It's been a while since I blogged on the gradcafe. Last time I blogged, I was in the midst of the never-ending rotation streak, and it felt like I would never manage to land anywhere in the program. My program is an umbrella program, I rotated through FOUR DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS! Well, I did find a lab home to stay, passed my prelim and became a candidate, and now arrived in the middle of my fourth year. Many research-related ups and downs happened, projects initiated and terminated, and time went by really fast -- It only seemed yesterday that I was fretting over how to find an advisor at all.
Over Christmas break, I spent a lot of time preparing application material for a very prestigious university fellowship, as my boss suddenly decided to nominate me for it. I asked around for advice, and the advice I was given was this: don't worry about it too much, whether you win or not all depends on your advisor. If your advisor is a bigwig, then you have bigger chance of winning it. I have long heard about these "unspoken rules" as disadvantage of working with a junior faculty (my boss is relatively junior in the department). I didn't believe it completely at first until I read the personal statements from the past year winners, then I realized how slim my chance would be at winning this thing.
But still, my boss nominated me, and the department agreed to send my application out to Fellowship Office. The secretary was on my back about having everything ready to be submitted by a certain date. My boss tried to spin things in a positive light, by stating how it'll be a great exercise and that my efforts count, simultaneously being critical on my written statement. I didn't want to do it but still being dragged through the whole process, with a very slim chance of getting anything in return. I finished writing the personal statement at the last moment, and then I was eventually rejected. I was pretty bummed about this outcome -- why do it while you know you don't stand a chance? I could have relaxed over Christmas, but instead I was fretting over this thing. Moreover, the rejection letter was totally unhelpful. It didn't come with any feedbacks or comments on the overall application. How would I know what to do if I want to apply again next year? Even R01 rejections give you a score and some comments on your grant proposal!
Well, better go focus on other things.
As much as I love my cat, my mother is quite attached to him and begged for me to let him stay with her. I figured I might as well leave him with her so he can keep her company. She's going to need it.
So, as of now, it will just be me, the boyfriend, and the pups traveling to the other coast.
I've booked my flights for admit days and I'm pretty excited. I've never been to Boston so I'm eager to explore the area.
Every day I'm just like, "wow, this is actually happening. this is for real" but it still seems pretty surreal.
Well, it's essentially mid-March and besides a spot on a wait list (not one of the top 5, sadly) I've got nothing else to show for this application cycle. Despite my utter failure, I've been feeling optimistic (when I'm not feeling anxious and upset, so maybe like 1/4 optimistic, 3/4 freaked out?) about next year. With a better topic, possible publications and maybe even an NDSEG fellowship (very slim dream chance!), I could be a real contender at some top programs. It is up to me to get there, but it's technically possible.
If anything is making me feel better, though it pains me to admit this, it is that NOBODY else I know has been admitted anywhere during this cycle. Sure, you fine people of Gradcafe have gotten in, but of, say, the 6 friends I know also applying, across many disciplines (media studies, sociology, philosophy, English, ethnomusicology) all coming from an R1 with MA degrees, NOBODY has gotten in. We've all had similar seasons, with high expectations going in and nothing to show for it. Like me, my friends have hustled and gotten everything they can out of their programs, but the competition is just too fierce. Without fellowships and publications, we never stood a chance.
Now, I take comfort in my friends' failure (because I'm mean, I guess), but I also think this has to do with both a lack of accurate guidance when it comes to applying and what I'm going to refer to as the Prestige Problem. Because we were all coming from a top university, nobody felt like they had to apply outside the top 50. Why even bother? With high stats and all our R1 bells and whistles, of course we'd be inundated with multiple offers from ivies and other tippy top departments. Except we weren't. Not even close. I was wait listed at the lowest-ranked department I applied to. That's how badly I overestimated my shot.
