Hi little Otters,
When I started this grad school app silliness, pretty much everything was horrifying. I thought the feat of studying for and performing well on GREs was terrifying. The prospect of asking LORs for letters was intimidating. Bearing my experiences and shortcomings in my SOP was like facing an angry, objective mirror that kept yelling at me for mixing up effect and affect. (I still think I've probably got them switched them around wrong somewhere ) However, nothing has been nearly as distressing as that wait for that magical first response.
Gawd, that wait. That check your email/phone/application website/GradCafe every five minutes kinda wait, hoping someone somewhere in the scary world of adcomms will reach out, pat you on the head, and tell you that you happen to be what they're looking for. The emotional toll has been surprisingly harsh, and the first few weeks after getting that last app in was rough. It's just this terrible roller coaster between feeling super competent and qualified and feeling simple and mediocre (especially compared to the many fine applicants on this site, but that's another post). I'm sure that adcomms are aware of these kind of psychological stressors they're putting on us, and I'm curious about how they handle it within their admissions procedures. Relatedly, I'd kinda like to see data on the applicant pool's average stress levels and how it correlates with phone call frequency to their offices during different points in the app season, but I digress...
Personally, I think I have gotten over that initial spat with self-doubt (for the most part, anyways). After a bit you just kind of.. chill out, realize you've done all you can, and know the world won't end if the outcome isn't what you had originally planned. Also, distractions. My current favorite is splurging on pretentious 90's sitcoms with Nexflix. Other activities include getting myself to write things like this, and painting, and running and rebuilding my tiny race car and other silly things like that.
I am, however, having trouble re-establishing a cycle for meaningful productivity, and of course I still catch myself compulsively checking the results page at every spare moment. I see a lot of people complain about stress on these forums, both for application requirements and the post-app wait. However, it seems like threads that explicitly address methods for dealing with it seem few and far between: there's an occasional de-stress music thread or maybe even a game thread or two, but nothing really approaches the topic directly. My few bits of anecdotal evidence claim that the distraction of school can alleviate grad app anxieties. (Lucky you, you young'uns.) Another strategy I've heard is exercise complemented with a stringent routine. (Hopefully I'll get back on the treadmill come Monday, cold weather be damned.)
Are any of you fellow applicants having problems like these? How are you dealing with it? What do you think about GradCafe's approaches to reduce application anxiety?