I wish I had thought more about scheduling time off to prepare for graduate school application. Despite having a light course load in the fall term, I still found it difficult to allocate time to researching graduate programs, asking for letters of reference, and writing personal statements. The application fees are also hefty, which made me consider more closely which programs I’d realistically be interested in committing time and money towards. For reference, many Masters programmes have tuition fees. However, those that are “funded”, mean that there is a financial award to offset the tuition fee. For instance, the University of Toronto’s geography master’s program has a research-oriented “funded” option. Most PhD programs are funded by default, but exceptions apply. For instance, many UK-based programs have tuition fees, and whether one is eligible for funding (scholarships, research assistantships) is decided after the graduate course application is submitted.
Ultimately, I decided to apply to just three graduate school programs: two Masters programs and one PhD. I would also be interested in taking a gap year to do more research into what post-graduate options I would like to take up. For instance, it has always been a dream of mine to complete an internship at the United Nations. While I am waiting for grad school decisions to come out, I am also applying for open internship positions in case I decide against going to graduate school in the September intake period.
The reason for turning down an offer would be, for me, financially-related. I have done the math to decide that it would not make fiscal sense for me to pay the full course fees for the programmes I applied to. During a gap year, I may take the chance to visit Hong Kong for a prolonged period of time. I have not seen my family abroad for over six years, and I would like the opportunity to spend some time with the people who matter to me. I’d also be interested in taking up a work permit for temporary employment. For instance, I have been looking into the option of living and working in the Netherlands for a year. Their government has a Working Holiday Programme (WHP) / Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) that allows young people from a certain number of countries—including Canada—to visit the Netherlands for a maximum of 1 year to get to know Dutch culture and society. As well, a gap year would be a great opportunity for me to spend more time on my visual arts practice. I had recently started a new reupholstery project, and I am realizing the joy that this craft brings me.
Whatever the results, I am grateful for all the support that I have received from peers and professors over this graduate-school-application-season. I would not have been able to get this far without their faith and commitment in me. If you are applying for graduate studies like me and Sian this year, I wish you good luck!