121: Managing Pandemic-Related Grad App Complications with Shania Montúfar

121: Managing Pandemic-Related Grad App Complications with Shania Montúfar

This week our special guest is Shania Montufar who talks all about how she has managed pandemic-related grad app complications. Shania is a Sociology student and McNair Scholar at Truman State University and is in the middle of her graduate admission decision process as we speak.

 

In this episode we discuss:

-What she did when she found out some programs weren’t accepting applicants

-Her GRE-related testing hurdles and varying admission requirements

-What to do when you’ve been admitted to grad school and can’t visit a campus

-And advice for students currently applying to grad school

 

You can connect with Shania via email and on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/shania-m-b88021134/

Email – sm4145@truman.edu

 

Join my exclusive community on Patreon to support the show: https://www.patreon.com/gradschoolfemtoring

 

Get my free 15-page Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit here: https://gradschoolfemtoring.com/kit/

 

Need more support, book a free half-hour coaching consultation: https://gradschoolfemtoring.com/services/

 

For this and more, go to: https://gradschoolfemtoring.com

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/gradschoolfemtoring/message

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Welcome back, everyone, to the Grad School Femtoring podcast. Today I have another wonderful guest, who is here to talk to us about managing pandemic related grad app complications. This is a really interesting topic. I'm really excited to hear from her. Our guest, Shania Montufar, who is a senior sociology student and Ronald McNair Scholar- that's how we know each other- at Truman State University, which is actually located in northeast Missouri.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and she is a child of Ecuadorian immigrants. Her research interests lie in the intersection of migration, gender, sexuality, and Latin American Studies. She's also conducted research at Truman State University, at the University of Michigan, and at Women Employed, which is a Chicago based nonprofit that centers women's laborers' rights- women's labor rights, yes. She serves as the first Latina to be president of her university student government. Wow, congratulations. Welcome to the podcast, Shania.

Shania Montufar

Thank you. Thank you, Yvette. Thank you for having me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah, I'm happy to have you, happy to connect with you again. I would love for you to tell us a little bit more about your background- your personal background as well as your educational trajectory thus far.

Shania Montufar

Yeah. I think that you gave a good summary. But I've been in the Midwest- in the rural Midwest - for most of my life. So I started off in Oklahoma, and then moved to Missouri as a middle schooler and high schooler. I wasn't super prepared to go to college. I only applied to one school, the school that I go to now.

Shania Montufar

I stumbled into the McNair program, mostly because they were recruiting a lot. And that's when I sort of started thinking about grad school as an option. It really, really was not on my radar at all. Even when I was joining the program, I was still trying to figure out if I wanted to do a Master's program, or if I felt like a PhD program made more sense. But eventually I got more involved in research. I'm fortunate that part of the course progression in my major includes a research project. So that was one of my first experiences in just doing the process. Then I did some REU's. Unfortunately, one of mine was cancelled because of the pandemic, so maybe we circle back to that when we talk about...

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh wow.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Because you had another opportunity, right? Which one was the first one that didn't work out?

Shania Montufar

So my sophomore year, I was accepted into UT Austin's research undergraduates program.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh, I see.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, a lot of them were canceled that year. Fortunately, I was able to work out an internship with Women Employed. So you know, things worked out. But it was- that would have given me a little bit more sort of understanding of my own interests and research and things like that. But you know, it worked out and I figured out that I really enjoy doing research. So at this point, I've applied to programs. I spent the last semester applying to around ten programs, and I'm slowly starting to hear back, which is exciting and scary and all of those things. So yeah, that's kind of where I am.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Okay, so that's great, because it's a perfect transition to get us to talking about the topic, which is hurdles- and specifically, pandemic related hurdles.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

It's something that I thought- oh, 2020. It's only going to be a couple of months. Then- oh, the next cohort is going to be fine. And then- the next year, they'll be okay.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Now it's what, over two years? So what's going on for you now, or what came up for you in the fall as you were applying? What are some of those hurdles?

