March 21, 2018

Geology grad rocks steady as she waits for grad school acceptance

Give Mara Karageozian a block of free time and she’ll fill it up quickly. She’s always been that way - an overachiever who is never too busy to try new things. But now, for the first time in her young life, she wishes time would move a little faster.

Karageozian graduated with honors from Wayne State University last December, earning her degree in geology. She is currently waiting to hear from the five graduate schools she applied to over the past few months. Waiting is the hardest part, though - especially for someone who is used to making things happen in her own time.

“I’m kind of in academic limbo, so to speak,” Karageozian said. “This is the first time in my life when I’m not a student and it’s a difficult adjustment to make, even though I realize it’s only temporary.

“Sometimes schools get back to you really quickly, but sometimes it can take months,” she continued.  “I heard from some in the middle of February, but my first choices haven’t responded yet.” Among those first choices are Arizona State University, Brown University and UCLA, all with nationally renowned graduate programs in geology.

It was at Churchill High School in Livonia where Karageozian first cemented her status as an active and engaged student. “I studied abroad in France and was the president of the French club,” she said.  “I was the captain of the tennis team. I established the Women in Lifelong Leadership program there. I was really involved in extracurricular activities.”

She also visited the campuses of the University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University before deciding to come to Wayne State. “I couldn’t imagine attending a university that was located in anything other than a big city.”

There was a time in Karageozian’s life when a degree in geology wasn’t even on her radar. “Originally I was a business major,” she said. “I was in the business school for a year and then realized I didn’t want to do that. I had a semester when I didn’t know what I was doing and just took my gen eds. And that is when I took my first geology class.”

Karageozian continued, “My dad told me this story: ‘When I was in school I loved geology and took a class and fell in love with it.’” And I was just like, okay dad. Soon after that, I told my parents that I didn’t think that business school was working out.  So I signed up for geology and loved it and loved the people. We all fit together so well.”

Now, as she waits to hear what her next move is, Karageozian fills her time by working three jobs. “I’m a teaching assistant for the geology department,” she said. “I assist in the geology labs and petrology labs. I also work two or three nights a week at a restaurant downtown.”

If she does get accepted by one of her top choices for graduate school, she said she will miss Detroit. “Detroit is a great city. I have a great apartment that I can afford and I probably won’t be able to afford that in other cities. I will miss the cold weather. I’m not sure if I’ll come back to Michigan -  it depends on whether I get a job somewhere else - but I would like to stay in the northern part of the United States for sure.”

As she waits for the phone call or email that will decide her immediate academic future, Karageozian has some advice for students facing a similar period of academic limbo.

“It can be hard as a student because no one sits you down and tells you exactly what you need to do,” she observed. “My best advice would be to overestimate the amount of time you need to get things done. If you think you can start to work on something in October, start in September just to be safe. If you pass up attending an important conference because it costs money and you might miss school, just go anyway. If you have to take a year off to figure things out, work in a lab and make some money to pay the bills. Build up the resume and make sure you’re positioned for the best opportunity possible.”

Soon after this article was posted, Mara Karageozian got word that she was accepted into Arizona State University’s graduate geology program.

“I received the news via email, from the professor who will be my advisor,” Karageozian said. “I was so excited and felt so lucky. My first call went to my parents and then I texted all of my friends.”

Karageozian is not yet certain when she will move to Arizona and begin her first term there, but she has a clear end goal in mind.

“I'd like to be a professor and do research when all is said and done. ASU has the largest NASA funding for planetary geology and is generally thought of as one of the best schools for space exploration.”

She also expressed thanks for the faculty and her fellow students at Wayne State. “The education I received at Wayne State helped prepare me for this next step in my journey. I’ll always feel gratitude toward the university, my professors and my fellow students for preparing me to reach my aspirations.”