The Maroon

Undergrad to grad – My advice for students

Nikki Navarez

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When I first started undergrad at Loyola, I was one of the few students that already knew that they wanted to continue their studies beyond the undergraduate level of education. I hoped to receive an MA degree in English. I had always wanted to become a teacher of secondary education, and knew from the beginning that having both a BA and an MA would give me an edge as a candidate for a teaching position, as well as the opportunity to make more money.

Grad school was always the goal for me, and because I knew that about myself, I made most of my academic decisions at Loyola in hopes that it would help me get into the best grad school. I started undergrad with a major in English literature, and then picked up a minor in Visual Arts my second year. I hoped that MA programs would find me well-rounded and desirable in having a minor in something unrelated to English because it showed that I am not just good at writing, but that I am capable of being creative in other mediums. I hoped that grad schools would see me as a student who was capable of thinking critically, creatively, and historically.

I began talking with my advisors about grad school during the end of my junior year. It was a very casual conversation, more just to let them know that I was interested in going to grad school for English, and they were very helpful in offering their resources and suggestions on the ways in which I should approach applying to schools and what schools I should be looking at.

After my summer abroad in Paris through the Loyola Study Abroad program (which I highly recommend) I took the GRE. I then took it again in November of 2013. The important thing to remember when taking the GRE is that it is a hard test for everyone. Just remember to relax, get a good night’s sleep and get ready to be in the test for four full hours. It is an endurance test, and you can do it. Loyola is awesome because they offer reimbursement for taking the GRE because they support you in your academic endeavors. I would never have been able to afford to take the test twice, but because Loyola was able to offer financial help to pay for the exam, I was able to take the GRE again and improve my scores.

During the beginning of my senior year at Loyola, I was meeting with a professor to seriously create my list of grad schools, and he recommended looking into Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He told me that another Loyola student had received her English MA from that program and loved it. After checking it out and emailing the head of the graduate department at Cal Poly about the program, I decided that that would be the best fit for me because I wanted to move back to California, and the program is one of the best on the west coast.

I had also applied to schools all over the country like Tulane, Loyola Chicago and Fordham University. I turned in most of my applications in winter of 2013 and early spring 2014, and received decisions starting in March 2014. At the beginning of my senior year, I asked a few of my professors to write me letters of recommendation for grad school. Loyola is very unique – because of the small class sizes and the awesome professors, I felt very comfortable asking my professors for letters of recommendation because they knew exactly who I was and the type of student I was. Not many schools are like that, so my advice to someone who is considering grad school is to take advantage of the amazing professors at Loyola. I give a special nod to the three professors who wrote me letters of recommendation, because I would never be where I am today without their inspiration and support.

The English program at Loyola prepared me to be a grad student capable of handling and excelling in a graduate career in literature. With my English MA, I hope to become a teacher of secondary education, and maybe one day a professor with my Phd. This fall, I began my first quarter as an English MA grad student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

I love the type of academic work that I am doing because it is challenging and exciting. I credit my academic success to the preparation and support given to me at Loyola New Orleans. Choosing to go to graduate school is a scary and difficult decision, but if you choose that path, the professors at Loyola are there to help you. But you have to be the one to seek out this help and information. Be proactive and be brave. Because of the education given to me at Loyola New Orleans, as well as support and love from both my immediate family and my Loyola New Orleans family, I was able to fulfill my desire to attend graduate school and, in the words of St. Ignatius, “go forth and set the world on fire.”

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Undergrad to grad – My advice for students