Shania Montufar

Yeah. As I was thinking of maybe some things to say here, I realized that, you know, obviously, there are complications with our programs even taking applicants, GRE requirements changing. But there are so many other things beyond that. So even when I just mentioned my REU, a lot of programs didn't take students for REU's in the past two to three years. Some fully cancelled theirs. Some moved online.

Shania Montufar

So starting my sophomore year, all of my research prep experiences have been changed maybe in a way that they they wouldn't have. That means that I didn't get the opportunity to go to Austin or to any other program that I would have gone to that year, which is important. When I went to Michigan, you get to meet people in the department. You get to know standards in applications and things like that. I think a lot of people didn't get that opportunity, which you know, changes your application process. But beyond that, for more specific things, when I was looking at programs my junior year, a lot of programs weren't taking applicants.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

I'm glad you mentioned that, yeah.

Shania Montufar

Yes. It was scary to me at the time, because I didn't end up reaching out individually to programs. But it felt so up in the air. So definitely the whole process around that was sort of like are programs taking applicants. In some ways, it would make sense if they didn't, so they can better support their current students. Will the requirements be changing? And some of them did. The other sort of big theme is that GRE changes were happening a lot during the pandemic. I don't remember the exact number. But I think out of my ten programs, only three required that I submit GRE scores.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

I have a quick follow up on the two things that you mentioned.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

The first one was finding out that some programs weren't accepting students. Was this clearly indicated on websites, or was it something that you had to contact them to ask if they were accepting students?

Shania Montufar

Most of those websites weren't updated until maybe August or September, because it still said we are not taking applicants. Then eventually, I would look at the website, and it would say...

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah, typically September's the time that most places start to update their sites.

Shania Montufar

Yeah. I really was just looking there. I didn't start working really intensively on my applications until around that time anyway. But it was worrying in a larger sense.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

It was like, I don't know, I don't know.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Was that the same- also the case for the GRE requirements? Was that something that you found on the website in September, or something you had to contact them directly to ask them - are you accepting it? Is it is it optional?

Shania Montufar

They were fairly transparent.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Okay good.

Shania Montufar

It would be on the website, yes. But what I thought was interesting is that you know, there's a whole separate conversation about GRE being used for graduate school applications at all. A lot of those programs specifically mentioned we are not taking GRE scores because of the pandemic. So I'm wondering, will those come back next year or the year after?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's a big conversation that programs are having - directors, administrators, the committee members and admissions folks are having nationwide?

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

It's really hard to say. But it does seem that the trend is that more and more programs are eliminating it. It's just unfortunate that it's not a centralized thing. It's not like you can say the GRE is no longer a requirement across the board, all universities in the US. That's the part that's frustrating, because to be frank, it shouldn't be a requirement.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

It's yet another hurdle.

Shania Montufar

Right. Because two or three of my programs wanted those scores, I did end up taking the GRE. I took it two times, both online. So I did the at home GRE test.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh my gosh.

Shania Montufar

I never took it in person, so I really don't know how it compares. But it was kind of a weird experience in and of itself.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

It's always a weird experience, even in person. So what hurdles came up for you with the GRE? I'm assuming there might have been something for the test itself, right?

Shania Montufar

Yeah. I mean, it's hard to find- they pretty much want you to be at a room with a table with nothing on it, nothing around it. I was at my parents' house when I took the test over the summer, and that's not really- we don't really have a space like that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Did they ask to see your entire room?

Shania Montufar

Yes.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Okay.

Shania Montufar

And it was embarrasing, because I was at a desk and they wanted me to open the drawers. I had to empty all the drawers.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh.

Shania Montufar

It was just- it was a lot. Then it was like, you know, when you're at home, sometimes people are loud.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

They were doing maintenance on my house that day, and so in the middle, someone was like hammering outside of my bedroom. I was like, oh, no. But yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Do you think there was something you could have done to prepare if you had known about about them checking your room, or whatever other requirements there were?

Shania Montufar

Yeah, I ended up- so I wouldn't have done it at my house. But then it's also- I don't know if I have a great idea of what other spaces could be good for that. I know that at my university at least, you can rent out study bubbles in the libraries. Something like that might have worked better. To be honest, though, even ours, you can only rent out for an hour and a half at a time. So I'm not sure what I would have done.

