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Growing up, I was obsessed with prestigious things; the biggest scholarships, the best schools, the most competitive careers, and so on. If I had the financial means to take the SATs, I would’ve applied to Harvard and other Ivy League schools. Up until my senior year of high school, I thought that if I just worked hard enough while also having passion for what I was applying for then I have as much of a chance as the next person. Well, if the 2019 college admission scandals taught me anything, it was that prestigious schools don’t always work the way naïve me had thought.
I went to a publicly-funded Canadian high school. I grew up in a city that offered no AP classes, IB programs, or anything that could’ve kickstarted me for my post-secondary career. I didn’t even know that IB existed until I started talking to newly admitted U of T students before my first year. If I didn’t even have access to AP classes or an IB program, I definitely didn’t have the advantage of private counsellors and or anything that could’ve prepped me for that almost-perfect application that admits students into the most competitive programs. Now, I’m not saying that students who come from IB programs or had extra preparation for university don’t deserve their merits; I’m saying that this criteria, which boosts students’ applications for highly competitive programs, isn’t accessible to everyone.
I find myself, once again, experiencing this dilemma as I think about the graduate programs I want to apply to. My top schools are all prestigious, competitive schools. As I don’t have the financial means to self-fund a post-graduate degree, I looked for fully-funded programs that had teaching opportunities or other available financial aid. See, the catch is that the school’s highly selective admission process is what makes the programs fully funded to all or most of its admitted students. My first-choice program is a Creative Writing MFA. And again, my position is not that different from where I was in high school. My work hasn’t been published in literary journals, and I haven’t had the chance to attend writing conferences that I’d pay out of pocket.
Believe me, I’m a passionate writer, and I write a fair bit – I know my writing is the bulk of a prestigious school’s decision to admit me. But I can’t help but think that my financial circumstances have set me back for post-secondary education. They say a writer should travel; a writer should meet other writers; a writer should get an editor. There are certainly ways to achieve these things affordably. But at the end of the day, it’s a matter of money. So what do I do about it?
Well, I managed to find resources. Luckily, U of T offers a financial award for studying abroad so I have the opportunity to travel. Even though I couldn’t travel this year, I’m grateful that the resource is available. I also found an amazing community of writers through one of the clubs at U of T. Not to mention, how I get to write as a part of my job. Work-study offers a variety of jobs in fields that I didn’t expect, one of them, being a content writer. I didn’t have a lot of content writing experience when I applied, but I was passionate enough about writing to give it a try regardless of my chances.
I’m going to keep writing, give my all in these graduate applications next fall, and just hope for the best. Someone is always going to have more than me whether it’s being a better writer, having more intelligence, or more money. But I can only do something about my own circumstances. Although, being mindful of the reality of competition and things that have prestige around them, actually makes me more content about my circumstances, and I don’t let them stop me from going after what I want.