My College Story: From Michigan to the Capital City

Meghan Gajare tells her college story about taking time off before grad school.

Meghan Gajare

Meghan Gajare spent her childhood in Michigan, but she has spent her adulthood living in three different states. First, she moved to Minnesota to attend Carleton College, where she majored in economics. After her graduation in 2011, she moved to Columbus, Ohio, to get several years of work experience before beginning graduate school applications. Now, she is living in the Washington DC area and pursuing her MBA at Georgetown University.

Q. How did you decide on Carleton College?

My father had read about Carleton College and knew that it was a very strong school and highly ranked by US News Rankings. So, when it came time to apply to college, he had me add it to the list. But it wasn’t until I went out for a “prospie” [prospective student] visit after applying that I actually fell in love with it. During the visit, I stayed with the golf team, who did a great job of showing me student life and the campus. I also sat in on biology and economics courses and loved the classroom setting. It was somewhere I definitely saw myself being happy for four years. I was deciding between three different colleges/universities at that time, but after my visit to Carleton, my mind was made up.

Q. What types of extracurricular activities did you participate in while you were at Carleton?

The biggest extracurricular activity was the women’s varsity golf team, but I also was a Resident Assistant for two years and participated in Ebony (the student-run dance show), IM sports (basketball and soccer), and a few student organization clubs.

Q. How did your extracurriculars enhance your education?

Extracurriculars are great because they challenge you and provide great leadership opportunities in a way that academic courses can’t. Through the various activities I participated in, I interacted with a broader portion of the Carleton community and made some great friends. I learned to juggle responsibilities between golf practice, RA duties, and homework. I hadn’t danced in about four years, so it was fun to be able to get back into that with Ebony. Most importantly, these activities are a great way to unwind from classes and homework and have some fun!

Q. If you could give your freshman self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t worry about what people expect of you and just do what is going to make you happy. On a less serious note: Don’t let your S/Cr/NCs [“scrunch” is the option to take a class pass/fail at Carleton College] go to waste!! I saved two of them thinking I would want them later down the road, but it turns out, in the last two years, a lot of courses are required by the major and can’t be S/Cr/NCed.

Q. You took some time off between finishing your undergraduate degree and returning to graduate school. What did you do with your time off?

I worked for four years as a financial underwriter in the affordable housing sector. I spent the full four years in Columbus, Ohio, which turned out to be better than I thought it would! In between working, I took the time to get scuba certified, go skydiving, take four international vacations, and so much more!

Q. How did working before returning to graduate school help you grow?

I think the biggest thing was learning to work with adults and manage people. Working in a setting where I was the youngest employee helped me mature and learn how to work with some people who can be difficult. When I got to grad school, the first group I was assigned to work with had some group members with difficult personalities, and having come off of four years of work experience, I had a good idea how to handle them.

Q. What are the best and worst parts about getting your graduate degree?

The best part is being back at school. I don’t care what some people say—the four years of college are some of the greatest years of our lives. It’s great to be back in a setting where you can sleep in some days, have many friends in your age range always around to hang out, and have a lot of free time for vacations! The worst part definitely has to be taking tests again! The four years of working without having to study for exams and recruit for a job at the same time were nice.

Q. Do you still participate in any extracurricular activities?

I try, but it’s not as easy when I’m working. In Columbus I played golf and joined a book club, Columbus Scuba, a work kickball league, and a “Bachelor/Bachelorette Viewing” club! In grad school it’s a little easier. I play golf and am a member of some of the MBA clubs (Finance Club, Women in Business, and Wine Club).

Q. Where do you hope to be in three years?

Wow, this just got real! In three years, I will be 30... I will have graduated with my MBA and hopefully be working full-time at Barclays as an investment banking associate (I am currently interning at Barclays as a summer associate). I guess at that point in my life I should also start thinking about marriage and kids!

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