Applying to Graduate School During a Pandemic

Editor’s Note: My name is Jessica Cantos, and I am a current student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) in the Higher Education program. Due to the pandemic, my entire HGSE experience will be virtual because my program is only a year long. While zoom classes were not what I expected when I applied to graduate school a year ago, I have been overjoyed with the compassionate and support that professors and administrators have shown students during this challenging time. As I finish up my first semester remotely, I wanted to offer my perspective to students who are considering graduate school at a time where it feels impossible to plan ahead. I hope that the advice and insight offered in this post gives you the confidence and support you need to take this next step.  

Post by Jessica Cantos, Admissions Graduate Assistant

While we are currently planning for Fall 2021 to be back to an in-person, on-campus experience, we don’t know what will happen in the future with the pandemic and public health. If HDS needs to be remote for Fall 2021, we won’t have that decision until late spring or early summer, well after the Fall 2021 application deadline of January 7. Rest assured that if you do apply, are admitted, and accept our offer of admission, and then the decision is made to be remote in the fall, we will work with you to discuss your enrollment options. This blog post is meant to help you navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic and plans to apply to graduate school. 

Deciding to apply to graduate school during any “normal” year feels stressful and uncertain, but even more so during a global pandemic. If you’re feeling unsure whether it is the right time to pursue graduate education, you are not alone! Here are some things to consider as you decide:  

Figure Out Your “Why 

Graduate school is a huge commitment of both time and finances so being clear on your intentions and academic interests before applying is key. As you think about whether it is time for you to pursue a graduate degree, it might be helpful to begin crafting your statement of purpose. Not only is then statement of purpose a critical component of your application, but it is also a great tool for self-reflection. Take time to think about your goals and passions. If graduate school still aligns with those goals, then you should consider applying.  

Take Advantage of Virtual Resources 

Due to the pandemic, many of the in-person opportunities to learn more about HDS have moved to an online platform. Now regardless of where you are in the world, you have access to panels, recorded Q&A sessions, and student stories. Whether you are working on your application or just beginning to consider graduate school, we highly encourage you to take advantage of all the online resources on the HDS website! You can find recorded content about the different degrees HDS offers, HDS student experiences, and the application process here. The HDS Admission blog is also a great way to learn more about the HDS community and experiences of current students. Rest assured, if you are admitted we will also offer a ton of additional resources to connect you to the HDS community.  

Challenges You Might Face  

The pandemic is unpredictable, and it is difficult to determine when most universities will resume fully in-person instruction. There is a chance that you will have to complete at least part of your graduate degree remotely and doing so comes with its fair share of challenges. As you consider different programs and schools, take some time to look at what the institution is doing to support students during this time. Reach out to the admissions team to get in touch with current students and hear about their experiences with online classes. On the other hand, we are hoping for an in-person Fall 2021 semester so be sure to consider what relocating to Boston next August might mean for you and any family that would join you.  

Final Thoughts 

It is important to ask yourself how graduate school will impact your life and assist you in accomplishing your goals. Sometimes there really is no “right” time. When making big life decisions or career change, sometimes you just need to trust yourself. 

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