I think that the guidance I got, save for one very young professor who is very cautious and cynical in general, was tailored to an academe of long ago. Admission to PhD programs have become a lot more cutthroat because of the positive move toward only taking as many as you can fund. Statements are more sophisticated and developed than ever. Successful students go in with a year or more of prep. We never stood a chance.
What I'm really saying is, man, full professors don't know how hard it is out there! And that I'm mean, because my friends' rejections are making me feel better, which makes me kind of a bad person.
Anyway, unrelated, but does anyone know anything about the following two things:
1) The NYU bioethics MA? I am considering applying (deadline is May 1) and it only takes a year. It has a small faculty of experts and I think I could use more health-specific coursework before applying again. I can shoulder the tuition since my MA was pretty cheap, and I wouldn't have to relocate and I'd get to continue having my awesome NYU health insurance and keep my research job. They have great placement into philosophy PhD programs, but I wonder if it is worth meeting with the DGS in-person to chat about their placement into other kinds of PhD programs.
2) NDSEG funding to 'soft' social sciences? My proposal directly engages the armed forces, so it is topically relevant, but I see the behavioral sciences subfield has mostly funded psych and neuroscience in the past. I emailed them and they encouraged me to apply, but I'd love some more insight on whether other disciplines stand a chance.
It would appear that my dreams were indeed accurate! Dreamt about a rejection from Stanford and got rejected from Stanford....dreamt about an acceptance from HGSE and I just found out I was admitted into the HGSE TIE program! AHHHHH!
The official freak out begins!
Where am I going to live? How am I going to pay for everything? What's my financial aid? How am I going to tell everyone at work?
I didn't even tell my mom I was applying! Now I need to tell her I'm moving across the country!
Oh my goodness.
I've finally reached the end of this roller coaster called Graduate Application Season.
I will be attending my top-choice university in a department that I didn't apply to with a professor that was never my main POI. After recruitment, it was a whirlwind of switching advisors, departments, funding nominations, etc. Things change, but they can be for the better. I will be working toward a dual-Ph.D. in Forestry and Ecology, and I couldn't be more excited. My new advisor's research interests are an amazing match and he has long-term research plots at my first-choice field station. I've been awarded the top university fellowship, granting me a first and last year of funding, without any TA or RA requirements, facilitating my transitions into and out of the program.
My advisor offered to let me come over the summer on an RA, doing some temperate field work and analyzing the long-term tropical datasets. So, I'll be moving across the United States a week or two after I graduate with my Bachelors degree, packing only what I can fit in my sedan (including a boyfriend who wants to help me move). Until then, I have two research projects to finish up, permits to get approved, and other countries to visit. I'm going to be busy, not really relaxing much before I start graduate school, but I don't think I'd want to have it any other way.
I know for sure now that I won't be attending Stanford's Learning, Design, and Technology program.
I can't say I'm too shocked or hurt. I knew it was a long shot, and truth be told, my heart wasn't that set on the program.
I am really hoping for HGSE.
Last night I actually had a dream that I checked my email and saw the rejection email from Stanford. Today that's exactly what happened.
A few weeks ago I had a dream that I received an acceptance email from HGSE. What's crazy is that my boyfriend also had a similar dream.
I know today was probably just a coincidence but I'm really, really hoping my dreams are a glimpse into the future.
But, you know, I'm also being real.
Regardless of the outcome, I know I'm ready for a change and will be starting my own adventure, grad school or not.
Here are some pictures of Walter (the puppy I got a few weeks back) and his recent adventures. Gordie makes a few appearances as well. And nope, these guys are not related to each other:
I know it could be any time between this week and the end of the month that I hear back from the programs I applied to.
I've been trying to keep busy but I've been going nuts. I don't like to read into things but I find it crazy that my boyfriend and I both had the SAME dream of us traveling in the car with our 3 animals across the country to Boston.
Anyway. I'm glad I have my furry friends to keep me company, regardless of the outcome.
