Word’s out: I’ve committed to attending Yale University in the fall to pursue my Master in Public Health!!!For anyone who talked to me during the process, you know how anxious I felt throughout the whole process.
DISCLAIMER: ANOTHER LONG POST SORRY WILL EDIT LATER
// GRE, APPLYING, DOUBTS //
Back in October, I had a life crisis/mental breakdown and finally committed to pursuing graduate school instead of medical school. It took a lot of humility and sacrifice to give up on a dream that I had for so long. People kept asking, “Well, why didn’t you just apply to med school? Why give up before you get a no?” (background: I completely switched. Like I no longer desire to become a physician.) // READ MORE ABOUT THAT TIME HERE!
Throughout the whole process of applying to grad school, I faced a lot of doubt: what if I should have just applied to med school? What if I go into public health and have a rude awakening that I hate it? What if I don’t get in anywhere? How will I do on the GRE?
I felt really anxious because all of my close friends were getting full time job offers that they really wanted & they knew where they were going to live geographically the next year. But there I was, just figuring out my life, in the middle of first semester of my senior year of college.
And so literally a month after I decided to switch to this life path, I took the GRE on November 16th and started my first week at my new part time job, and two weeks after that on Dec 1st, I had applied to my first three programs. By December 31st, I finished applying to all 8 programs, all out of the state, struggled to finish my senior thesis, and had some personal stuff to deal with. That season was absolute madness.
The doubts didn’t stop. More than half of the programs I was interested in required a minimum of 2 years, public-health related work experience, so I couldn’t even apply to a lot of programs. And once I submitted and paid for my applications, I realized that some of my “back-up” choices were actually really prestigious. For example, I applied to one of the best health policy programs (George Washington University) as a back-up, but when I heard that it’s one of the best I began considering if I should apply to other programs, like UT/A&M.
But God is just so incredibly faithful.
With my GRE, I spent half a week in Houston to “study” for it, but really I just hung out with people. I walked into that exam not even knowing the format of the exam tbh. You basically get your scores right away (except for the writing portion), and once those numbers popped up, I stared at the screen for a long while because I performed a lot better than I expected. A couple of weeks later, I got my writing score, scoring in the top 7% of the nation on that portion of the exam. (HAHA THANK YOU, UT COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS. I guess all of those incredibly lengthy literary reviews and thesis papers paid off?)
And less than a week after I applied to GWU (the health policy program I mentioned), they gave me my first acceptance!
I couldn’t believe it. I remember the overwhelming joy that took away my doubts. It confirmed that I was, in fact, going somewhere, and that I made the right decision to choose public health. I messaged so many people, and I felt so supported as my friends and family celebrated with me. More than those things, though, I heard a strong voice of the Lord telling me,
“Janet, have peace. Do you not trust me? Didn’t you say that you knew that switching to PH was from me? Why do you doubt? Why are you worried? I am the Lord. I am faithful. Believe that I am who I say that I am.”
// THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS //
As time went on, I God proved faithful again and again.
At one point, I considered applying for a joint degree at Yale to get my MPH and my M. Div (Master of Divinity, a professional ministry degree). I emailed and later called the Director of Admissions to talk about it, and she was so excited for my passion for public health and my desire to understand God’s heart for the field! Though I ultimately ended up not applying for the joint degree, the Director of Admissions continued to follow up with me and even sent me personal emails to congratulate me on my acceptance and to give me contact information of others in the joint degree, just in case I wanted to talk to them!
And then I was invited to interview for UPenn, my dream undergrad school during a conference I was attending LOL. A week later, I got my second acceptance. There’s a really long story behind this one, but this acceptance led to a lot of greater things and emotional healing regarding my family, in ways that I didn’t even know I needed healing.
I then received my acceptance to Boston University, another top 10 program, and they also gave me a $20,000 merit scholarship!!
As I received these acceptances, I grew more and more selfish and ambitious. I joined this forum that in which a bunch of people posted their stats & their acceptances/timelines of their decision. I began comparing myself to them. The newness of the acceptances wore off, and honestly, I became really impatient. At this point, I had heard back from all of my “backup” programs and was waiting on the “dream schools”. The most commonly used phrase that came out of my mouth was, “I just wanna knowwwww.” (To my friends: IM SO SORRY. I was so annoying but thank you so much for staying patient and walking me through this journey ugh im so lucky wow.) I stopped praying, I stopped thanking God. Instead of praying, “God just lead me to where you want me,” I prayed, “God, just give me an answer.” “God, why is it taking so long? I just wanna know where I’ll be next year.”
