There is so much to celebrate during this first week of May! Exams will soon be over, graduation is just around the corner for many accomplished students, and even more exciting for some, April 15th has come and gone! April 15th is the nationally recognized deadline for applicants to accept offers to graduate programs. Now, picture me dancing around in a moving truck full of instruments and used ethno reference books, cheering, “Congratulations to all students who are officially pursuing graduate degrees in Ethnomusicology!”
As a representative of the SEM Undergraduate Committee, I want to impart some useful advice I learned from my colleagues and from my own experience on the application journey.
To start off, I decided to play the numbers game like it was the lottery. I applied in total, to 8 MA/PhD graduate programs, both in Ethnomusicology and in American Studies. I received my undergraduate degree in American Studies, and ironically, I was not accepted into any of those programs. In retrospect, perhaps the committees could sense in my personal statements that my heart was not quite in the field. I had instead been directing my focus towards building contacts and recognition within the field of Ethnomusicology.
When writing my various personal statements, professors would tell me that being the right fit for the program can be more important than your GRE scores or other factors of your application. The university is investing in you just as you are committing your time and energy into your education. If your research interests do not match any of your potential professors or fellow students, then you may not want to apply to that particular program.
I tried to be patient waiting for those responses between the few months of January and March (sometimes it can be sooner, sometimes later) but it didn’t matter, my anxiety made it feel like a lifetime! You can be sure that the sooner you hear back, the more likely it is that you were one of the first choices on the waitlist. Even more evident of your incomparable desirability is if you are offered a financial package. Acceptance is incredible, but a fellowship or assistantship that can fund a few years of your education is game changer!
If you find that there were no feasible options, please do not view this as a personal failure! Remember your career goals and use this year to continue broadening your experiences. Keep reading, attend events, meet colleagues, pick up an internship and maybe take that GRE again. Do not be discouraged! Another year or more will only help you fine-tune your interests to improve your chances for the next time you apply.
I feel very fortunate and overjoyed to be starting my Ethnomusicology graduate studies at Indiana University this upcoming fall semester. The reality has not quite hit me yet that I will be moving away from my Maryland home to embark on this new chapter of my life. However, I feel a strong sense of anticipation and assurance that I will quickly find my new home among my Hoosier colleagues!
Cheers and congratulations everyone! Take a deep breath of that fresh spring air and get excited for the summer!