Shania Montufar

I think that for my second exam, I ended up taking it at home. But I also asked my McNair program to use an office in - they have a building at my university. I think that would have worked well too. I just remembered as I was saying that, that the second time I took my GRE, my roommate came back from break and walked in in the middle of the exam, which is like a huge no no. You might have to completely forfeit the exam if that happens. Yeah, both times were very stressful.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

Because there were just some things that I couldn't control. There was no way. But yeah, I guess if I were to do it again, I would probably take the exam in the Adair House, which at Truman is where the McNair offices are located, in the basement or something. Somewhere quiet.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

An uninterrupted place would be great.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

And I know- like you said, it's not ideal for a lot of folks.

Shania Montufar

It's not easy There's still lots of people that come in and out of those offices, too. The one upside I will say about the online test is that you can take it really whenever. You can take it at 5am or 11pm. You can take it at these sort of bizarre hours, which did work well for me. I ended up taking mine really, really late one time and really, really early the other time. That flexibility was sort of nice. But yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

You know what? No matter what, I think across the board, most people do not have a positive experience with taking the GRE. I don't know of a single person who said they enjoyed it. I always tell people that it's cursed, because I've heard some horror stories. My car broke down on the way there, or I didn't realize that my California ID was expired. Or I didn't know that I needed a whiteboard, and so I didn't have anything to use for notes. I don't know, just random stuff like that, where it's just out of your control, or you just didn't know.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

What else came up for you? So this fall you- I'm assuming- predominantly applied to PhD programs? And what other types of hurdles, or in what ways did the pandemic impact your application process? Because you said it started out with impacting your research- from the beginning, from your sophomore year. And that's not just true for you. That's true for everyone.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Many students have had to be creative, especially folks I know in STEM fields, didn't have access to labs- having to be really creative with how do you do research when you don't have access to certain things or data and things like that? So from the beginning, you've had to manage these obstacles. And now, the fall quarter, you're applying. What came up for you? What else?

Shania Montufar

One quick note about research, one last time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

My first project that I did as part of my sociology course progression, it was an easy project. And that was fully online, it was fully on Zoom. So yeah, starting from my very first research experience, it's always sort of been-

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

You probably maybe didn't imagine that your interviews would be on Zoom.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's a good and a bad thing. You know, it's great, because it's much more accessible. But it's bad because you you're missing out on that live, kind of in person connection.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, absolutely. I'd say that another big challenge is that as part of the McNair program, I would generally be funded to go on visits.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yes.

Shania Montufar

Obviously, that is essentially impossible in a lot of cases.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

And that's gonna make it- there's a future challenge there too. Because as- hopefully, everything goes well, and you get more than one acceptance. If you're in that position where you have to decide, it can be challenging to make a decision without physically being able to go.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, exactly. And, you know, outside of just myself- actively in the application process, our program would generally take a group of students to take a charter bus. We were going to Indiana the week that our classes moved online. So I think that there are obviously lots of generations of students that aren't getting to go to different campuses to get an idea of what programs they like, what they don't like about programs. It just puts you in a harder place once it's time to decide what programs you want to apply to. And then once you get in, sort of where you want to go. So yeah. I've gotten accepted into a few programs now, and I'm starting to get information about visit days. And yes, they're all online.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Congratulations, by the way.

Shania Montufar

Thank you. Then there were open houses and things when I was in the application process- all of those have been online. Which at this point, that is a part of my universe.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Right.

Shania Montufar

So that hasn't felt super weird. In some ways, it is nice to not have to worry about travel, or taking off classes, because sometimes those visit days would - it would work out in a way where I could still go to class the same day and then do my visit. Which is nice.

Shania Montufar

I'd say one thing, that I've tried to learn about programs without being on the campuses. One of the most helpful things that I did in that sense was to meet with a lot of students on zoom.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Great, yes.

