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Winter at HDS. Photo by Chris Alburger

Winter at HDS. Photo by Chris Alburger

At times it seems like there are people who are meant to enter your life to impart a message. This time last fall I was working at an elementary school when the grandmother of one of the children struck up a conversation with me. Having just met me, and not knowing that I was in a rut, or that I was planning on applying to graduate school—let alone that I was planning on applying to Harvard—she dropped some wisdom.

“The future arrives on time,” she said.

This was the first statement that I fixated on. Yes. The future arrives on time. Don’t be so anxious. Take a deep breath. Let things unfold.

I liked this sentiment. It resonated with me during a time when I was preoccupied on the “what ifs…”

Next she said, “Focus on what you want. Not what you are afraid of.”

On that crisp fall day, this was precisely what I had needed to hear. After spending hours perusing the Harvard Divinity website, I had become so invested in the idea of coming here that the thought of actually applying (and opening the door for rejection) scared me.

“What if I don’t get in? I’m not going to tell anyone I applied there until I hear back in the spring. It might be easier to just not apply…..”

These were the thoughts that had been swirling around my head until I heard those fateful words: “Focus on what you want. Not what you’re afraid of.” I only had so much energy to dedicate to the application. I might as well make sure that I used all of it productively. I needed to focus on what I wanted. Not what I was afraid of.

Upon being accepted and talking with other students at orientation week, I discovered that being intimidated by a prestigious university with an all-star faculty was a shared sentiment. Many other people, it turned out, also had someone who had encouraged them to apply despite their trepidations.

One friend shared that her undergraduate advisor told her, “don’t self-select yourself out of anything.” Give yourself a chance. Let someone else decide if you don’t get in. You miss a 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Corny as they may be, these are the kinds of things that applicants need to be reminded of as another graduate school application season begins. So let me encourage you, blog reader, to apply. If your heart is in it, apply. And then wait. The future will arrive on time.

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