Grad school, Ohio and the pains of gettin’ it together

Two weekends ago I flew to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the 45th Annual Graduate and Professional Student Recruitment Initiative (GPS) from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at The Ohio State University.

I didn’t know anything about GPS or the school, except that one of my music professors, Dr. Ricky Little, completed his DMA there. During a voice lesson, he told me about this event in case I was interested. The deadline to apply was two days away, but I thought, “If I get the chance to visit for free, why not?”

About a week later, I received an email informing me I had been selected to visit. So, I bought my ticket to Columbus and left on Sunday morning. Once there, I stayed in their hotel in a room by myself because I was the only student interested in music and the only one from Union. That night I ate a delicious meal, learned how to submit a strong application before sitting through a Q-and-A with current graduate students.

On Monday, I met the professor of orchestral conducting, the professor of clarinet, the director of admission at the graduate level and four doctoral clarinet students. I enjoyed meeting professors and students who helped me get a picture of how it feels to be a student at their school.

I not only had a terrific time, but more importantly, I met a potential mentor. I got the chance to ask what he looks for in a student and what kind of opportunities the school offers.

Now that I’m back in Lincoln, it’s time to complete my applications. This is perhaps the most stressful aspects of my senior year. When you have to keep up with at least school and work, adding seven grad school applications—on which your future is dependent, no big deal—can drive you mad.

Are you good enough for grad school? Should you apply to your dream schools? What about applications fees? What does a statement of purpose even look like?

When I arrived as a freshman a few months ago—at least, that’s what it feels like—, the seniors had a smaller load of courses and seemed overall to have more free time. Perhaps I was not looking closely or only saw the same lazy seniors all the time. If that was real, though, I could have tons of free time to fill out grad school applications.

At the beginning of the school year, I realized it wouldn’t be like that. In fact, I am behind on some classes, or all, trying to complete my applications. And I’m not doing great with those applications either. I am missing the most important parts: résumé, essays and pre-screening audition materials.

As I thought, grad school applications will be my Thanksgiving break project, along with the literature review of my honors thesis, two research papers, practicing clarinet, learning orchestral repertoire and catching up on other homework.

I hope I can spend some time reading while I drink a latte at The Mill. It’s a break, after all.

If you are thinking about grad school and you’re a senior, get it together and hope it’s not too late! If you are not yet a senior, make sure to keep your résumé up to date and begin your research on various grad schools. You want to do as much as you can before your senior year starts.

Don’t forget to check out programs like GPS from The Ohio State University. Take advantage of these type of events to meet potential mentors and make other connections. Don’t think these programs aren’t for you because you come from a small religious college no one knows about. If you’re an excellent student, schools will fight for you (or not), but you won’t know until you try.

If you’re a minority student, I recommend you check out GPS and consider applying next year. It’s worth it.

Enrique Quezada-Llanes is a senior music performance major with an emphasis on clarinet. Besides spending three hours a day in a practice room, Enrique loves reading and writing. His aspirations surpass his abilities, but perhaps he may one day conduct his favorite Brahms symphony. He writes and produces a podcast for his blog “Of lovers and fools.”