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Carolin Lehmann’s Mission: Graduate School 2015

Datum:18 mei 2015
Carolin Lehmann
Carolin Lehmann

About me
I graduated with a B.A. in American Studies in July 2014. This fall, I will be attending Graduate School at North Carolina State University (NCSU: https://www.ncsu.edu) studying Political Communication (M.S.). My decision to pursue a Master’s degree outside Europe and in the United States goes way back to a high-school exchange in 2008, when I first visited the U.S. Since then, I have been there nine times: road-tripping twice, visiting friends, meeting new people, and even studying abroad for one semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC: http://www.unc.edu). Thus, the decision to study in the U.S. was not just made within a week or two. I’ve always wanted to study in the U.S. but it took me almost seven years to realize my biggest dream. Now, I am very proud of my accomplishments and very happy to announce that I will be attending NCSU in the fall.

Pre-Application Process: Determining the schools and the program
When I was studying at UNC in 2013, I started to take advantage of the Career Services where I worked with an advisor who helped me to finalize my resumé and letter of motivation for the American Studies Program at Penn State University. However, my real graduate school preparation didn’t start until after my B.A. graduation in July 2014, when I flew back to Chapel Hill for three months (July – October). In those three months, I started to look into potential graduate schools, programs, requirements, and financial aid options.

Very soon it became apparent that I wanted to study Communication with an emphasis on either politics or social media. I believe that a degree in Communication will allow me to combine my background in American Studies and International Relations. Although I don’t have degrees in Communication or Journalism, I think that my Bachelor in American Studies, with its highly interdisciplinary approach, provides a solid foundation for my future education. I am confident about my writing and communication skills and overall feel prepared for graduate school.

I chose to apply at Illinois State University, St. Louis University, University of South Florida, Penn State University (I applied for American Studies and not Communication), North Carolina State University, and University of South Carolina – and I got into all of them! Why did I pick those schools? Well, it was a mainly a mix between the program, the location, and friends of mine either living nearby and/or friends who attended one of the schools. Prior to applying, I made sure that all those schools offered funding to international students and accepted my foreign B.A. in American Studies. Since I was staying in Chapel Hill, I scheduled a private grad school visit at NCSU (which for those who don’t know is only 30 minutes away from Chapel Hill) and met with the Head of the Communication Department. Since that meeting, NCSU was my #1 choice of graduate studies. While I stayed in Chapel Hill, I also met with the Communication Advisor of the School of Communication at UNC. However, since he told me right away that I was not eligible to apply for a Graduate Assistantship (because I wasn’t American), I decided not to apply to UNC in the first instance.

Application Progress (July – November)
Once I knew which schools to apply to, I made several lists showing each school’s application deadlines and requirements. In general, every school wanted me to hand in the GRE (standardized test for everyone: http://www.takethegre.com/new-GRE-test), TOEFL (http://www.ets.org/toefl/ — despite my B.A. I have not been able to waive the English language requirements), a letter of motivation/personal statement, 2 or 3 letters of recommendation, and/or a writing sample, and/or a separate application for financial aid (Graduate Assistantship). Luckily I was still in touch with my Career Service Advisor who helped me a lot writing letters of motivation. Basically, I wrote six different letters of motivation and six different resumes – each one individually designed for a particular school and program.

I took the TOEFL in August while I was still in the U.S. and took the GRE in Germany in late October. In October, I also asked for letters of recommendation and requested transcripts (in both Dutch and English) to be sent to my schools. Once I had uploaded all my required documents, I submitted my online applications on Oct. 27. FYI: In the U.S. you have to pay an application fee ($30 – $75) to submit your online application. Therefore you want to be 100% sure about the school and the program you are applying to. Don’t upload a letter of motivation you have written the night before! It takes time and great effort to write letters of recommendation, resumés, and financial aid applications. Don’t underestimate the application procedure. Most application deadlines are in January and February; thus I had to take a year off after my B.A. to be able to meet these deadlines.

Then, winter was coming and all I could do was to wait for my schools to make their final admission decisions.

Between January and March, I received one acceptance letter after another. To be honest, I expected at least one rejection letter, but I was accepted into all six programs. However, the final decision was based on funding. Getting a Graduate Assistantship was essential for me to attend graduate school in the first place. Since NCSU was my first choice, I immediately said yes when I was offered funded admission.

I am now in the process of completing immigration forms, paying fees, looking for housing, looking at flights etc. Fortunately, I don’t have to register for classes since my professor (also Head of Comm. Department) will take care of my class registration.

My final thoughts and advice
Despite humongous U.S. tuition fees, studying in the U.S. is not impossible! However, the entire application process is all about your organization skills and your determination. You REALLY have to want to study in the U.S. because it takes effort to write applications. You have to be able to meet the deadlines (which differ from school to school), hand in your application early in case of online errors, and generally stay on top of things (do NOT pull an all-nighter!). If you are willing to sacrifice a lot of time, some money, sweat and blood, then I think you should give graduate school a shot. Good luck!