I am interested in going to Grad School for a Master’s in Environmental Science or Ecology (preferably the latter). The challenge is, I am very discouraged with the entire application process, and things are getting worse.
The biggest issue is that I do not have a clear purpose of my own. About half the people I talk to say that I need to already be the champion of a particular issue so that I can then find a professor I wish to study with. But I don’t really work that way. I would so much rather than find a professor who is researching something I find interesting and then apply.
I feel like some people want me to pick a random conservation project out of a hat and just say: “This is it! This is me! This is mine! This is what I will spend the rest of my time studying, so that you can see that I am passionate about something!” But that makes me feel dishonest. I don’t want to put myself in a box; I am interested in many things, I and I can’t narrow that down on my own.
Consequently, I’m not sure how to say, “I don’t yet know anything about what you’re doing other than the basic environmental principles, but I find it incredibly interesting and I’d love to learn every single thing I can about it so that I can help you make advances in your field of study!” At least, I don’t know how to say it without every professor I contact laughing in my face.
How do I show that I will fall in love with what you, the professor, are working on, and that I can focus on your research like a dog focuses on the piece of bacon you’re frying on the griddle? Are you telling me that if I didn’t know what bacon was before you started frying it…well, then am I just S.O.L.?
The same people who tell me I need to already be invested in a particular topic have informed me that I should also already have research in that particular field, and preferably already have publications. This will allow me to 1) pick particular professors in the field I wish to study based on how their research relates to mine and, 2) show that I am already a dedicated member of the scientific research force.
But this, to me, seems ideal – like I have known since I started college in the first place that I wanted to study Ecology, and that I’ve been planning all along to study a particular topic. Not the case. In reality, I have done the typical lab classes, and I have significant experience in researching papers for English classes, but my field experience is minimal. Similarly, I do not have publications of any sort, and I would have no idea how to go about getting something scientific published in the first place.
As someone who is out of school and only now becoming interested in graduate school, how do I either 1) rectify this apparently egregious error on my behalf and immediately find research to help with or a journal which will publish an article I pull out of my ass (with extensive research from the Library, I guess?), or 2) work around it?
Challenge 3 (icing on the cake):
Money. I feel like I won’t get funding if I don’t have Challenges 1 & 2 solved. I’m not going to go into the details, but it’s looming in the back of my head, needling me with extra force every time I doubt myself.
To Sum up How I feel:
I know what field I want to be in. But I feel like I need to go back to school for another bachelor’s to be able to get into that field, and the prospect makes me want to cry. I was effectively just told that I probably shouldn’t bother, because I’m essentially not qualified to be accepted, let alone to get the financial assistance that I’m going to need. It makes me feel discouraged and overwhelmed, and it makes a little part of me want to give up before I even start.
But there is a part that doesn’t want to give up, that is determined to go to grad school is desperate and panicking. But then, do I need to cobble together a resume which attempts to scrounge together what little experience I have? Do I need to lower my expectations and go to grad school to be a middle school Environmental Science teacher? (Please say no, because that prospect is just as depressing as staying in retail.) Do I just need to beg and hope someone takes pity on my poor, under-prepared being?
I need encouragement (though, not from my parents, who are blessed to always believe I can accomplish anything, no matter the hurdles I face – love you, mom and dad, but it doesn’t help). I need to know that I don’t have to put it off another year and pull some magic out of my ass to get it done – because I absolutely cannot do retail for the rest of my life. I need to feel like this is possible.
I just…need some help, please. And if you can, keep it simple (I work really well with step-by-step instructions) — because the less overwhelmed I feel, the better.