Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Search for Graduate School: Part 7

The Final Installment

First Time Flying:
No, I've flown before, just never by myself. I've at least always had my parents, or friends with me before. This was the first time with just me. Everything was booked and payed for so I didn't have to worry about that, but still, I was paranoid about not finding the right gate, or not making it on time, or getting in the wrong lane, or having to use the bathroom at the wrong time, or just missing my flight altogether. So before I got to the airport, I hoped to maybe make an airplane buddy who I could pair up with and we could look after each other. Well, that didn't really work out too well.

I suck at small talk and everyone else puts up the, "Don't talk to me," vibe. So, I ended up just reading and napping on the first flight. Then I connected flights. Sat next to an old man who, I believe, read an entire newspaper in one sitting. What a champ. Then the flight attendant began reading off destinations and gate numbers for possible flights other people may have been going on after the current one.

We were sitting all of the way in the back and I was in the aisle seat. I wanted to know if I was going to be needing to get up or if maybe I could keep my flight buddy. Even though we didn't talk at all, I knew he was a nice guy and I didn't mind sitting next to him. So, I began a conversation.

Nice Old Man:
In total, our conversation lasted only about ten minutes, but it's one I'll never forget. In that short amount of time, I found out he was a pastor who lived somewhere in or around Dallas, TX. That's where he was getting off. I guess I wasn't keeping my flight buddy.

He found out where I was headed and I told him it was for an interview. He told me I would love where I was going and he just knew that I would do really well. He told me, "There aren't a lot of trees there. It not a very pretty city. It's also pretty windy. But it's still pretty nice there. I think you'll love it." Then he proceeded to say, verbatim, "When God created the world and he got to West Texas, he ran out of trees. So instead, he placed a lot of good people there."

As soon as he left that plane. I wrote those words down in my notebook, just so I could remember them.

The Interview(s):
My first interview was at 9am the next day. For one of my interviewers, it was his last day, and his last duty ever, was to interview me. How special is that? The first question asked of me was, "How was your flight in?" So I told them my little story, and the pastor's quote. Mr. Last Day started to tear up. I had never seen that in an interview before. He started fanning his face, and his eyes began to gloss up. "Next question please," I said. He said it made his day. I was glad I could do that for him.

Throughout the day, I fell in love with the campus. I learned about it's traditions, I learned about the people, I met the people, and I loved how sweet and caring everyone was. The old man was right. Everyone was so nice. I felt included and a part of the team and I was still only a candidate.

In my student interview, they told me they were impressed by my answers and had never been asked the questions I had asked them before. They were simple questions. Questions not for me, not about the job, not about the grad program, but about them. Questions I had asked throughout the whole process. Questions I thought were common place, yet had never been asked of them. I found it interesting.

Anyway, by the end of my weekend stay, I knew in my heart, that School E was the place for me. (rhymes!) Now I just needed to actually get the job.

The Waiting Game:
I was told I would have to wait a whole Week before any decision was made on my candidacy. Great. If there's any game I hate more than Monopoly, it's the waiting game. And I REALLY hate Monopoly.

I waited two days only.

I GOT THE JOB!! Contingent on my acceptance to the Graduate School. Agh. More waiting.

A week later, I GOT ACCEPTED!!

You guys. The moment we've all been waiting for...

Drum-roll Please!:
I will be attending the Texas Tech University, getting my Master's degree in Higher Education, whilst working as the Graduate Assistant for Recruitment and Training.

I am So relieved. And So excited. And just... the thousands of words in the English dictionary can't describe my feelings.

I move in a week.

The End

Thank you so much for your support in reading this blog and following my story. It was a long one, but I'm finally done dragging you along. Tomorrow, I will be posting any answers to any of your burning questions about what's happening next in my life.

If you have any questions in particular that you want to know, just in case I don't think of it, ask me.

Comment below. Facebook me. 

Text me. Tweet me.  If ya wanna ask me. If you wanna page me it's okay. (See what I did there?)


