Confidence and heavy preparation are keys to success
It’s really a shame that there isn’t some great quote to be found that sums up the feelings I had on a recent trip to the University of Georgia. There is no tidy little cliché or great Winston Churchill-esque quote that will accurately summarize the intense feelings of inadequacy that dominated that trip to UGA.
In order to fully explain what I’m speaking of, I should back up a hair. This past week, I finally embarked on my long-awaited trip to visit the University of Georgia, where I have been accepted into the highly ranked Master’s in Public Administration program.
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When I got that acceptance letter a few months ago I finally felt as though my years of hard work had paid off. Not to brag, but I’ve long been accused of being an overachiever. Dean’s List, e-boards, double degrees, overloading classes; since I’ve been here at Keene State, I’ve made Keene work for me, and my resume appeared to be brimming as a result.
I felt as though a transition to an extremely well-regarded and rigorous program was the natural next step in my education and I felt as though I belonged at UGA’s Public Administration program.
As I sat in a room full of my possible future peers within my cohort, I realized very quickly that perhaps I was not nearly as qualified as I had believed I was. I was the most casually dressed within the group, and probably looked the youngest. I did not spend the entire time discussing what places I had applied to, or what work I had done during my time at my undergraduate institution.
I quickly found that in terms of experience I was probably labeled dead last; I had done close to nothing with public administration in any capacity in the last four years, no internships, no volunteering, no actual jobs in any relevant fields. In other capacities I also fell well behind my peers; I attended a small, unknown, public liberal arts institution, I never studied abroad, I had no networking skills to speak of. I was truly at a loss.
I had no idea how to associate with people who were so obviously of a higher academic caliber than I was used to being around. I was so used to a campus where I was considered something of an overachiever that I had no idea that there existed a world beyond what I was familiar with at Keene State, where I would not even be remotely considered an overachiever, but probably considered something of a slacker.
It may be a quick judgment after one brief meeting but none of the people in the program who I spoke with seemed like any of my peers here at Keene State. They didn’t seem like people I could be friends with outside of a professional relationship.
Now there was nothing I could do to make myself more comfortable in a situation where I felt out of place, I could only use my sole defense mechanism: humor.
I got through the day by making everyone laugh. It seemed to work, but I fear I may have painted myself even further into the slacker, underachieving role I was trying to escape in the first place.
However, truth be told, I felt as though I was an idiot in a room full of geniuses. It is this feeling I wish could be neatly surmised in a single quote or cliché; the feeling that I was the most unprepared for what lay ahead.
I sat through that visitation day at UGA hoping that I would be able to pull myself together enough to earn my spot at this institution. Students who were currently enrolled in the program assured us that it’s natural to feel that way, but that we had been accepted to the program for a reason.
I held on to that for the remainder of the visit, knowing that the program saw something in my application that told them I would fit in here.
If there is one thing I took away from this visit, it is the idea that Keene State College might want to invest further into helping its students prepare for graduate school, especially those who are applying to rigorous programs, as I did.
Dressing professionally, learning to network and associating with people of a higher caliber than yourself are skills I would have liked a refresher on before heading off to visit this school. My coursework and professional activities were rigorous enough to get me into the program clearly, but it was my personal limitations that were holding me back, something that time at an undergraduate institution like Keene State College should easily clear up.
I have been allowed to rely on my good sense of humor and good naturedness to get me through awkward situations here, instead of learning to handle situations professionally. This is something that shouldn’t be tolerated from students such as myself.
Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org