A few weeks ago my friend Greg, who has been working with Workhorse as a freelancer since we started the company, told me that he was applying to MFA design programs. I was excited for him, but also surprised. Never thought he would be looking to pay several thousands of dollars to do what he’s already getting paid several thousands of dollars to do! But, I’m also proud of him—going back to school will definitely improve his practice and change the trajectory of his already-promising career.

When Greg asked me for some advice on his statement, I decided to take a trip back in time to see what ‘past Abe’ thought about himself and his design practice. I probably worked through at least 45 iterations of my portfolio, and at least 25 drafts + 5 different versions of my statement before I settled on a final. Surely something I worked so hard on would stand the test of time, and not be at all embarrassing. Wrong! After the cringing subsided, reading this truly mediocre piece of writing actually humbled me quite a bit, and got me thinking about all of the young designers out there, applying to programs and feeling a bit daunted by the process.

So, I asked a few of my colleagues, old classmates, and other MICA GDMFA alumni to share their graduate school application statements with me so we could all see how we’ve presented ourselves, and reflect a bit on how we’ve grown. Hopefully, some shared reflection (and some embarrassment) over old statements will reassure designers thinking about graduate school, and encourage them to not be too intimidated by the process. Now that we’re all ‘Master Designers,’ it’s easier for us to hide some of those rougher edges—but this was a humbling reminder that we are all a work in progress, and sharing our growth is a good thing for everyone.

With that in mind, please enjoy these collective adventures (and misadventures) in stating your purpose in this world! And also, if Greg applies to your program, you should accept him and give him a lot of scholarship money.