Shania Montufar

Which- I don't know if that would have been as easy before. But that's definitely been something that's been really successful so far. And I've gotten a lot of really good responses from different grad students at different programs. We have a quick 15, 20 minute conversation on Zoom, and then that helps me better understand the program. That's one of the things I've been doing to try to get a feel for a campus or a department when I'm unable to go. But there's still a lot of questions, I guess, for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's really important, though, the aspect of reaching out to grad students and talking to more than one, too- because everybody has a different experience- since they will give you the real, honest truth about a program. They will tell you if it's a great environment, if it's a toxic environment, if there's someone you really have to work with, if there's someone you want to stay away from, and just in general, their experience- and living there, healthcare there, housing there, funding there- all the things that you might not necessarily feel comfortable asking a potential adviser.

Shania Montufar

Right.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's great that you're doing that. That's going to help you a lot. They're your eyes and ears since you can't physically be there.

Shania Montufar

Exactly. I think I've just been feeding on those conversations a lot more than I might have if I was able to go there.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

And having to ask a lot more questions, since you can't kind of determine things on your own, right.

Shania Montufar

I've been asking a lot about area, too. So where do grad students don't really live in the area? What is that like?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Good.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, just trying to wrap my head-

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah, like is it a commuter school or not?

Shania Montufar

Exactly.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

What's transportation like? Cost of living here? I can imagine.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, exactly. Just having to be creative.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

So I'm wondering now, since you've gone through the process, and you've done it rather successfully- you've already started to hear back, which is wonderful. What advice would you give to students? There are some folks who are currently applying to- there are still a few Master's programs that are coming up, other deadlines are coming up. Or those that are actually doing their prep work for applying for doctoral programs in the fall. What kind of advice would you give them, since they're in a similar circumstance with the same kind of pandemic related issues?

Shania Montufar

Yeah. I mean, I guess one of the maybe more intuitive things, but something that was hard for me, was to reach out to programs when things are big. Especially if you feel like things are changing. I've gotten pretty good responses from- go ahead.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh, I was gonna say, when you say reach out to programs- people ask me this all the time. But who did you in particular reach out to? Did you reach out to the staff person? Did you reach out to the grad students? Did you reach out to the chair, the professors?

Shania Montufar

The first place that I generally reached out to if it were- especially about requirements for the application was generally the- I don't remember what it's called.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Their grad advisor?

Shania Montufar

Yeah, they have different names sometimes.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Some sort of staff member, office person, admin.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, or if there's a professor who is the advisor for the program for admissions that year. Sometimes some schools seem like they have staff for their graduate programs. So it depends, but generally a person on staff, yes. And I asked them if they have any suggestions for other people to connect with. Sometimes they wouldn't give me any really much hope. They would say, well, you're open to reach out to faculty or students.

Shania Montufar

Then some people would be very structured and reach out to those people for me. Honestly, you know, sometimes that made me think about what the supports look like in the program. So that was good to know. I guess one, just reaching out to people, which is a hard part of the process. That's something that- I'm McNair, and I do peer mentoring. And it seems like a lot of students have some hesitations with doing that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yes, there's a lot of nerves, imposter syndrome. Just you know, that fear of rejection.

Shania Montufar

Yeah. I think that that's something that's challenging, too. If you're wanting to reach out to students and faculty, you obviously always have that feeling of- do they want to talk to me? Do they have the time? Why not ask?

Shania Montufar

Sometimes they don't have the time, and I got that response a lot. I guess for clarity, sometimes people told me- no, I'm sorry. I can't do this, or reach back around in a month or so. And you know, that's perfectly fine. I would maybe try a different student or something else, or just wait and reach back out to them in a month or so. But yeah, so the first piece of advice, I guess, is to always reach out to committees, to the faculty in a given graduate program, if there's anything that's confusing- and there will be things that are confusing as we navigate pandemic changes with the GRE or different requirements.

Shania Montufar

The other thing is just depending a lot on people in that community, which is something I talked about earlier, too. But that was probably the most helpful part of the entire process was the conversation that I had with those grad students. Yeah, like you said, you're kind of trusting them to be eyes and ears.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Right.