I hated it. I constantly felt so impatient, anxious. This pit in my stomach never just got bigger and bigger. I constantly checked my email. literally. every. 5. minutes. Each day felt so painstakingly long.
A couple weeks later, it happened. I got into Yale!!! I literally dropped my phone outside of CLA after class. I told EVERYONE. My parents almost didn’t believe me. I got so excited I LEGIT DELETED THE EMAIL. I Googled how to un-archive emails on my phone HAHA. Imagine getting the email, deleting it, refreshing your inbox, and then it not being there?? I honestly thought I was just imagining things.
About a week after that, I got into Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, one of the best programs. Then, I got into the one that I thought was impossible: The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Literally ranked #1, and has been for decades.
I couldn’t believe it.
But life is just so twisted. As I received these acceptances from literally the TOP ranked programs in the nation, and possibly the world, I didn’t thank God, the only One who made it possible. Like y’all. I had a 3.2 GPA when I applied. I didn’t deserve it. I really didn’t.
Then I started to feel guilt. I felt as though I should have trusted God a lot more in the process. I should have prayed not only at the beginning of this whole adventure, but throughout. At that point, I felt just so spiritually dry and far away that more than excitement and worship, my response was pure guilt. And I knew that this guilt was not from the Lord. It just got worse when I realized that it affected my personal life–my friendships, my ministry, my discipleships.
[[Eventually, I heard back from Brown and Harvard, which I didn’t get into. But honestly that’s totally ok because it made the decision-making process so much easier.]]
// ADMITTED STUDENT DAY VISITS //
So because I wasn’t seeking God for clarity, I visited three programs for their Admitted Student Days: Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Yale.
Super brief, but those visits gave me a lot of clarity. At Columbia, I realized that it was an amazing program, but not for me. I felt very affirmed though and was really glad that my brother’s there for his MPH.
For JH, I came in thinking that I would hate it, mainly because of the stereotypes that I had: that JH was full of competitive people who only cared about research. Long story short, I ended up loving it and getting to spend time with my best friend while I was there. I really really enjoyed the visit, and basically made the decision to attend in the fall.
But something kept me wanting to visit Yale. Maybe it was b/c I just wanted to get out of UT. Maybe it was the Ivy League name. Maybe it was b/c it gave me another opportunity to visit brudder Yim. Regardless, my parents didn’t think I needed to visit b/c it seemed like I was just so set on Hopkins.
But God really wanted me to visit Yale.
A couple of people know this, but I literally almost missed my flight for that visit. The boarding time was at 8:20AM, BUT I WOKE UP AT 8AM???? UM HELLO IM A MESS. I sped down I35 and got to the gate by 8:30, before my boarding group was even called up HAHA. Thank God I woke up and that I didn’t run into anyone or anything and that no police were around omg.
Overall, this visit made me super torn between JH and Yale, so I came in wanting clarity, but came back more of a mess than when I left. And let’s be real: I was SUCH a mess when I left HAHA.
// DECISIONS AND COMMITTING //
And so literally on the plane back, I started this extremely crazy excel file, comparing course schedules of the two, weighing pros and cons, planning out my 2 year plan at both. I spent the next couple of days perusing the websites for both and figuring out what I would get involved in. I stalked literally hundreds of people on LinkedIn to gauge what the future could look life for me if I went to either institution.
Run-down of each:
- Small cohorts (15-20 at JHU, ~25(?) at Yale)
- Financially about the same
- Baltimore & New Haven felt similar to me tbh
- Grad student ministries
- Baltimore, proximity to D.C. Really interesting place to study populations.
- Lots of parks nearby, campus next to the harbor
- Hipster and cool vibes
- #1 program
- Curriculum super rigid, but I would enjoy basically every class in my proposed 2 year plan LOL
- THE leading public health institution in the world
- Endless opportunities to work with the leading public health professionals, whose office is probably just down the hallway
- 75% tuition cut the second year
- Very hands on/practical courses
- 2 internship opportunities: one domestically in the summer, 1 internationally in the fall (can carry over to the spring)
- I already know of pastors and other contacts that could help me grow spiritually
- INTENSE courseload: 18-22 credits per QUARTER omg
- I would grow a lot as a student and in time management/discipline here. I would be trained as a highly effective public health professional in basically any field.