I know I'm going to make a change in my life...I just don't know in which direction. It's pretty insane not knowing, but I guess that's what makes it an adventure?
I know a handful of us are prepared to apply next year, and I'm wondering what people are thinking regarding their strategies. I'm changing my topic (extending my MA research) but that's not a very radical shift for me, given my proposed topic (very different from my current work) is what I believe to have harpooned my 2014 chances.
In terms of serious changes in plans, I'm not going to be applying to JUST anthropology programs next time around. My BA is interdisciplinary from a top SLAC, and my MA is from an interdisciplinary (but growing and time-honored) field in an R1 department. I took a risk this year and applied only to anthropology programs because I love the discipline and my preferred method is ethnography. I've also heard too many stories about the difference between traditional and interdisciplinary PhDs on the job market. Obviously any interdisciplinary department will hire an anthropologist, but you'd be hard pressed to find many anthropology departments hiring interdisciplinary scholars, though I don't doubt there are exceptions (MIT HASTS is one, etc). I would like to be trained as an anthropologist, but I am more concerned next year with getting a funded offer and just starting my life, so to speak. If I get a better (or only) offer from a media studies or STS program, I'll happily take the risk just to get the PhD. My ultimate goal is teaching at an SLAC.
I'm also honestly feeling a little disillusioned with the discipline of anthropology in general. I knew my background would work against me, but hearing from POIs that committees just couldn't move past my unconventional academic background kind of bums me out. I know it is safer for anthropology programs to admit students with anthropology degrees, but I thought having significant graduate-level coursework in anthro might save me. My advisers have used phrases like, "circling the wagons" when it comes to applicants from other disciplines, and I wish I had been more aware of these kinds of tensions before I spent the season focusing so much on anthropology.
Is anyone else getting around to making tough changes like this? Are you prepared to consider other disciplines or are you married to just the one?
ETA: Guess I'll have to change the title of this blog, eh? 2 year epic admissions saga right here ya'll
Folks, I think I figured it out.
I look at the people who are in programs and doing things I want to do. Fuzzy Suessian, Resurgence(ZN), etc and I notice a particular thing they have in common.
They’re all above 200 internet/reputation points.
THAT’S what you turn these in for, an acceptance! I dunno how the adcomms figure out who is who but they’re sneaky… good thing you have me here to keep them honest.
Muwahahaha all I need to do now is post more puppy pics and I’ll be in for sure!
*ring ring* Hello, Berkeley (BARKley?)This is Bowties – my puppy pics are trending and I’ve got 500 internet points… I think that entitles me to a spot in your program.
Perhaps I’m going crazy…
I've always had such a hard time maintaining a work out regimen while going to school/working. I don't like getting up super early, so working out before work/school never happens. By the time I'm done with work/school, I'm too exhausted to go.
BUT I AM MAKING CHANGES.
Granted it's only been a week but I've been going to the gym 5 days now, and don't people say it takes 21 times for a habit to form? So if I keep at it, eventually it'll become a habit. Or so I'm hoping.
Anyway, basically all this pent up anxiety was driving me nuts and I'm finding exercise is a great way to feel better about this whole wait-and-see-if-I-got-in-anywhere situation. I'm starting to feel more energetic, too.
If I do happen to get into a grad school (and even if I don't), I hope to maintain this exercise thing.
How do you all maintain (or struggle to maintain) your work outs?
Today I joined the ranks of the many wonderful people who have been rejected from a school.
We plenty, we miserable plenty, we band of rejects;
For y’all today that sheds your tears with me
Shall be my peer; be us ne’er so naive,
This day shall gentle our condition;
And the accepted in programs now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their research cheap whiles any speaks
That w‘er rejected with us upon Saint Valentine’s day.
It has been a long time since I've even come onto the grad café. Moving to London and starting grad school has really taken any free time I used to have to just surf the web and engulfed it, but I am incredibly happy about that.
