Thursday, February 16, 2012

"It has been a fantastic experience"

"Whether my application is successful or not, it has been a fantastic experience applying to study with you."

That was written by a candidate for admission who participated in a survey we ran earlier this month. Of all the feedback from the poll, that sentence perhaps meant the most to me.

The poll was anonymous, so I know nothing about the person who wrote those words. I don't know the individual's name or where they are from; whether they are male or female; whether they have a strong or modest academic background.

But I do know the author has an admirable attitude that will provide them spiritual buoyancy no matter the outcome of the candidacy.

Our more loyal readers know my favorite dictum and will understand what I mean when I say, "It is not the destination that counts but the getting there."

SAIS is a professional school and so career opportunities do matter. You won't hear me say that getting a job after SAIS is not a top priority.

But the ability to extract the most out of the challenge, starting with the application and ending with that last examination, is important, too.

Some might see an application to graduate school as drudgery, toil, time wasted. I suspect the anonymous respondent to our poll saw it as a process of self-discovery. The strongest candidates look within themselves to understand why they want to study international relations, how it can change them and how they can contribute both to SAIS and afterwards to the world.

For the lucky few, a mere application to graduate school can help them better understand their place in the world.

Reading the comment in the poll, I was reminded of a note I received from a candidate who failed to win entrance to SAIS Bologna last year. "As you know I was not admitted to SAIS," the applicant wrote. "But I am not disappointed at all. On the contrary, I am proud because I was a part of the application procedure and I had an opportunity to be in contact with you, Amina, Prof. Jones and some of the candidates."

This individual will spend the next year bolstering his profile by working, traveling and studying English, and then re-apply for 2013-14. Whether or not he gains admission, he has the pluck that will carry him far in life.

I hope other candidates derive as much fulfillment from the application process as these two insightful applicants did. If so, whatever the outcome, it's all been worth it.

Nelson Graves

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