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Dark Times

NOWAYNOHOW

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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.



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You have family.

You have people who love you.

You have your own brilliant mind.

 

When you consider these - yes, things will be fine. 

 

Why are you allowing yourself to be tortured by something that hasn't happened? 

Plan on being accepted. Sure, have a back-up plan. But don't torture yourself assuming you'll get shut out. 

If it happens? Come to us. Let us tell you how silly it was for those universities to shut you out. Let us tell you that we genuinely care. That we still think you're brilliant.

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Well first thing's first: Elliot Smith (and I love him!) is the wrong music to listen to in your condition! Haha.

Now I know that I may not be the person you want to hear from on this, but let me tell you that you aren't alone. This emotional roller coaster is making me sick too. As one POI told me, "[The admissions process] is all a game." Well I don't want to play this game anymore.

And we can't even call it a "rite of passage," can we? Isn't the whole point of liminality the fear that one must experience, not knowing if they'll make it to the other side? Only this time, there is a very real possibility of that happening! For those that survive, it is a rite of passage. For those that don't...it is a personal affront, an affront to all of the hard work and dedication that we have contributed to our passion. That ravine is looking deeper and deeper every time I look down.

You still have a handful of other schools that you're waiting on. So let's keep our eyes forward, and stop looking down.

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Well first thing's first: Elliot Smith (and I love him!) is the wrong music to listen to in your condition! Haha.

Now I know that I may not be the person you want to hear from on this, but let me tell you that you aren't alone. This emotional roller coaster is making me sick too. As one POI told me, "[The admissions process] is all a game." Well I don't want to play this game anymore.

And we can't even call it a "rite of passage," can we? Isn't the whole point of liminality the fear that one must experience, not knowing if they'll make it to the other side? Only this time, there is a very real possibility of that happening! For those that survive, it is a rite of passage. For those that don't...it is a personal affront, an affront to all of the hard work and dedication that we have contributed to our passion. That ravine is looking deeper and deeper every time I look down.

You still have a handful of other schools that you're waiting on. So let's keep our eyes forward, and stop looking down.

 

You are a child sage, DTPowis.

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Not getting into grad school does not mean that you have no worth/value nor does it mean that you are not even qualified! The competition is tough! 

 

But right now you just have "no news", not "rejected everywhere". So let's cross that bridge when you come to that! Here are some alternative thoughts on your "no news" to give a different point of view.

 

1. Not all accepted applicants are necessarily notified at the same time. At one of my programs, I later learned that due to a mixup, everyone else found out days ahead of me because all the profs thought someone else was going to notify me. It's true that it's not good news when there is no news, but since it's only been a day, it's not certain yet!

 

2. Sometimes knowing you well is actually not helpful to your applications. Sometimes a grad school would rather invest in someone with promising potential than someone they actually know the ability of because usually the potential is higher than reality. So even if your ability is good enough for grad school, the school that didn't shortlist you might have shortlisted someone else with a higher potential than your known ability. If it turns out that this other person's real ability is the same as yours, then they have lost nothing. But if it turns out this other person's real ability is higher then they have "won". 

 

Admissions is a cruel game and I hope it works out for you, one way or another!

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I get what you mean about Elliot Smith though. It's pretty bad when I have to be cheered up by Depeche Mode.

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2. Sometimes knowing you well is actually not helpful to your applications. Sometimes a grad school would rather invest in someone with promising potential than someone they actually know the ability of because usually the potential is higher than reality. So even if your ability is good enough for grad school, the school that didn't shortlist you might have shortlisted someone else with a higher potential than your known ability. If it turns out that this other person's real ability is the same as yours, then they have lost nothing. But if it turns out this other person's real ability is higher then they have "won". 

 

 

This is actually the game that is being played, and I have no doubt about it.  And I think it's not even a question of potential and reality, but rather the idea that the grass is always greener, so to speak.  I'm good, but there could always be something better.  I'm safe.  Why play it safe when there are brilliant, exciting chances to be taken?

 

Thanks for the kind words!

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You know, I didn't even tell my parents I was applying because I didn't want to deal with the disappointment of having to tell other people. My husband knows (obvi) and 3 close friends. I have a job (not a career, because I sort of hate it) but the thought of not going to grad school, not pursuing my research, or my chosen career path literally makes me feel sick. I've waited a long time to be in the position to be able to actually go to grad school. I've been trying to tell myself that I'm not getting in so that I don't have to deal with the crush of failure, but that hopeful little voice in the back of my mind prevails. Hope! 

 

 

If we haven't heard the definite NO, there's still hope! Hope!

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Only the people on GradCafe know where I applied, but I don't know any of you personally so I don't risk disappointing you. My friends and family know that I did apply, but not where (or at least all of the places). Very few people know the whole list and me, and even fewer know about the rejections and interviews that I've already had. I still haven't told Facebook about WashU or Emory. I do intend to tell everyone eventually, but I'd much rather just play it all the way to the end.

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Dear Nowaynohow,

 

This is my first year applying for PhD programs in Anthropology (or anything) and I'm waiting to hear back on a school I know has already sent out their acceptances (and I'm not one), and I'm on a near-impossible wait-list. I have received a slew of rejections, and there's a very solid chance I won't have a place to go to in the fall.  However, I honestly do find some solace in this online community and other fellow applicant friends (who I know in-person) that are similarly striking out.  If anything, the numbers are against us, all of us - NYU this year for example, took what - 10 out of 300 applicants? That's 3%! I think the biggest thing I've learned and keep telling myself is that no matter how qualified and brilliant and amazing you are with great contacts and research and whatnot, it's just that competitive that it may take a couple tries before getting in.  Personally, I've learned a lot this year on what I can do better and also to simply apply to less competitive schools.  And I've also come to terms that I may need to reapply to programs next year - and actually, I know of a lot of current PhDs and even successful professors who had to apply 2 or 3 times to PhD programs before getting accepted; it's just that competitive.  So when family / friends ask you about programs, maybe just share some numbers and let them know that it's just crazy competitive out there to apply for these programs, and now you've got a better strategy if you want to reapply.  Don't lose hope just yet!  I know I'm not :)

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