First term has finished and I am now progressing into my second round of courses before I hit the heavy 4 months of dissertation writing that is to come in the spring. I'm more excited about finally getting to do some research but also nervous about the prospect of finding a supervisor, and actually working on it all.
Something which has been on my mind lately is potentially moving on to doing a Ph.D. after this degree. Ideally I would be able to start as soon as I finished my Master's, but I don't think my first term has prepared me enough to be able to send in the applications for the March 14th deadline. I need more time to think, time to get a grasp on if I actually want to move away from industry and into academia, and to ensure my grades are stellar so I can get funding.
Plus I've been in postsecondary education for nearly 5 years now. Most people would agree that it is time for a break (maybe I'm wrong, but I think I deserve one . . . not sure if starting full-time work would really be considered a break though).
It's been a long while since I've blogged; I've been slacking. It's been an interesting couple of weeks. In late January I got accepted to UC Davis, which was one of my top choices!!! I'll be visiting later this month. I was really worried about my GPA, which killed my application last time. Well... small sigh of relief.
I'm thinking about questions to ask on my visit... but in reality the person is pretty well known in my field and is very comfortable having her research and students speak to what type of advisor she is. I'm most worried about summer funding; do you guys think I should bring it up before I visit or should I wait for a face to face discussion about it. Summer funding for at least the first two years (until I can put together RA funding) would go a long way to ease my mind.
I also decided to remove 2 applications; UMD and USC. I don't want to Live in LA and UMD is also not place I want to live. Those are fairly competitive programs, so hopefully it gives them a bit less work (if I was even being considered). I'm not one to collect acceptances/rejections, though it is a bit unnerving that I found out very quickly one place and haven't heard anything for weeks.
I think the next two weeks are going to be very big for Earth Science applicants; More and more acceptances/interviews are showing up on the results search. I haven't seen an MIT/WHOI one yet... so i'm still holding hope. I saw a Master's student get accepted into Hawaii... so I'm guessing I wasn't accepted into their PhD Program.
Ok... now back to working on the thesis.... thanks for reading!
The day started off great. We had breakfast in the hotel, went to lunch with one of the program directors, and then toured the town with grad students. Later, we went to a hockey game and had dinner with grad students in the next town over.
Then, for reasons I cannot divulge, I fell out of love with parts of the program. I saw a very dark and disturbing side that I had not expected. For that reason, now I am considering another school that I have an interview with in a few weeks.
I've learned a lesson today to not get your hopes up and not to put all of your hopes into one opportunity, especially in academia. I'm not going home as excited as I thought I would be. If anything, I am disappointed. But I'm going to move on and start looking at all of the options that are out there.
Edit: For any applicants who need help with what questions to ask at interviews and how to decide if the atmosphere of the department is for you, I highly recommend this webpage: http://www.esa.org/students/section/node/412
I received my first official rejection today. I also didn't receive an interview at my top choice and I've been unofficially rejected by the anthropology department at my current university. The caliber of these programs and my fit with their faculty make me think that I have good reason to believe I will be shut out this year.
Before I was feeling sorry for myself. I was feeling helpless. I didn't know what to do. My backup plan (an MPH) was just deemed "useless" by an authority on public health and anthropology and I really do think it's going to take a lot of rebuilding from here.
Regardless, I think I realized what went wrong. I think I'm ready for the challenge of starting again.
Back in April, my adviser told me she thought my proposed research for the PhD had too narrow a focus and that I needed an international field site in order to be taken seriously by anthropology committees. Because she's a renowned scholar and we have a great relationship, I took her advice and together we crafted a strong research proposal with transnational implications. I hoped this would make me appeal to more faculty, as I was told it would. I felt that even though the topic was a clear departure from my research thus far, that my record of success in general would make up for the difference between what I do now and what I said I want to do.
I realize now how silly it was to think that a good topic (a great topic!) would convince a committee to admit me despite showing a major departure from what I have worked on until now. I am sure that is my problem. I told the committees what I thought they wanted to hear, instead of telling them what I really wanted to do.
