Grad School Applications, Round Four

I haven’t shared a writing thought in a really long time on this blog, and it might still be a little while before I get back in the habit. This week I’ve begun the process of applying to graduate schools for the fourth year (not quite in a row). For those who happen upon my blog from time to time, you may or may not have read my “about me” page where I talk a little about the fact that I’m interested in going into a paleontology or paleobiology program, hopefully to study hominins (or even the broader clade of hominids) in some form. Or dinosaurs.

Hominids and dinosaurs are in very different fields of study, by the way, but I love them both. I’ve loved dinosaurs ever since I was four years old and my father brought home a toy stegosaurus with a little kid’s dinosaur book to go with it from a museum he visited on one of his business trips. Around the same time, an artist came through the local University Mall in Orem, Utah with a giant, beautiful picture book he had done the paintings for called Dinatopia. I’ve been hooked on the prehistoric ever since, and I like to tell people that I never grew out of the dinosaur phase of my childhood.

When I was about eleven I discovered that a Ph.D. is pretty much the most advanced academic degree one can obtain in the sciences, and I was determined to get one when I grew up. While I was at Brigham Young University, I worked out a plan right away with a professor who helps oversee the school’s Museum of Paleontology (formerly called the Earth Science Museum) to incorporate biology core classes into my schedule along with the geology classes I needed for my major in order to prepare myself for graduate studies in a  paleontological field someday. (Paleontology is, by nature, highly interdisciplinary). Ironically, my two favorite university classes were in biology: evolutionary biology and human anatomy. I took human anatomy to prepare myself to understand animal anatomy–and dinosaur anatomy in particular–better in the future. Upon completing both human anatomy and the hominin unit in my evolutionary biology class, I began to feel that I wanted to do more focusing on why the modern human skeleton looks and functions the way that it does.

Well, I’ve applied to graduate school three times, taken a year off, and now I’m applying one more time before I have to look at retaking the GRE. I generally like to blame the time it has taken me since graduating to get into graduate school on the economy, mainly the fact that many students are staying in school longer rather than going out into the world right away and getting jobs. This results in GPA and GRE-score inflation that ends up making relatively small and open programs a little more competitive. Whatever the real-world reason, I have viewed the past few years as a wonderful opportunity to really work on my writing skills, particularly fiction writing.

I’ve had it in my head for a long time as well that I wanted to write and publish a book someday. Without this little niche of time where I’ve been out of school, I wouldn’t have had this perfect opportunity to really practice and learn how to write fiction, and I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to develop this skill. I’m hoping that fiction writing is something I can now do, both to entertain others and to supplement my overall income while I’m going through graduate school, perhaps even beyond that.

Wish me luck as I take a whack at round four of grad school applications in the sciences, and I’ll keep writing while I wait to hear back from some of the wonderful schools I’d love to attend. :-)

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Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
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