The Search for Graduate School: Part 6

The Right Fit

Let's Call This School E:
Here was a university that before OPE, I was so totally pumped to interview with. Great program, great school, and a great state. If I remember correctly, this interview was between a span of back to back to back interviews. It was Saturday, and I had 9(?) interviews and an info sessin for another school the day/night before. The conference center was out of coffee before 9am that day, and anyone who knows me, knows I need my coffee.

"You can run to the university center and grab coffee there," said the woman at the desk... Lady, I have 8 interviews to attend today and thank you cards to write. I didn't have time to run to the university center (which was two-three blocks away) and grab coffee. So I had to toughen it up.

Anyway, I was in the middle of consecutive interviews, and I was going from the 9th floor to the basement, to the 5th floor, and back up to the 8th. (May not be exact numbers.)

I. Was. Tired.

And you know, how after you repeat yourself over and over again, you kind of start forgetting how to speak almost, because you're tripping over words and you're brain is screaming, "Talk about something else!!" No? Maybe it's just me. I got to this interview, exhausted but still excited, and I did my best, but I knew it wasn't enough. After I walked out of the interview room, I thought, "Oh jeez. They hated me." So I crossed that one off the mental list of places I had a shot at.

Break Time:
My school, Whitewater, had reserved an extra room at the conference center, which served as a break room for the candidates and interview team alike. After my slew of interviews, I decided to chill with some familiar faces before I had to go to my next interview. My mentor stepped in in between interviews, sees me in the room, and says, "Come into the hall with me." Now, as much as I love this man, and as much as I know how he operates, every time he puts his business face on and adds a serious note to his voice, I get nervous and think I'm trouble.

So I froze for a second, not knowing where this conversation was going, and he says, "Come on, I only have like, 20 seconds." Zoom! I was out the door. He pulls me aside and says, "So this university really likes you." "Oh really? Because I thought they hated me." "No, they've been asking me a lot of questions about you. Now, here's my question. Would you be actually ready to move to this state?" Without hesitation, I said, "Yeah! Are you kidding me?! I would love to!" And that was the end of the conversation.

Feeling Like A Teenager:
Remember when you were, and you liked someone, and you waited by the telephone (cuz those were still around) for your crush to call you? (because people weren't text-a-holics yet?) I did that for a little while with this school. I thought they liked me. I like them, but maybe I was mistaken. Oh well, I had three other schools that I was looking at by then.

Then I got rejected by all three.

Then I got rejected by another.

Then there was an opening at this school.

And I got invited to visit campus.

And like with school C, but even better, I fell in love. I didn't think it would happen after C, because I had such strong feelings about them. But just like how I deal with men and breakups. They're sad, but I always bounce back eventually.

The experience comes next.

Coming Soon... The Final Installment

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Search for Graduate School: Part 5


After meeting with many a people, I started to gain hope in that I still had options. I was getting encouragement from Everyone. Words of advice. Personal rejection stories. Places that were still hiring. Websites with job listings. Everything.

One person said, "It's amazing how things almost never happen the way we expect. It's assumed that just because you went to OPE and did everything right, things should work out in your favor. But that's just not always the case."

He was right. And though it may not seem uplifting, I found encouragement in those words, because I knew they were real. It was more than just, "You'll find some place!" Or, "Any school would be lucky to have you!" Though don't get me wrong, it was appreciated, but after hearing those phrases 18,000 different times, I couldn't take it anymore.

I began applying everywhere that I could, including full-time Bachelor's level jobs that weren't in Residence Life. If I didn't think I had options, I made them anyway. I wasn't going to give up until every job was closed.