The realization is pretty energizing. So what if I strike out across the board? I still will be graduating with an MA in May, and I should be proud of all the work I've done. My boss just told me I could extend my research position with her and that she'd take me on for the next year if need be, so I don't have to look for another job. I'm going to focus on publishing my thesis, which is on my original topic of interest, and I'm going to connect with the few scholars in the universe that also work on similar topics. I submitted a book review and a paper to two different graduate student journals. I'm going to apply for NSF funding. I'm not going to take these rejections lying down.
What I am going to do is be true to myself. If I want to study what I've been studying all along, then that's what I'm going to do. It might make me less interesting to faculty with international interests, but the only thing that matters to me is being interesting to the people who will enthusiastically support my research. If it means that I need to apply to programs not just in anthropology, and risk getting an interdisciplinary degree, then that is what I will do.
What I'm not going to do is give up.
Today was great. I woke up at the equivalent of 3:30AM in my timezone and headed out with a group of other applicants from the department. We got really fancy portfolios with printouts of each professor's research, our personalized itineraries, and some promotional magazines. Then, we had an informational session, during which we got an overview of the departments housed by the larger department we were interviewing in.
After that, we had a group meeting with the director to ask questions, and then went on to five one-on-one interviews with faculty. The faculty interviews were pretty good. Some were so interesting that I wanted more time. And others, I got more nervous and was excited to move on to the next one, though I wouldn't call any of them bad.
After the interviews, we went to two different poster sessions, during which the director handed me my official letter of acceptance (yay!). Then, I got to talk more with my future PI and the other applicants for his lab over dinner.
Now, I'm working in the hotel lobby, reading fervently through papers for meetings on two different projects next week back at my undergraduate university. I'm motivated now more than ever to get my research going forward and strong.
(Also, Michigan is really cold.)
In the wake of my last post (the first of many admissions-related emotional breakdowns, I'm afraid) I realized: why sulk alone when we can sulk together? We're all going through versions of the same process, so there's no need to be shy. And there's also nothing worse than having someone say "It's going to be OK!" when all you want to do is wallow in the misery, even if just for a little while. Admissions is life or death! Well, it feels like it.
With that, what is your favorite sulking routine? How do you wallow in your misery? I want to know all about the weird nachos you make when you're sad. I want to know if you adopt a uniform of sweatpants and free promotional tshirts when you are feeling especially sorry for yourself.
When I am sulking, I listen exclusively to Elliott Smith and am utterly unproductive. I tend to stay in bed trying to decide on something to watch, but I rarely choose; instead, there is a lot of waffling and indecision and in the end I always end up watching something I've seen 5,000 times (Secretary, Safety Not Guaranteed, Party Monster, But I'm a Cheerleader are in the rotation) in my pajamas. Living in the land of online food delivery means I can drown my sorrow in a bowl of steaming tonkotsu ramen with just a few clicks. I will generally follow that with bourbon, and lately I am feeling Widow Jane on the rocks.
It's been a while since my last entry, though not for lack of interest on my part. On the contrary, it's just that there's been no news to report.
That is, until today.
I didn't actually get any news today in the traditional sense, though 2 acceptances to one of my programs were posted on the results board. That's one implied rejection.
The other is more complicated and a lot worse. To make a long story short, I saw the short list at one of my schools and I wasn't on it. I wasn't supposed to see it, sure, but I did accidentally. And my name was nowhere to be found. I'm quite close to this department, so the implied rejection there really stings. I'm really broken up about it.
Honestly, I am not sure I'll be able to get past these feelings. I feel like if I can't get on the short list at the institution that knows me best, and allegedly respects my work and my company, then there is no hope for any of my other applications. I feel like I'm free falling.
