It may seem odd, but I get social media messages about how to apply for graduate school from people far more qualified by myself on a regular basis. Because I grew up in a city of 5,000 people in a rural part of Kentucky, the vast majority of these requests are about how I supposedly "self-taught" myself how to exist among a much more "cultured" class of people.
It's true that I was not trained at an elite high school to go to an elite college and then an elite graduate program. Instead, I attended the county public high school. I did well enough to be voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in my class, but only because I was the nerdiest person of my gender in my grade. There was nothing innately successful about me. My parents have technical degrees, not four-year ones. The only grandfather I remember dropped out of middle school to support his large, working class family. And here I was, the enneagram Type 1, INTJ. I was a self-starter from the time I was a toddler, and I remember very fondly the time my guidance counselor sat me down to give me the "you're not going to stick around here" talk. My desire to make something of myself is as engrained in my identity as the accent I have always hidden to seem more cosmopolitan. (The accent still comes out when I'm tired, for the record.)
"Getting out," as my high school friends and I referred to it, was hard. And it was not guaranteed, regardless of our parents' occupations, due to the nature of a rural community and its isolation from the urban, success-motivated world. So, if you made it out of your rural community to go to a four-year university further from your home than most, I applaud you. The odds were stacked against you and you made it this far.
However, now that you're thinking about graduate school, there are some things that you should know. Some of these are things that I am glad my undergraduate and graduate faculty were able to teach me, and others are things that I have learned the hard way as I've gone along. Here's a start:
I don't want to overburden my first blog post with too much information, but I think that this has been a good start. If you have more questions about the transition from rural life to academia, please leave me a comment and I'll try to either respond to you directly or address the topic in another post.