Two and a half years ago, Fauzan Reza Maulana decided that he needed to obtain a graduate degree. For Fauzan, the degree will serve to help him achieve certification as a civil engineer, as well as to further build an international network in the industry. This month – after many hours of studying, tests, interviews, administration, and patience – Fauzan will be starting his first day of graduate studies at Stanford University under the Stanford University Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS) Program. He is the first Indonesian accepted into the program. While there are many ways to approach pursuing your graduate degree, over the next several paragraphs, Fauzan shares his personal journey of how he got accepted into graduate school with a full-ride scholarship. Read his story.
Three years ago, I wrote an Indonesia Mengglobal article about my experience working overseas: ‘My Passion for Indonesia and Kickstarting a Career as an International Engineer’. In this piece, I said that I became adamant that my career direction had to be: to contribute in improving Indonesia’s infrastructure. This vision since then has helped me to work as a tunnel engineer in various underground projects in the Asia-Pacific, including the Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit project.
Initially, I never had any plans to pursue a graduate degree so soon in my career. But when I realized that not having one would inhibit my career progression as a civil engineer, it was clear that I had to start preparing for it. The key message here is that my career direction came first, and then pursuing the graduate degree came to serve that vision. This may be a small detail, but I can’t tell you how much this sequential mindset has helped me to cruise through writing my various motivation letters and interviews, not to mention fuel my spirit during the rigorous hours I needed to spend preparing for the tests and applications.
Getting accepted into Stanford University
I’m sure you have already read most of the articles, forums, and videos out there on how to get into the graduate school of your choice. Though for me, I felt there were three things I did beyond those tips that were essential for me to get accepted.
- Applying to multiple universities, which were in-line with my career direction, and with differing levels of acceptance rates.
You’ll probably realize that at this point I have barely mentioned Stanford University. That’s because it was never my initial choice, in that, I never married myself to any particular university. I knew that chance inevitably played a part in getting accepted into graduate school, so I hedged my bets and applied to several. Determining these several schools may have been the longest part of my planning process! The many aspects at play were the courses, the professors, the community, the location, and most importantly the eligibility for scholarships. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that I had to apply to universities in the US. So I promptly targeted four universities, as that was the number of universities that the GRE test results can be sent to. Furthermore, I also made sure that these four universities had cascading levels of difficulty, to increase the probability of getting accepted.
- Reading and listening to the successes and failures of the people before me.
Fortunately for me, I had a few friends who had already finished their graduate studies in the US. This was crucial as I could understand from their first hand experience what studying over there was like, thus enabling me to assess my compatibility with the various programs. Additionally, I was able to ask them regarding their application and understand for myself what I thought helped them get accepted. This was crucial empirical information which I employed to build my own application, drawing from my friends’ successes. Having said so, if you currently don’t have connections at the schools you want to apply to, I think it is worth establishing them as soon as you can – as the insights you receive from them will be invaluable.
- Setting aside a financial account and arranging work-life for the preparation.
Regardless of whether or not you get into the program and the scholarship, preparing for graduate school will cost you some money and time upfront, especially when you are shooting for the top schools. Cash expenditures include paying for application fees and exam fees (GRE and TOEFL), which can compound if you are planning to take paid tutorials, multiple exam trials, and/or buy preparation books. I wasn’t the smartest egg in my class, so I had to study for the GRE months before the exam. Consequently, I arranged for myself to be put in a less intensive project for that year, giving me time to go to the library to drill GRE problems everyday after work. ‘Fondly’, I remember downloading all the vocabulary apps and drilling through them on every commute to and from work. This extra time was also needed for me to furnish my motivation letters, CVs, and organise my letters of recommendation.
Intentionally, I applied for the university admissions first before the scholarships. In doing so, I personally felt that I could focus on both tasks separately, thus increasing my chances of getting both, albeit at the cost of waiting another year and deferring my admission. Through this way, not only could I narrow down my choices of scholarships the next year, but I could also use my admission letter to strengthen my application for the scholarship.
Come 2019, I was fortunate enough to get accepted into the universities I applied to, and the program I felt most resonated with me was the M.S. degree program at the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Stanford University. Having this confirmed, I could channel all my energy into preparing for the KHS Application.
Getting accepted into the Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS) Program
Having gone through the entire application process, I can really only think of two main things that I did that helped get accepted into the KHS Program.
- Reading through the online content at knight-hennessy.stanford.edu thoroughly!
Over the years I have applied for many things, and I truly think that the information provided by KHS is one of the most comprehensive out there. Not only are they thorough in listing out every step of the application process (even with supporting videos), they are also completely transparent regarding the criteria for the candidates they’re looking for; possessing Independence of Thought, Purposeful Leadership, and Civic Mindset. Do scour every inch of this website and even contact them firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any clarifications. Use all of the information you find for your application!
- Understanding myself first, then assessing if I am compatible with the program
Believe it or not, filling out my application for the KHS program was one of the most fun administrative experiences I’ve ever had. The application itself was designed to really draw out what I thought of myself as a person, thoughts which may have not crossed my mind before. Based on which, all KHS is really doing is to see if my character and person will be compatible with the program; which will even transcend my graduation. Knowing this, I knew that I had to be absolutely sure that this program – and its values – was the right program for me, and vice versa. Once I had that conviction, the entire application process became that much easier as all I needed to do was be genuine with all of my answers, be it online or in-person. All that was left to do was present them in a manner best understood by the admissions committee.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for reading the entirety of my ‘abridged’ journey of getting into graduate school. But do note that what worked for me may or may not work for you. The best that you, or anyone, can do is broaden your references and pursue other sources.
In any case, good luck for your own personal journey!