When there’s no best option: Grad school and beyond

I submitted my first application to graduate school this week (after only a minor freak out that I had forgotten a component). Filling out the application was not the best part of my Thanksgiving break, but it was necessary. Truthfully, the entire graduate school application process is daunting, even more so than that of undergraduate schools. One of the main reasons I applied to the College of William and Mary for undergrad was because I knew that I would receive a great education no matter what subject I picked as my major. But graduate school is different. A school may have a great program in one subject but not in another, so I had to carefully research which graduate schools would be best for what I want to study.

The problem is that I’m not sure I chose the perfect program to pursue. As a double major, I saw lots of options for what I could study in graduate school, but narrowing them down was difficult. Even when I decided that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in counseling, I had to decide specifically what type of counseling degree I wanted.

I’m not positive a counseling degree is the best option for me, but I think there often isn’t a best option. Lots of times, there are many viable options that could be equally good, and you just have to pick one. And it’s hard.

I discovered that writing personal statements to graduate schools helped me determine whether I had made a good choice. At first, I thought writing a personal statement would be annoying. Can’t the school simply examine my undergraduate record and experiences to determine if I get accepted? Yet, as I wrote my personal statement, I discovered how what I’ve done at the College has lined up to point me in the direction of choosing this particular counseling program, and I didn’t even realize it until I wrote it all down. I also realized that other experiences I’ve had could work for other graduate programs I may want to pursue, but ultimately, I have to pick one program.

Almost everyone has read the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken,” but it wasn’t until I reread it for a poetry class my sophomore year that I understood how one path isn’t necessarily better than the other; they’re worn “really about the same.” I think many of the paths seniors have to choose from are worn about the same as well. We just have to pick one path, walk down it, and try not look back.


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