Even though I was making options for myself, it wasn't enough. I wasn't hearing back from anyone anywhere. It was frustrating. So, I started looking at real life "big girl" jobs. Management positions for different companies. I began thinking, that maybe God's plans for me weren't Student Affairs, no matter how much I wanted them to be. Maybe I was meant to slave away behind a desk signing pay roll checks and filing employee sanctions. *shudder*

I eventually landed a couple interviews with two companies for general management positions. If I wasn't going to get an assistantship, I needed to find some ways to pay the bills, right?
At one interview I realized that I couldn't settle for a business job. I wasn't ready for that. My final interviewer asked me, "Are you ready to start your career?" My mind got hit with a semi. No. I don't want this kind of career. I'm not ready to give up. To give in. I won't be stunted by a few rejections. I can't. And I didn't. I told him straight up, that I was still looking at options in Higher Education, and my passion was there. I left that interview with a little more confidence in knowing this is what I need to do.

I received notice from a university that they had one position left open, and they wanted me to interview with them. Sweet! Surprisingly enough, it was one of the first schools I had applied to in the beginning of the process and even got accepted to the grad school. All I needed was the job. At OPE though, I knew I didn't fit in with the culture, but I thought, "Hey, maybe it was just a long day for everyone."

While preparing for the interview, I received word that there was a position opening at another university. Alright. Two more chances to get this right.

Let's Call This School D:
In Love with the campus, it was the most beautiful I had seen yet. Even my host said, "If Hollywood found out about this place, we would be out of business."

The master's program was exactly what I was looking for, I mean, obviously, I applied for the graduate school in December/January.

The people? Well, they weren't exactly my cup of tea, but I can get along with anyone.

The job wasn't what that I would have preferred, it was apartment living, but I knew would be able to rock it just the same.

And then I got rejected from there too.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. In this case, Always a candidate, never a good hire.

What's wrong with me?

It turns out, I just hadn't found the right fit yet.

Forge Ahead Tomorrow For More...
(Oy, that sounds weird. But at least it's not, "To Be Continued.")

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Search for Graduate School: Part 4

Rejected and Lost

This is probably going to be the most difficult thing for me to post. Because it was this part of the process, that I never thought I would share with anyone.

The day came that I was supposed to hear back from school A and B about if I had a job there or not. I never received an email, I never received a phone call. I started to get nervous, "Don't worry," they all said, "Sometimes things like this take a little more time than anticipated."
"You're right," I thought.. Courage restored.

I was sitting in an NRHH meeting, National Residence Hall Honorary for those who may not know, and because I was feeling so antsy, from not hearing back from school A and B, I was checking my email incessantly. During our meeting, I had checked to see an email from School A.
"Thank you for your interest in our school, but we've chosen someone else. Good luck!"
I mean, it didn't say those exact words, but it sums it up pretty well.

Boom. Reality check. Maybe I'm not as great as I thought. But it was okay, I still had two schools left to hear from and that one was at the bottom of my list of preferences anyway. It's okay. I was still okay.

Then my NRHH chapter began their weekly recognition. Usually my favorite part, because I love seeing people rewarded for the great things they do, this time. I wasn't there. Physically, yes. Mentally, not at all. I checked my email again. Wow, one from school B! Hopefully this one brought good news. I opened it.

Rejected. Again.

Commence shock. Two schools, two choices, no longer existent.

I signed back into my meeting when I heard someone say my name. They were recognizing me for NRHH Member of the Week. I didn't want it. I didn't want to hear it. But my nominator continued forward. Praising me for the wonderful things I do, congratulating me on pursuing further education, toasting the wonderful accomplishments I would achieve in graduate school, and so on and so forth. I wanted to cry. I almost did. I didn't want the award. I didn't feel like I deserved it. Having it was like pouring salt on an open wound. It hurt.

I continued my evening by going to class. Quiet. Little contribution to class discussion. I just wanted to leave. I just wanted to go home. I just wanted to curl up into a ball, and cry.

On the bright side of things, I had one more school left. School C. I liked that school better than the other two anyway. So why was I so down? Snap out it Tawny, you've still got a chance!

One Week Later:
I was supposed to hear back from school C that Tuesday. I didn't. Shit. The friend I made while on-campus, we were both "top choices." We had the best shot. But that dreaded feeling kept creeping back in.

The next day, Wednesday, I heard back from School C.
"Unfortunately, there just weren't enough open positions this year, and you didn't make the cut."