Shania Montufar

And sort of give you an idea of what it's like to be in that community. So yeah, that's one thing I've been telling a lot of students, that was really helpful for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Another thing I'm wondering is how you navigated the challenge of certain programs saying that they weren't admitting students. If it was already on your list, did you try to replace those programs? Did you apply to fewer programs than you intended? Because I have worked with students who decided to wait another year and apply the following cycle, because they felt as if there weren't enough programs for them to apply to this year.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, I think that's fair. And the thing is, I feel like as I get a better idea of my research interests, and the type of community that I want to be in, I don't want to apply to programs just to see. I want to feel really, really confident in the community of a program, that I'll have the support there. So no, I didn't really replace schools once it seemed like they weren't accepting students, or it wasn't a good fit. I was sort of like, I am only applying to places that I feel confident in, which does make me feel a lot better at this point. I'm only looking at offers that I feel good about.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Anything else you think that helped you with preparing for the process of applying and with actually getting it done? Because it can feel like such a big management type project- it's project management, you know, because you've got so many things, so many deadlines, some of them overlapping. So what did you find helpful in kind of staying organized and just staying on top of your deadlines?

Shania Montufar

I will admit, first and foremost, that being in the McNair Program helped pace me in ways that- I would have had to be so much more intentional. At my university, we have a course and then a summer program to help prep starting sophomore or junior year. So just thinking about my applications early on definitely helped me. Applying to REU's- research experience for undergraduates- definitely helped. I had some of those materials already built up for two years.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's right. That's why I tell people, I'm like keep applying. Apply to summer programs. Apply to scholarships and fellowships, because some of that content you can recycle and update.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, you absolutely can. And honestly, it was interesting to see, you know, what did sophomore year me think? What was my personal statement then? How did that change? What parts of that are still really important to me? it was interesting to see my values sort of shift and then bringing those back in to my new personal statement.

Shania Montufar

So I'd say starting early. You know, it's hard advice, because it's hard to get yourself to do those things early. But having applied to those REU's and thought about my personal statements early on, it made the process a lot easier. The other thing - and this is also something that I get through McNair- is just having other people in my community that are also applying to programs. I'm really fortunate that I have a really great cohort in McNair and we would meet in the Adair house, or talk to each other. I have my friend Trey who lives in the same dorm as me, and we would just check in at the end of the day- how are applications going?

Shania Montufar

There are some things that are a little bit newer, that some of my professors weren't familiar with yet. Things like the diversity statement, trying to compare how we navigated things like that, where it seemed like that wasn't a part of the application process, when some of my own cohort were applying. Yeah, just having people in that process with you can be really helpful.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

I'm surprised that the diversity statement was new for them, because I feel like I've seen it for a few years now.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah, well, that's really helpful advice for the listeners. I'm wondering if there's anything else that you wanted to share about your experience applying to grad school thus far, your experience navigating undergraduate research, or anything else that might be helpful to students who are peers along similar paths as you?

Shania Montufar

Yeah. Oh, that's tough. I'm gonna need to sit on that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

If not, it's fine. We can have you- we can also ask you, for folks who resonated with what you said, who want to connect, who want to be in touch. How can they reach you? Is there a way for them to reach you?

Shania Montufar

Yeah, yeah. Let me think of what the easiest way is. Could you put my contact info in the show notes?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yes, definitely. Yeah.

Shania Montufar

That works. And then, if you look me up, I'm on LinkedIn and other places too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Shania Montufar- look her up on LinkedIn. And I'll put it in the show notes as well, yeah.

Shania Montufar

I think I have one more piece, maybe, of broad advice that is related to the pandemic, but just more generally, applying to things. This is about imposter's syndrome.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

And I actually have one follow up question just because I met you before and I just had this really particular impression of you, and I just want to ask you a question. Okay, go ahead.

Shania Montufar

Okay. What I was gonna say is, I definitely was counting myself out of applications really early on. Whether it was things like, are REU applying- my sophomore year, especially, I was like, I don't think I'm competitive for this. There are people who are applying to this their junior year. They go to R1s, that are doing this and this. And I got into a program, which was really good for me at the time. I didn't get accepted into a lot of programs. But even starting to write those applications then, ended up translating into getting into more programs the next year, and then applying to programs now for the PhD.

