I heard this was a stress-relieving, cathartic-type thing to do...and since I'm feeling ever more stressed out the closer we get to hearing back from programs, I thought that now would be the perfect time to start this blog. I intend it to be a place for me to share my experiences and any advice that I think might be helpful for other folks going through the process (now or in the future).
I'm not sure just what to put in this first entry, so I guess I'll start with a bit about me and my own experience of this application season. I work on Modern German History with particular emphases on women's history and memory studies. I attended a big urban campus for my undergrad, and am currently attending another big urban campus for my MA. I'll be writing and defending my MA thesis this spring, and am hoping that working diligently on that will distract me from my obsessive, anxious wait to hear back from the PhD programs I applied to. (Just PM me if you want to know more - I'm an open book!)
I applied to 10 schools, and - like most people - I'm on a kind of rollercoaster of outlooks regarding my chances. Some days I think I'll get into at least half of the programs, and other days I think I only really have a shot at one or two of them (at best!). Perhaps foolishly, I applied almost solely to top programs in my field and may have included too few "safe schools" (no such thing anymore, though). So here I sit at the beginning of a shiny new year, second-guessing the hell out of every step I took along the way to applying!
I have thus far resisted the temptation to go back and review my applications, SOPs, and writing samples...I'm sure that would only lead to madness when I eventually discover the now-obvious typos staring me in the face. Instead, I have restricted myself merely to double-checking the receipt of all the pieces of my applications, and am now trying to affect a calm, patient disposition while I wait for the results (obviously not successfully!).
The one thing I have going for me in trying to maintain some modicum of sanity during this waiting game is that I really worked my butt off during the application season. Thankfully, a good friend of mine and I got a relatively early start on drafting SOPs, etc. We met about once a week just to work on applications, and tried our best to make progress on them during the rest of the week. For a while there, I had a rule that I would work on one thing for my coursework AND one thing for PhD applications each night. It got a bit crazy in the middle of the semester, and I had to break my rule, but - by that point - I had made enough progress to feel fairly comfortable about letting it slide a bit.
By the time my December 1st deadlines rolled around (about half of my programs), I had a really polished SOP and writing sample ready. I think I must have sent that dang thing to at least five professors, and had my parents and several friends look it over, too, just for good measure. When I applied to MA programs, I left everything to the minute and felt terribly about my chances (I still have no idea how I got into my current program). So, thankfully, this time I can (try to) rest on my proactivity and sustained effort toward these apps!
All the same, I feel anxious during this waiting period. I'm beginning to feel butterflies in my stomach every time I check my email, or I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize. And while being a part of the GradCafe community has been immensely helpful and comforting throughout this entire process, seeing just how incredibly smart and qualified other applicants are makes me question if I have a real chance at any of my programs. Being the consummate planner-type, I hate being stuck in limbo!
I'm sure many of you feel the same way, and I wish I had some words of wisdom to share...but this is my first (and hopefully last!) round of PhD apps, so I'm in the same boat as you are. I'm going to try throwing myself headlong into work on my MA thesis to distract myself from waiting, as I mentioned, and may also attempt some form of yoga or meditation to see if I can't work up a more zen-like attitude about all this. I'll let you know if I have any success!
That's about all I've got for now...I'm hoping to post here once a week or so (we'll see what happens when the semester starts up) to keep you posted on how things are going. Please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments section - I'd love for this blog to become a forum for both commiseration and communal rejoicing! And please feel free to PM me if there's something specific you'd like to see addressed in my upcoming entries.
Hope your new years are off to a terrific start! Best of luck to everyone!