Commence Devastation.

I was supposed to go to NRHH 30 minutes after I got the email. Fat. Chance. In hell. I couldn't. I couldn't face that group of people! I didn't want to bring back the award of shame. I was so embarrassed. So lost. So numb. I don't even think I went to class that night. I wasn't going to be able to pay attention. I didn't want to be out in public at all.

What do you do, when the one thing you've spent your entire college career working for, gets ripped from your grasp? I sure didn't know the answer to that. I wish I could be inspirational and say that I didn't let it get me down, that it was just a minor setback in achieving a dream well worth it. But I can't, honestly, and that's why I'm telling you my story.

And then the questions started coming... "So, how's the search coming?" Peers. Supervisors. Advisors. Mentors. Friends. Roommates. Family. The Vice freakin' Chancellors. All, asking me, the same, question, over, and over, again. My answer? "Still waiting to hear back! Should be soon!"

What was I supposed to say? That I failed and no one wants to hire me?!?

Stay tuned for Part 5: Redemption

The Search for Graduate School: Part 3

Round 2 Interviews: On-Campuses

I got a total of 6 on-campus offers to interview, plus one that I had already signed up for months in advance. How was I going to choose? Anyone else would have taken the chance at all six, but I had a budget. Also, between two jobs, and school, there was a limited window for me to travel. On top of that, everyone wanted to be done with interviews by the end of March and have decisions made on their staffs. Since OPE was the first weekend of March, that left me three weeks to fit everything in.

First thing was first. Which interviews do I attend? Some choices were difficult, some were no brainers. One university I realized I wasn't even qualified for the Master's program I was looking at. My fault. Boom. Five more to choose from.

The next one was so far up north, and after this terrible winter (for me), I realized it would be too difficult for me to handle if I stayed there for two years. Plus, the entire Master's program was online. I don't know about you, but I like to Know my professors. So, sad to say, as much as I enjoyed the people, I had to knock it off the list. Okay, still 4 more to choose from.

Remember how I said I didn't want to go out west? Well, the next institution was out west, and in the middle of freakin' nowhere. I also, didn't like the vibe of operations I got during my interview with them at OPE. It wasn't what I was looking for for my first professional experience. As much as I got along with those folks, and they were close friends with the people of Whitewater, I couldn't do it.

Boom. Down to three, plus the one extra. Here's where it became difficult for me. I had three weeks now to choose from for four of the interviews. No class Monday and Friday, so all I needed to do was switch my work schedule around. No big deal, but... Tuesdays and Thursdays were my most important classes and one of them the most difficult. and one of those weeks I was not allowed to miss classes for. Then there was Spring Break. Not a lot of room to make choices.

I could fit three of my on-campuses into my schedule easily, one per week, without losing anything valuable school-wise. But, that was only the case if I didn't have my pre-scheduled interviews. This one, was a school that I knew nothing about outside of their website and job descriptions. The program wasn't entirely fitting to what I was looking for, and I had no relationships with the people. Option two was a school I met at OPE - as school that I originally was weary of applying to. But, after interviewing and socializing with them, I Really wanted to check it out, and they wanted me, so I had to go. I had to. So, I cancelled option one. I thought that was going to be the most difficult thing I would need to do.

Let's Call This School A:
Like I said, I originally didn't want to even Apply for this school. You know how I don't like the things that everyone else likes? This school was one of those things. THREE of my past supervisors are alums there and raved about it constantly. What if I didn't like it there? What if it wasn't for me? But then I interviewed, and enjoyed it a lot. Then I went to the campus. It was beautiful. The people were nice, but I seemed to only get along with the higher ups and not really the current GAs, or candidates at that. I liked the school, but after leaving, I hoped my other two choices were better.

School B:
Located in a state I had never wanted to live in before, lied a university where I highly enjoyed the campus, got along well with the staff, made friends with the other candidates, who by the way were competing for the same job as me, and I Loved the Master's program. It wasn't the typical higher education route, instead it was Educational Leadership. Flexible, interesting, and new. Also, the position was different from all the rest. I remember thinking, "It couldn't get any better than this." Yet, through all of the time that had passed, school C had been on my back burner and I absolutely could not wait to visit.

