Deciding to go to graduate school is one of the most important academic decisions that one could make. I sat down to talk to my friend, Aleena Dar, who attends the University of Toronto about her experience with pursuing a Masters in Community Development. Aleena is one of the most motivated, career- driven, and outgoing personalities I have had the pleasure of meeting. She recently started her graduate studies and had valuable insights from her experience in pursuing graduate studies.
Q: What made you consider going to grad school?
A: I’m being quite honest, my parents. They always wanted me to pursue a masters and that was logical, especially because my degree was too broad, and I wanted to specialize.
Q: How did you decide what you wanted to study further?
A: During my undergraduate, I had a part time job within the university and made a lot of connections. My mentor’s job appealed to me greatly and I started to consider it as a serious potential career choice. I partook in a lot of varied work opportunities and volunteer experiences but, her job was what I felt most resonated with me.
Q: What was the most difficult part of the application process?
A: I applied a little later than expected. I also did my research late too, around the end of fourth year and I only applied to one program as that was what I most wanted to continue my studies in. As I was underprepared, it was a bit difficult getting the documentation, and ensuring all components of the application were fulfilled. However, I had developed a good repertoire with my professors and so, receiving a letter of recommendation and guidance was not a hindrance when it came to applying for my program.
Q: What advice would you give yourself? Others?
A: Take a few months off before pursuing graduate school. I had not and jumped straight into my master's program and I felt the effects of burn out quite early on. Luckily, I am now able to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity, but I will say it was quite difficult in the beginning. Pursuing graduate studies entails a great deal of commitment and requires genuine interest and passion so it’s not always wise to jump straight into a program. Also, imposter syndrome is almost inevitable. In my program, there are people with businesses, 5 years of work experience, and research papers published — it can be incredibly intimidating. However, it is important to recognize that you do deserve to be in that space, and you are qualified.