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Guest Message © 2015 DevFuse

On mood, emotion, and playing the waiting game

Posted by gellert, 20 January 2012 · 1,743 views

So, like a good little nerd, I've mapped it out:

My happiness is on the y-axis, ascending from 0 (none) to 100 (most).

The time of day is on the x.

-- And the waiting game is a perfect quadratic equation.

I wake up and check my email, and when I see that I still have not heard from graduate schools, I start off my day at (0, 0). Never mind that, surely, it is irrational to expect a POI to have emailed me between 3 am and 7 am EST.

I go to campus, go to class, go to lab, do my thing. Sooner or later I run into my adviser who always has either a stimulating philosophical/scientific topic to discuss or words of wisdom/encouragement about the app process. For the duration of the time spent with him plus an hour and a half or so of afterglow, my parabola is at its peak.

As the clock ticks down toward 5 pm, however, the slope of my line becomes negative once more, until at last I'm sitting in bed, right back where I started, having come full circle since that morning.

Lately, my parabola has become increasingly like a flat line, at a very low y value, continuously, as I begin to give up hope altogether.

But you know what?

Screw that.

I'm rewriting this equation.

We cannot control our circumstances or our environment, but we can control our responses. I choose to continue to think positively, to hope, and to believe that I am still an excellent scholar whether or not I get into a Ph.D. program this time around. I choose to respond by finding the best ways to improve my application for the next round. I choose to learn from my mistakes, and to write my own internal story.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, "Think of the worlds you carry within you."

These worlds within your mind do not disappear simply because you feel they are going unrecognized. The worlds are ever-evolving, crafted and populated by your own will, and full of infinite possibility.

Not getting into graduate school does not mean the destruction of every world, every dream-castle you've built for yourself.

It just means you get to spend a bit more time in their construction.

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Thank you. *deep breath*
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Love this :)
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Thanks for this. I'm feeling better equipped for the weeks ahead.
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Being realistic about the process can be depressing but also should make you realize that it's mostly not about you. I just got informed that it looks that most likely I'm out at my top choice of Stanford, after recieving an interview, for reasons having nothing to do with my merit. The proff just doesn't look like he'll be able to take a student this year even when he originally thought he might able to. There's so much stuff that goes on in this process that just reflects the crap shoot that it is. Some great candidates get overlooked, some bad candidates get lucky, and sometimes circumstances just don't line up. Not getting in your first season is nothing to be ashamed about. My first time applying out I got shut out even though professors predicted I'd do well. I knew I was a good student - things just didn't come toegther on the admissions end for me. Right now in my second year applying out, so far I'm only currently sitting on 3 interviews out of 10 schools applied. There's just no sure things in this stuff.

Having said all that, you're not out until you get word. Even if you don't make first round of interviews, many times you might make the second. My colleague last year didn't hear anything through February, assumed he was shut out, and then all of a sudden end of February he got an interview from one of his top choices and got accepted. The proff told him the first person he brought out was horrible and so he called my friend. So hang in there for now, and in the worst case that you get shut out, it's probably not your fault. If you're in this for the duration you just need to take a year, build up your experience and try again. It'll work out if you keep at it.
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Thanks so much, William. :) This has been a really tough cycle for me, and even though I haven't heard anything definitive back, it's looking like I won't be interviewed or accepted anywhere this year.

It's tough for me because I was the Golden Kid in my lab, and all my profs/advisers had been so convinced I'd have a large number of acceptances to choose from in the end. It's going to be humiliating to face the world after this, and I feel very melancholy going into the rest of this semester, but I'm gonna have to find a way to make it work. There are bigger things in the world than grad school, and I will be where I want to be in ten years whether I take a year off after UG or not.

Actually, the superstar in my school's department (grad student with several first-author pubs in JAP and similar, total of something like 25 first- or co-author publications, revolutionary in his subfield, truly inspiring man) got rejected for two straight cycles from every single school to which he applied. Round three, he got the NSF and accepted to every school he applied to -- some of which, he was accepted to before he even interviewed at all! He was rejected initially from the school he's at now, in fact, by a different PI. Every time he runs into that prof now, he says the guy shakes his head and exclaims something about how "if he'd only known...."

People like that give me hope that there's always a chance for a comeback.
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Gellert, it's not even February yet, how can you be so sure you won't have any acceptances?
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Because most of my schools have already sent out all of their interviews.
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:( Sit tight, it's not over quite yet.
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You know what? You're going to do great things. I can't wait to see them unfold.
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as my forum signature says:

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Yep, my new signature is my favorite George Eliot quote: "It is never too late to be what you might have been."
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William, what do you think wrong the first round of your applications?I mean what specific things did you change in this application cycle?How did you change your strategy?
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Gellert, cheer up!!!I haven't received any notifications yet (but for anthro it's a little later than for psychology), but I am staying positive, planning ahead for 2013!!
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Gellert, although I understand you!Today my thesis supervisor asked me if I heard anything from schools yet, and I had nothing to say, I really didn't wanna disappoint him :(
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Well said. It's all about how you choose to respond...though it's certainly easier said than done!
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Well said. I was feeling burned 5 rejections in. On top of that I had a great phone interview for a great research grant position , by evening the website updated to "interviewed not final selection." Burned.

But you are right, control responses and think positively. I still have a great internship I'm at, I have nearly 10 more schools to hear back from, and there are many more research positions i can apply for. And if all else fails this time around there is next time. Plus I have my friends and girlfriend and family, and passions and interests outside the field.
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"Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream, Neo? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? "

-- The Matrix
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Great post. I've been going through funding rejections all week and it's hard to stay positive, this helps

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Hope you have your acceptance now.

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