To make matters worse, my plan b (an accelerated MPH) is looking more and more impractical. Why would I get in there if I can't get into an anthropology program? My weak spots are all in quantitative research. And how would it even help? Would it really make a difference? I'm not old, but I'm also not young--should I be thinking realistically? If, after completing an MA at an R1 with a stellar transcript, CV and recommendations, I get shut out, is this even for me? Don't I owe it to my family to get over myself, my 'dreams' of the academe, and just get a regular job? I could go into sales. I could go back into communications. I could work. I could make money.
I regret telling people I was applying in the first place. I regret putting that I finished my applications on Facebook. People know I'm waiting. How will I be able to tell people who ask that I struck out? I don't know if I could live that down.
I know I'm getting ahead of myself. I know that no news is just that: no news. But somehow I feel like the walls are closing in faster than I'd anticipated, and I'm staring down a season of rejections. I see this long stretch of disappointments. I'm facing graduation in May, losing my 3 (!!) university jobs contingent on my matriculation status, and a seemingly endless year of second guessing myself and maybe, just maybe, reapplying.
I see in the forums that a lot of people are similarly floundering. It's hard not to interpret silence, even so early on in the process, as negative feedback. But what if you do have evidence, like I do? How do you make sense of a loss? I took a massive risk going back to school and I'm facing the possibility that it all might blow up in my face.
When all of the regular platitudes do nothing to make you feel better, what do you do? I asked my husband to stop telling me it was going to be fine -- because we don't know that. It probably isn't going to be fine. I've got Elliott Smith, I've got tea, I've got cats and Hulu, but I still feel pretty terrible.
I've learned the hard way; never tell a woman to calm down, chill, or relax.
But my relationships (thankfully) aren’t the point of this post.
I think I’m managing all the waiting pretty well. No matter what the AdCom tells me – I’ll figure out a way to live the life I want. Pffft, It’s only the first week of February. Pffft, that “Results Post” from UT Austin Rhetoric… it’s probably imaginary,
I think I’m doing well – and then I think, “they’d tell me first, right?”
I think, “I’ll get an early acceptance. It should be right around the corner – never mind that they haven’t notified until much later in the month. Never mind any of that. They’d look at my file and decide to notify me early… because I’m special.”
I need to quit thinking.
I suppose I prefer the optimistic premonitions rather than my previously pessimistic doubt filled daydreams.
But. I need to quit thinking.
Soooo – regular readers will remember that I’m a (self-described) ruggedly handsome dude.
So have at it. Tell me to calm down, chill, and relax.
It's finally here. I leave for recruitment weekend at my future home (top choice program!) in only four days. I'm not nervous, per se, but I am definitely over-preparing. I re-read all of the emails between me and my future PI, the itinerary from the department, the research section for each interviewer's webpage, and my application materials. I've also started compiling a list of questions to ask during my one-on-one meetings and the group dinners.
I've already been accepted, since I won a college fellowship after my recruitment invite was extended, so I'm not worried about that aspect, but this weekend is still important. Most of the other interviewees haven't been accepted yet, and we're all going to be fighting for the departmental fellowships whose recipients will be decided after we leave. And of course, we're all trying to make a good impression on our future departmental faculty, make strong connections for collaboration, and figure out if this really is the right place for us to call home for another five to six years.
I plan on writing a new blog post each day of my recruitment weekend. I arrive on Thursday and leave on Sunday, so be prepared to hear all about this wild ride.
Here's a breakdown of my itinerary:
Thursday: Plane. Meet with PI for dinner.
Friday: Breakfast with committee members. Overview of the department facilities. Applicant presentations of research experience and interests. Individual faculty meetings with six different faculty, including my PI., for thirty minutes each. Social event with all current students, postdocs, researchers, and faculty. Meet with PI for dinner.
Saturday: Free time to see the area or have additional faculty meetings. Lunch with committee members. Tour of the city with current students. Hockey game. Dinner and social activities with current students.
Sunday: Leave back home.