Friday, August 9, 2013

California Pt. 2

        Just about an hour south of Berkeley, CA sits one of the most beautiful university campuses in the country, Stanford, and the place where we spent our second day in California. Stanford University is enormous. It boasts over 600 major buildings, 43,000 trees, and 49 miles of roads. At times, the campus seemed more like a resort than a school. While we were there, we had the opportunity to stroll about the colossal campus and enjoy the architecture which seemed to be characterized by tan walls and red roofs. We were there to attend a graduate school workshop that would walk us through the application process and give us tips on how to prepare ourselves in order to be successful. It featured a McNair graduate student panel which was quite helpful in showing us what we could achieve, especially since we come from similar backgrounds and circumstances. Their advice ranged from continuing to conduct research to how to contact potential professors and schools. Dr. Brown, a Stanford professor, was the host of the event. He was clearly knowledgeable in the application process and made it quite clear that his goal was to help us in any way he could. Generally, the workshop was a good way to familiarize ourselves with all the requirements that will make us the strongest candidates for PhD programs.  
       There were roughly 200 students that attended this workshop at Stanford. Of those 200, I only met two students who studied history. Many represented fields in medicine, engineering, and other social sciences. So although much of the advice that was given to us was of great help, much of it was not specific to our respective disciplines. For instance, the GRE was stressed as, potentially, the most important part of one's graduate application. In my conversations with various history professors at different programs, it was further down in the list of priorities. So when our lunch break came, I set about finding the history department. After 20 minutes of walking around the labyrinth-like campus, I was finally successful in finding it! There, I met Art Palmon, Graduate Student Services officer. Art was friendly and gave me some great advice. He walked me through the specific application process for history at Stanford and what I should make my priorities. A strong statement of purpose and transcript seemed essential. After our conversation, I felt much more confident and reinvigorated knowing that I had my objectives laid out in front of me.
   At times it was stressful to think that, in order to be accepted to the best possible program, we must go beyond our best effort to show that we are worth the investment. But ultimately, it is up to us to look within ourselves to discover what our really passions are. My passion is history and just this thought makes it all worth it. What I've learned most during this trip to California is that graduate history programs aren't as concerned with what you've done as they are with what it is that you plan to do. Being specific in what research we'd like to pursue is key. With this information in mind, I will continue to go about this process in a methodological manner while remembering why I'm doing this and continuing to give it my all. The future is exciting. 

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