- More theoretical/research-focused courses
- BUT I get to take any course from the entire University. Like I could take Systematic Theology from the Divinity School, I could take classes from the #7 business school in the nation, the #1 law school in the world.
- Flexible curriculum
- More established connections with organizations around the country/world, but not necessarily in PH
- Access to the Yale network, not just the YSPH network
- Only 1 internship opportunity (summer)
- 50% off of tuition through scholarship/grants
- No prior knowledge of churches/personal contacts in the area that would help me grow spiritually
- Everyone I met was just so nice and genuine and helpful
Honestly, I had all of the facts. I had all of the answers. But at the end of the day, I felt like I was comparing apples to oranges, and I felt paralyzed because I was afraid of making the wrong decision.
But one of my friends put it well: When I weighed the pros and cons, they were about equal. I just needed to figure out what I wanted, and to commit.
I finally began to seriously seek the Lord and His heart for this time. I heard a voice loud and clear saying,
“Janet, more than the right/wrong decision, I want you to remain full of joy and worship in the process.”
And that’s exactly what I needed to hear. I was letting fear cripple me from making a decision–fear of the JHU curriculum, fear of lack of job prospects if I don’t go to JHU, fear of moving away, etc. etc. etc.
And as others prayed for me and listened to me, God covered me with this immense sense of peace that put me in a place to listen intently to His voice and His alone.
Once I sought out God’s heart, the decision was so easy. I began to realize that with JHU, there are SO many perks. Like why wouldn’t I go?? It’s #1! But I would go for very selfish reasons–to simply further my own career, to grow as a student, to more easily fulfill my dreams and ambitions. I initially had doubts like, “WHAT IF IM JONAH IN THE BIBLE AND GOD WILL MAKE ME BE AT JHU BC I KNOW THAT’S WHERE I’LL STRUGGLE??” As I described it to others, at Yale I’ll thrive. At JHU, I’ll struggle to survive. I assumed that God always calls us to take the harder road.
But God started telling me that I’m his daughter, and that there are times in which I can enjoy myself HAHA.
With Yale, I was already thinking of ways I can start outreaching to my fellow classmates/professors/the community. I had a Kingdom mindset already. That was the biggest indicator for my commitment. I also started to see that maybe not having many contacts there would be better for my own faith–to become more independent, and seek growth and Truth individually. And I know that I’ll continue to have a community from back home that will keep me accountable with this. And the people really were amazing. The opportunities at Yale seemed better fit for me, too! I know that at Yale, I’ll grow in really incredible ways, and I know it won’t come easily. But I’m up for the challenge!
Most people probably may think that I made the *wrong* choice. But I don’t. I’m definitely not saying that Yale is a terrible program. It’s amazing. And I’m so so SO incredibly blessed and humbled to be able to attend–with financial help! But what I’m trying to hone in on is that my life is not my own. I serve a God who is so faithful when I am far from it. I am loved by the Father who lays everything out in front of me and blesses me when I least deserve it, even when I turn my back on Him. I worship the Gracious Redeemer who blesses even my mistakes. I follow the Lord who calls me to things bigger and better than myself, One who uses a broken vessel like me for His glory.
As I meditate on what God has planned for me in this upcoming life stage which seems so far away right now, I hope you will meditate with me on this passage:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:6-9
So friends, if you got to this point, thank you so much. I just kind of word-vomitted for an hour haha. Special shoutout to the friends that walked me through this whole journey: Christina for trying to listen as we worked out every TTH, Charlotte for always encouraging me and listening to me rant, Jacky/Nick/Joanne/Kyle/Ethan for reading my long messages and encouraging me every step of the way, Alyssa for your caring heart, Andrew for walking with me and being able to empathize as we journeyed through decisions together, Ethan for your insight and analyzing mind, the prayer warriors who at Luke 4:18 ministries, Lina/Jenny/Vicki/Bianca who listened to me during discipleship even if we didn’t get to read the Bible/pray as much together, and the Pastors (PG, P. Art, Pastor Steve) who texted and FB messaged me and prayed for me and asked me for updates. And anyone else I forgot to mention!! Really you are all so special and made me feel so supported and loved and cared for throughout this whole intense journey. Thank you for being in my life, and I hope that we will continue journeying through this mess called life together with joy and in worship! (: