Third Time’s the Charm

McClung Tower, home of the political science department at UT-K

Back in 2007, while finishing up my work in Tennessee with Students for Life of America, I began to think about what I ought to do next.  One idea that was particularly appealing, especially considering I very much enjoyed working with college students, was to go to grad school in the hopes of one day teaching my knowledge and passion in political science.  However, before I did so, I wanted to reach what I saw as the zenith of campaign work by getting a position on a presidential campaign.  During this time, I discovered Ron Paul and, after several months of concentrated effort, secured the position of grassroots director for the state of South Carolina on his 2008 presidential run.

After the campaign concluded, I began to study for the GREs and contacted several of my former professors at the College of William & Mary for letters of recommendation.  In 2009, I applied to a half a dozen schools in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  I was surprised when I didn’t get accepted at any of these institutions.  I reasoned that perhaps there were too many people seeking too few positions.  Undeterred, after I finished my work for Delegate Phil Hamilton in Newport News, I applied to these same schools again the following year.  And, once again, none accepted me.  As you might imagine, I was quite confused.  According to their posted data, both my GRE scores and my GPA from my undergraduate studies were more than acceptable for all of the schools I applied (with the lone exception of UNC-Chapel Hill).

Curious, I contacted all of the grad schools in the hopes of getting an answer of what happened.  After a multitude of phone calls, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville finally offered a clue.  They told me that one of my professors wrote a negative letter of recommendation.  I could scarcely believe it.  Why would a professor agree to write a letter of recommendation and then use it to sabotage one’s efforts?  I traveled to William and Mary to see if I could figure out what had happened.  After I explained what UT-K told me, the first professor I spoke with was quite cordial and offered to write another letter should I desire it.  The second professor acted in the same manner.  However, I was shocked when the third treated me brusquely and told me that he wasn’t particularly interested in writing me another letter.  As you might imagine, the whole affair was quite disheartening.  I left campus feeling dejected, not knowing if I would ever be able to accomplish my goal of getting a graduate degree in political science.  At the time, I felt that this incident was the greatest betrayal I had suffered in politics, but, as the years went by, I realized that it was merely a prelude for the greater treacheries that were to come.

Although I continued my work in politics, I worried that I would be forever stuck in the rut of campaign work and partisan politics.  Although folks told me that I was quite good at what I did, the work became increasingly less fulfilling and fellow campaign workers and politicos became increasingly nasty.

And so the years passed.  My dream had been crushed but not completely destroyed.

In late 2015, I thought about applying to grad school again after having the opportunity to serve as a political science tutor for a JMU student.  However, given some personal and financial difficulties arising partially from being blacklisted from a number of employment opportunities, I thought it best to wait another year.

Then, in 2016, I resolved to give it another try.  While visiting my aunt who lives in Tennessee, I took the GREs in Knoxville.  I then visited several campuses, found a new recommender while retaining the other two, and sent my applications to four schools.

This time, I was accepted everywhere I applied: the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, West Virginia University, George Mason University, and Virginia Tech.  While West Virginia and VA Tech were new to me, it was my third attempt at UT-K and GMU.

One of the schools has made an offer for a graduate assistantship which comes with a tuition waiver.  As you might imagine, it is presently my top choice.  However, as another school has hinted at the possibility of funding too, it is also still in the running.  One of my professor friends told me that grad schools like to play games with their financial aid, so I suppose it is possible that one of the other schools could come back with an offer of their own.  Either way, the deadline for a decision for three of the four schools is April 15th, so my decision will be announced in the coming weeks.

It took eight years and two previous attempts, but, as the saying goes, it seems that the third time’s the charm.  The dream is deferred no longer!  Grad school here I come!