Do I Belong?

After Discover Korbel, a student mentioned to me that they felt like they did not belong at Korbel because some of the other admitted students they met during the event were bringing significant work experience with them. Since this student had yet to graduate from undergraduate, they felt like they would be at a severe disadvantage and that they would be forced to take a backseat to incoming students with more work experience who knew exactly what type of job they would pursue post graduation.  I actually hear this concern every year and I certainly understand as I remember when I went into my MA program I felt like I did not belong in graduate school.  I would like to address some of these doubts, not necessarily to convince you all that you need to come to Korbel but to assure you that your concerns are shared by others, and with some helpful advice, you’re concerns may be alleviated or exacerbated.

Q: I am still in undergrad, are you sure I belong in graduate school?

A: If you were being honest in your personal statement, yes. We saw something in you that made us believe you have potential in this field. Oddly enough, the question I hear just as often as the aforementioned one is: “I’ve been out of school for 15 years, are you sure I belong?”  When you go to your first graduate class, keep in mind that graduate school is a new experience for the person on your left, the person on your right, the person in front of you and the person behind you. Also keep in mind that in 10 years, the person on your left might be a future connection at that innovative non-profit you’ve been wanting to work for and the person on your right might be a good partner for a collaborative project that will impress your boss. Our track records suggests the person behind you might be a future Secretary of State, so stay on their good side. The point is everyone is in the same boat in that graduate school is also a new experience for them. Make friends with people who are older than you because they have been in the field and have seen first hand what the professor is talking about. Make friends with people younger than you because they probably remember how to write a research paper.  Don’t let your age deter you from getting your money’s worth. Remember to sit in the front row, that’s where the learning happens.

Q: Should I go to graduate school if I’m not exactly sure what I want to do?

A: Again, in your personal statement, you described an interest a passion you have about a certain topic (i.e. women’s rights) or area (i.e. Southeast Asia). Unless you were lying in your statement (if you were call me immediately), we’ll stick with our belief that you have the potential. It is not a requirement that you enroll with 10 years of work experience, however the more work experience you have, the more opportunities you may have post graduation.  Employers like work experience, this has always been true and will continue to be true (why else would Denver go after Peyton Manning and dump Tebow). That does not mean you won’t find a job, it simply means if you don’t have a lot of work experience you need to adjust your expectations post graduation, instead of starting out at a mid-level position at the UN, you’re more likely to start out at an entry level position at an NGO, but after you get more experience under your belt—not to mention the fact that you’ll have an MA when you do, you’ll be much more marketable. In some ways, it is our job to help you turn that interest passion into a focused career search. Remember, the job search starts the day you get here, maybe even a bit before, allow me to explain. Our Office of Career Development is here to help direct your passions and help you funnel them down into a realistic job search. You can do yourself a huge favor, and get on their good side, if you take some time this summer to narrow down your interests and how they might translate into a job post grad. That does not mean you need to know exactly what type of job you want when you graduate but it does mean you don’t want to show up in the Career Office during the first week and say you want to look for an internship in four disparate areas. Take these summer months to do some reflecting on your ideal future career, aside from more work experience, what tools do you think you’ll need out of graduate school to make said career possible (do you speak Dutch but want to work in China? Do you want to work in international finance, but you’re scared of the GFTEI degree?).

Brad Miller

Director of Admissions

Josef Korbel School





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