Many of you reading this have probably recently gone through the college application process or are currently going through it (in which case, stay strong! You're great!). Back in the day (I can say that because I'm a senior now), my experience exploring different schools was fairly low maintenance, logistically speaking (disclaimer, this description does not account for stress, trust me, there was plenty of that). I only visited nearby schools (and when doing so, was generously driven there by my parents), was interviewed locally by alumni, and I now go to school an hour and a half from my house by train.
Oh grad school, if only you were so simple. Apparently, it's super normal to schlep out to whichever grad school you are offered an interview -- at your own expense. First stop for me was Boston. While Boston is a fairly easy trip, the idea of transporting myself from Princeton to Boston for an interview at a school I really wanted to go to was a little frightening.
I made it there alright and the interview actually went really well, but I thought I'd amuse you all with some of my travel antics.
I stayed by family friends in Brighton, a suburb about 45 minutes away from the bus terminal via public transportation, or about a 15-20 minute drive. I chose public transportation. I got lost and eventually showed up at their house about an hour and a half after my Megabus arrived. Boston is not a grid, which meant I got disoriented and went the wrong way a lot of times. I was relieved when my friend offered to drive me to my return bus two days later.
I was relieved, that is, until I thought about timing. I had an 8 a.m. bus to catch, and on my Megabus ticket was written: "Please arrive at your stop at least 15 minutes early." My friend offered to leave her house around 7:15 a.m. to drop me off. I checked and re-checked traffic patterns for Boston that time of morning. Apparently, it could take up to 25 minutes to get there. After much back and forth, I turned down her offer. My explanation, I kid you not, was that at the worst case scenario, I'd only be 20 minutes early for "at least 15 minutes early" arrival time. Not good enough. She laughed and made sure I was really certain. I said I was, and the next morning, woke up at 6 a.m. -- a full two hours before my 5 hour bus ride -- to take the same route I had the night before my interview.
Sometimes, it seems, you can be too careful.