School C:
The time had finally arrived. My final on-campus interview had made it's appearance on the calendar and I was ecstatic. Campus: Gorgeous. State: Amazing. People: Wonderful. Staff: Hilarious and relatable. Program: What I was looking for. Job: Right up my alley. Food: Quite tasty. Town: Small but not too small.

The whole place was perfect. Until then, I had no idea I could fall in love with a school as much as I did there. I was ready to buy spirit-wear right then and there! I was so confident I knew that that was the place where I would end up for graduate school. I had so much fun while I was there and I already felt like I was a part of the crew. They even told me to my face that I was at the top of their list. I made multiple friends with the candidates and everything just fell into place.

I had it all figured out.
Until Next Time...
(Because some people don't like, "To be continued.")

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Search for Graduate School: Part 2

The Big Moment:

In the six weeks prior to OPE weekend, all the candidates (who could make it) and myself got together once a week to go over how the weekend would go down.
- What to say in an interview.
- What kind of questions would be asked.
- What to wear.
- Events outside of the interviews.
- Resume reviews.
- Cover letter tips.
- Thank you card dos and don'ts.
And whatever else we needed to know to be fully prepared.

The week before OPE came, my boyfriend and I broke up due to, I guess the best way to say it is, irreconcilable differences. So that was pretty tough, but I guess it was good to get that out of the way and focus solely on myself and my own personal needs. At that point, I had nothing holding me back from going to any school anywhere. But I still wasn't about to move out west. Hah.

Anyway, the day came where it was time to drive to Oshkosh. I left class I little early that day so that I could make sure I had everything packed and loaded into my car and then my weekend roommate brought her stuff outside and we carpooled on over to OPE.

When we got there, my body was flowing with excitement, energy, and wonder. The conference hall was decorated in all sorts of posters from different schools that all said, 'Interview with us!" It was almost overwhelming. I remember seeing one certain advertisement that used memes to make light of the institution. To some people, they thought it was unprofessional. For me, I saw it as, "Hey, we're a fun laid-back school! Come interview with us." I actually had an interview lined up with them already and I couldn't wait to meet their interview team.

We brought our luggage to our room and then decided to explore the building. In the mail room, there was pizza, soda, people, and of course, mail. In our mailboxes were things called "swag." Notes from schools saying, "We can't wait to meet you," invitations to sign up for more interviews, energy bars, water bottles, snacks, and all kinds of other things. I knew then that I was going to have an Awesome weekend.

I went to every social I was invited to, every informational session, and by the end of the weekend I had attended 4 socials, 1 info session, and had 17 interviews. In two days. When I told my HR professors about it, I saw horror flash in their eyes.

Needless to say, there were two schools I had fallen in love with, one I was curious about, and a few I was on the fence about. And just as my advisors had told me before, the schools I had been excited for before, were schools I cared not about after interviewing with them. One school I loved on paper tended to appreciate football more than anything else, and when they found out I wasn't a fanatic, I knew I was out of the running. Hilarious, no? The school with the awesome advertisement? I was IN LOVE with them and they loved me. At that point, I thought, this is the school for me.

And then came time for On-Campus Interviews...
To Be Continued...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Search for Graduate School: Part 1

The Beginning...

So, I know many of you have been wondering how my OPE experience has been for me. Well, finally, I am going to tell you. It's been a long, grueling, entertaining, educational, embarrassing, reflective, and whatever other big word, experience for me.

What is OPE?:
For those of you who don't know what OPE is, it is the Oshkosh Placement Exchange. It is an enormous conference that occurs in Oshkosh (obviously) and lasts about 3.5 days. There, is where candidates and employers from all over the country go to find jobs and employees. For candidates, which is what I was, we go to OPE to either find a full-time Bachelor's level job or a part-time job with fantastic benefits. My preference was the latter.

