We recently had EWU McNair Alumna Lizeth Bañuelos visit our Graduate Application Process Course via Zoom. Lizeth is currently attending Arizona State University's Master of Counseling (MC) program. Lizeth generously shared her experiences in the McNair program and applying for graduate school in a slideshow and offered advice to our scholars.
Lizeth was able to take advantage of opportunities to attend conferences as a part of the McNair program. She said that knowing that her McNair cohort, and the wider McNair community, were in the "room" (during online/virtual presentations) gave her a confidence boost during her presentation. Lizeth has shared her research and her experiences in the EWU CSTEM & McNair Spring Research Symposium , The Gabriel E. Gallardo Research, Student Leadership & Advocacy Symposium , The Council for Opportunity in Education Annual Conference , A Spotlight on Students Who Remain Eagle Strong , and conducted a Virtual Visit for Columbia Basin College's Upward Bound featuring EWU's Chicana/o/x Studies department. Lizeth found conferences, even online/virtual ones, to be a valuable way to do the research she was passionate about while networking with other academics who share her interests.
Lizeth encouraged the current McNair cohort to take good care of themselves during the graduate school application process. Prioritizing health and rest make a big impact on how successfully your mind functions and allows you to present your best self in writing, paperwork, and in interviews. She also offered the gentle reminder to put yourself first during this phase of your academic life. Often scholars have others in their lives whose needs have taken precedence over their own, but as this is a crucial time to prepare for your future, you may have to make stronger boundaries around how you can be available.
When choosing schools to apply to, Lizeth recommended beginning by reflecting on your most meaningful life experiences. These can serve as the basis for the personal statement you will write for your applications. She suggested looking for schools with faculty whose studies and research specialties relate to your own goals, rather than selecting schools for their rankings or status. She reminded scholars to watch carefully for each school's deadlines and prepare applications accordingly, by making a plan for what areas to tackle week by week.
After your applications are in and you're anxiously waiting a response, remember to be proud of what you have accomplished! Be patient and stay occupied. Take the time to research funding and apply for scholarships and assistantship positions for each program. Without the added stress of wondering how your funding is going to work out, you can just celebrate your acceptances when they start flowing in!
If your acceptance is contingent on an interview, Lizeth had some advice on that, as well. She let us know that interviews might last a whole day, with both group and individual sessions. Before the interviews, she recommended studying the program in depth so you have a background on the faculty you'll be meeting, and already be certain that the school's and program's values align with your own. During your interview, make yourself memorable! Ask questions about specific faculty research, ask about support systems, funding opportunities, upcoming research projects and conferences. Show them how invested you are by showing that you want to know as much as you can. Be sure to show up well-rested and looking professional. If your interview is via Zoom, make sure you have a neutral background. Make sure your mind is in it and you're showing up like you want to be there!
Lizeth added an anecdote about her first day of class. A professor asked the students how many of them were first generation graduate students, but only a few raised their hands. Lizeth was struck by this class divide, as opposed to her experience in McNair where everyone in her cohort was the first in their family to work towards a graduate degree. This made Lizeth even more proud that she made it this far! She always keeps in mind that she is working towards a future where she is becoming the difference in her community, to provide the resources she wishes she had growing up.
Thank you Lizeth for coming back and offering your perspective to this year's McNair Scholars cohort! We're so impressed by your achievements!