I Withdrew from Grad School

When I first met the Masters in Teaching cohort that I would be joining at USC that fall, a lingering hesitation materialized before me – one of these things doesn’t belong.

It was me.

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My USC Personal Statement

There were a total of three personal statements required for the USC Masters in Teaching program, and an optional section. Being the writer that I am, I filled all four sections to the word limit – lo and behold, I got in!

I’d like to share with you one that I wrote THE NIGHT BEFORE it was due. Please keep in mind that I had been working on all statements for months in advance, under the guidance of multiple mentors, and with meticulous revising and editing over several long, sleepless nights. I’ve also been working as a college counselor and essay editor for the past year – I knew/know how to write the perfect admissions essay.

But right when I was about to hit “Submit,” something just felt off. This wasn’t the me who I wanted to convey.

Taking a leap of chance (corny, IKR), I completely rewrote one of the statements. And I hope that through sharing this, you’re able to learn why my next goal in life is to be a teacher.

TLDR; trust your intuition! It’ll workout if it’s meant to be.

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Six Months, Six Lessons

One day after my 22nd birthday, I stood under grotesque lights, center stage, gasping for air. The final kumbaya… four years of all-nighters, internships, and social networking culminating into a grand graduation called adulthood. I envisioned the future I desired to be a part of and made clear, methodological steps to get there.

I had it all figured out. Except—surprise—I didn’t.

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Before and After

Her silhouette bounces past the stained oak door, and a stunning figure in an olive-green dress slips in. Brown waves cascade down her shoulders; she tucks a loose strand behind her left ear as she hangs a set of jingling keys onto brass hooks. Next to mine. One foot off, then the next. Two bare feet prance toward me in the kitchen, and next I feel a wet smooch against the bristles of my cheek.

I place a hand on the small of her black, gliding it across the satin dress. Her waist, the same waist as three years ago, still as small and soft as the first time we touched. I remember standing under the glaring neon lights of a taco truck on a Wednesday night, after we had accidentally bumped into each other at the local “Unplugged” session hosted by our neighborhood’s bar. Our stomachs did the talking first, so we sauntered out the front door in the midst of a terrible karaoke rendezvous of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” by a drunk middle-aged man. We laughed about it on our way out, but I was sure, so sure that she could sense the imminent imploding anxiety inside of me. Finally, I grew the balls to approach the elusive girl of my dreams, and tonight, on a Wednesday night outside a dingy bar, we were buying tacos together. Too enwrapped in her explanation of why live bands will always trump electronic sets, she did not notice when the vendor called her forth to place her order. I gently pressed her forward, chuckling at her overflowing passion for such a passive topic. As soon as my hand touched the small of her back, a thousand electric currents sped down my spine. She smiled, and allowed my hand to linger for longer than was necessary.

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Hotel Cecil: Beyond the Lobby Doors

The Cecil Hotel sits at 640 South Main Street in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. In a row of bland storefronts and graffiti-covered walls, this building stands out from the others. Its façade boasts a rich art-deco style—a luminescent bronze against today’s autumn sun. But to its left, a litter-filled parking lot provides a popular gathering place for the homeless. To its right stands a desolate glass building, empty but for a tossed plastic lawn chair and random piles of paper. Amongst all this, the terracotta edifice reaches high into the sky. At 14 stories, the Cecil is the second tallest structure on its block. Two long vertical signs that read “HOTEL CECIL” stretch along each side. At night, its vintage red neon light flickers at the busy metropolitis.

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