What was I looking for?:
I had a few simple requirements. First off, I needed a graduate school that had a GPA requirement lower than 3.0, because I'm not that smart. I think my final cumulative GPA was 2.98. (Because you need to know.) My second requirement was, it had to have a Higher Education type program, or Counseling because I was on the fence. As for benefits, I needed tuition to be waived. I've already got  a ton of student loans, thanks to UWW, so I didn't want anymore. (How much, you do not need to know.)
Hmm, what else? Oh yeah, I didn't want to move out west. Nothing's out there but loneliness. LOL.

What is this "Higher Education"?
Higher Education, Student Affairs, or College Student Personnel, are all basically the same program, just different names. If you're familiar with one, then you'll know the other. For those of you who don't know either, the easiest way for me to explain it is this: A master's degree in working with college level students.
Whether it be in Residence Life, Academic Advising, Career Counseling, Multicultural Services, etc, these are all (mostly) Master's level, Higher Education professionals. Unless they have their PhD. But you would know that by their names. :P

Before OPE:
I didn't sign up until December. Registration opened up in October. I knew I was going either way, but I hadn't wanted to sign up because I started the year with incredible mid-mid-life crises. I kept flip-flopping between what kind of program I wanted. I was afraid of the uncertain. Anytime the possibility of failure crept into my mind, I became terrified. How would I handle it if I wasn't able to achieve my dreams? My goals? The only thing I had been working towards my whole college career?

Then there was the money factor. Registration itself was $100+. Then there's lodging. Every application process was different. Some jobs required application to the graduate school before even being considered for an interview spot. Those are a pretty penny as well.

The TIME!! For every different opportunity, I made new cover letters, edited my resume a tad, and then depending on the employer, had other paperwork to fill out.

It was an intense process that took so much of my time, and when I had thought I was done, I was told to push forward even more and keep searching. On top of everything else that was going on in my life, I don't know how I managed. I really don't.

Then came OPE Weekend.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I Think Your Music Taste Says About You

Since graduating, my life hasn't really been that interesting... well, not interesting enough to blog about. So, today, I'm just making up a bunch of stuff to entertain you and me.

Today's topic is relating your music taste to your personality. It may be filled with some bias according to my tastes.

Please don't take offense. Or do, I guess it doesn't matter. I'm making it up as I go anyway.

Top 40: You feel the need to 'fit in' and listen to music that everyone else likes because you're not creative or original enough to find your own music interests. Also, you claim fandom to artists but have never listened to anything that doesn't play on the radio.

Alternative: You want to be different from the Top 40 peeps but aren't committed enough to venture into other genres.

90s: You're stuck in your childhood and afraid to face the future and be an actual adult. You also love annoying others with your... not so great taste.

Indie: You're either creative in your choices of music or you're following the new trend that is 'deep,' 'emotional,' and 'new.'

80s or prior: You know what good music is.

Dubstep: You don't need interesting lyrics to get you through the day, just an bunch of bass-dropping and screeching that's arranged in way to almost sound like music.

R&B: You're either a romantic, or obsessed with the opposite sex. It depends on the artist.

Pop: You like to have fun and sing with your friends.

Foreign: You're in love with a language that isn't your own. You started learning this language in middle school and constantly wish you could live in a different country.

Deathcore: You're effing crazy and just need to tone it down a notch.

Rap: You either value the spoken word, or think you're a badass living the thug life. Stop it.

Oh let's see, what else is there?

Electronica: I don't understand you people. Ellie Goulding's first album, golden. Her second, horrific.

Boy Bands: You're a pedophile. And they're a bad influence. Shame on you.

Country: You were raised listening to this type of music and now you find yourself to be the supreme music fan because country folk are classy.

Ska: You're a kooky fellah, but I like you.

Multiple or Other: I'm sure you're cool, aaand we can be friends.

Did I miss any? Do you want my opinion?

Or is there something you want to see me rant about in particular? I have no life, let me blog and have some fun. :D

<3 Tawny