By: Zara Khan – 1st Year – Epidemiology
When I was deciding last year between schools of public health, I was engaged in constant mental conversations about what most excited me about grad school (opportunities for new research! a new location and new friends!), what made me most nervous (large class sizes? long hours in classes? coding???), and what the ideal grad school experience for me would be like (finding good mentors, being confident in the professional and technical skills I develop). In this post, I wanted to reflect on the thoughts I had about Rollins before deciding to enroll, and where my thoughts are now, a year in. I hope that sharing these reflections may be helpful to you in your own decision process.
Before: “I wonder how different grad school will be from undergrad.”
Now: While noting that no two people’s experiences from college are exactly alike, even if they’re at the same college, I am comfortable saying that there is a greater emphasis on professional development in grad school. Something that I didn’t realize about Rollins before coming here is that it’s the only school of public health in the nation that has a career services office dedicated exclusively to the needs of public health students (located on the 8th floor of the Grace Crum Rollins building). What with the resume advice, mock interviews, professional headshots, and career advice panels they offer, I feel more polished after six months in grad school than after four years of college.
Before: “I hope I’m able to make friends…”
Now: This was something that really worried me, because I was moving from a different state and knew virtually no one in Atlanta. What if I didn’t find “my people”? Would I be spending every weekend walking and re-walking the Beltline, solo?
As real as this fear was, it was also the one I found least justified after arriving on campus. I was amazed at how easy it was to make friends: there are people from so many different walks of life here, all united by a shared passion for making this world a healthier one, and all eager to take this journey through Rollins with you. I’ve found friends by turning around during class and introducing myself.
Before: (just after a conversation with someone who had already decided on Rollins) “She has it all figured out! Forget deciding which school – she already knows where she’s going to live and what courses she’s going to take and –”
Now: Take… your… time.
Take your time. Throughout your two years here, you will watch as others figure out their REAL (and non-REAL) jobs, their practicums, and their theses, all before you do. There’s no race here. You want to make sure that you’re taking advantage of the opportunities and resources that are best-suited for your own long-term goals. You also want to take the time to ask advice from other students, especially second-years, and from your mentors before deciding on positions to take.
(And – there’s no rush in terms of figuring out housing! Realize that a lot of people are coming from other cities, where there may be more limited housing options, or people may be required to sign leases much earlier in the year. If you begin looking in May or in the beginning of summer, you will find a lot of good options between houses and apartments.)