd taken a big risk by pursuing such a competitive field, and I was counting on it to pay off for me. My main goal in life is to write novels, but I'm well aware that that field of work pays "eating dog food under a bridge" kind of money; Clinical Psychology is something I'm passionate about, good at, and between the flexible hours and livable wages, I figured it would be the ideal backup plan for my life. My whole future was coming unravelled. I started making tentative plans to stay in Edmonton after graduation instead of going off to grad school. I started going to the gym more often, mindful of the fact that I may have to start stripping for a living. I was celebrating my friends' acceptance letters with them, but on the inside, I was making this face the entire time.

I don't even know what to call this facial expression, but I know that it sums up how I was feeling.

So when I got an email notification in the middle of my seminar class from Teachers College at Columbia University, I didn't think anything of opening it right then and there. I knew it would be a rejection letter; there's no way I was getting into an Ivy League school when smaller Canadian schools didn't want me. No big deal. As a writer and grad school hopeful, I'm well-practiced in brushing off rejection letters. So I clicked the email, and all it said was that a decision had been made on my application. I clinked the link they provided, and started to scan the letter. Sure enough, it started off with "Thank you for your application" and "While your application was a strong one...", phrases that are almost inevitably followed by "Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you admission at this time". I almost closed the tab then and there. But then I kept reading.

Could have saved me a loop around an emotional roller coaster if you'd started the letter with "Congratulations", but I'm not complaining.

So holy shit, I got into Columbia University.

Me, right now.

So in a very short period of time, a whole lot of things have changed. The program I got into effectively amounts to a Master's in clinical psychology, which is absolutely fine by me, because from where I'm sitting, jumping right into a PhD seems awfully daunting. Oh, and speaking of daunting...

Hello, NYC.

In just five months, I'll be packing up my life in Edmonton, Alberta - where I've lived almost my entire life - and moving to New York City. I've never even been to NYC, nevermind living there; it's just a place I've seen on TV. It's hard to even get my head around the fact that it's a real city - I might as well be packing up and moving to Narnia, or Hogwarts. The first time I ever set foot on Manhattan island will be the day I'm dragging all of my worldly possessions down its streets to my new apartment. 

Which, based on the cost of housing, will be approximately this big.

It's the biggest adventure of my life so far - off to grad school, off to a foreign country, off to NYC. And if you stick around on this blog a few more months, you'll get to read all about it with me. 

Wish me luck. 

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