Shania Montufar

So, you know, sometimes- this is obviously an issue for McNair folks, for other marginalized folks applying to programs. Counting yourself out of things is very easy to do.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

But I think applying to things early, even if you feel like you're not fully there, you will be eventually. You have to start, to start to get that experience. So yeah, maybe just a slight note about impostor syndrome.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

I like that. I really liked that. This is not the question I wanted to ask. But just in light of you talking about summer programs, one thing that I tell students and folks that I work with is that it's actually really hard to get into summer programs. I would even claim that it might be harder to get into summer programs than grad programs, because there are fewer folks doing summer work and accepting students and they are very, very competitive. There are only a certain number of slots every summer. So yes, I'm really glad that you're saying to remind people to apply to summer programs, that you never know, don't count yourself out. And if you get in, great. If you don't, don't take it personally. It really doesn't indicate whether or not you're gonna get into grad school, if you got into a summer program.

Shania Montufar

And the process is important too. The process, at the least, is important. You start to know what it feels like to manage a project that big.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

And I'm surprised to hear you say that you were questioning yourself, because I have this really positive impression of you from having met you before. You just seemed so on top of things. I wanted to ask you- just like, maybe this can be the final question is- how have you sustained motivation? We're talking about pandemic related issues. We're talking about this ongoing thing that's part of our everyday lives, that makes life a lot harder for us. A lot of students have struggled with isolation and lack of motivation. And you've come this far, so I would love for you to share what has kept you going.

Shania Montufar

That's definitely one of the things I was thinking of early on in our conversation, too. It's like, there are things that affect my application process. But then there are also things about life right now that are just challenging.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yeah.

Shania Montufar

It will obviously translate into what I want to do after I graduate. So I don't know. I think I'm still figuring that part out too. But, you know, maybe two things, and one comes back to the community aspect. I think once I started talking to grad students, once I started talking to faculty, once I did those summer programs and met other students in the application process, I think that that gives you a lot of clarity.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yes.

Shania Montufar

And people are able to tell you that you're doing good things- which I think, as someone who, I am definitely sort of hard on myself and can be a perfectionist at times. It's good to hear that, and to get that feedback. But community building is hard, especially for anyone in a pandemic. I'll tell you that I'm also at a rural Missouri School, where there aren't a ton of folks that are on the same path as me. That was something that I had to really explicitly email people and say, can we talk for a bit? Having to be really, really hyper intentional about that which is hard, which is really hard. I'd say that.

Shania Montufar

Then also giving myself things to do outside of work.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Oh I love that.

Shania Montufar

Which is hard, which is really hard. It's snowy outside right now. Working on grad apps, it can be all consuming, because you finish classes and you come home and you can work on those until midnight.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Yup.

Shania Montufar

If you let yourself. So yeah, I tried to find other things that brought me joy. I really like photography and other things like that, so trying to think of tasks that are not just academic, or not about research. Trying to find something that can kind of give some contrast to that. Then when I come back to my research, I'm like, oh this is why I enjoy doing this. Going and doing things outside of that- because it's really easy to fixate on the graduate application process. I'll tell you right now, waiting for responses is also this whole other beast that I haven't learned to deal with.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

You gotta stay busy, so that you don't think about it.

Shania Montufar

Exactly. It's a matter of- what do you like outside of this process? Because it can be really all consuming. So it's tough, especially in this part of the year, between classes and then it being really sad outside. But yeah, trying to find some contrast. I guess that depends person to person. But for me, that's some art stuff, hanging out with people- trying to in a safe way.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

You're gonna keep doing that, even as you navigate grad school, too. I think it's so healthy to pick up hobbies and to have a life outside of academia too.

Shania Montufar

Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

That's great. All right, well then, I think that wraps up our episode. We know that folks, we know how they're going to reach you. I'll put it in the show notes. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Shania Montufar

Yeah, thank you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu

Sharing time and space with me, and reconnecting- sharing your wisdom as you've navigated this process, because there's so much to learn. I mean, there's so many changes that are going on, that continue to happen. So I just appreciate you and your generosity of sharing your experience. Hopefully, it'll help someone else out there, and hopefully continuing to stay in touch.

Shania Montufar

Thank you, Yvette. Thank you.

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