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I have been a longtime lurker in these forums and finally decided to join the convo. I'm writing about a topic that is relatively sensitive and in a 2019 context is highly charged so I'm hoping this dialogue can be productive and respectful. Full disclosure, I am a woman of color and this has been the most emotionally taxing process I've ever been through, and I've been through some shit. I know this is something everyone has to accept, but I feel terribly alone at the moment. The silent but toxic stress of carrying all of these identities is killing me. After being one of the few members of my immediate and extended family to complete a bachelors degree, I entered the workforce for several years and after mind numbing work, I decided to re-enter academia and apply to PhD programs. Though I am not first generation, I might as well be. My mother has an associates and my father completed his masters shortly after I entered college myself. Beyond that, I don't know anyone who has ever ventured into getting any sort of advanced degrees of any kind let alone bachelors degrees or high school diplomas. My parents, though supportive, proved quite useless during this process and many of my other family and friends didn't understand why I'd give up a great career to "go back to school." It's draining at family functions to have conversations about things no one understands and judges me heavily for. Navigating the application process was such a difficult process. I reached out to other minorities and POC (person/people of color) during the initial stages but they too vocalized how taking on this endeavor can be very difficult if you're the first to do it. Not to sound like a martyr but for much of my academic and career journeys thus far I have always been the first and only in the spaces I exist in. I am one of a few POC at work and I was one of 3 POC women in a group of about 10 total in my undergraduate program. The stress of constantly feeling like I need to represent an entire group is draining and the burden of not feeling like I can measure up is exhausting. Imposter syndrome has been real. At every step of this process I have been filled with self doubt. I waited 2 years to take the GRE just because I was afraid of failing. I did not I got 160Q/167V/5.5 Writing respectively. Then I applied to programs and felt like my statement of purpose wouldn't be good enough, I was told by many that it was great. I went to open houses and info sessions thinking I didn't belong only to walk away feeling empowered. But now, that has all come to an overflowing boil. I am at a point in the PhD application process where it's becoming more readily apparent that I will probably get a flush of denies to every program I applied. I have seen acceptances and invitations for interviews go up and my inbox remains empty save for the 4 denies I've already received. When people ask me how the process is going, i can't bring myself to tell them I've been denied so I just keep saying "I'm still waiting to hear back...". Though this is true, I have no faith that I'll get into the remaining 3 programs I'm waiting on. Even my 'safety school' denied me already. What's more frustrating is the current undertones that exist in admissions -- the Harvard case against affirmative action, the feeling that spots are "deserved" rather than earned, this idea that POC are given spots in program. I was not expecting to be admitted based on some diversity metrics, and I don't fully believe at the PhD level special considerations are made based on race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. But to continually get denied makes me feel double as bad as I feel like I truly was the worst of a group that already gets special considerations/concessions. I am not sure how to move on from these denials and face the hoards of family who thought I was crazy for considering this, the coworkers and friends who have supported me with a zeal that honestly made me even consider doing this in the first place, and the countless other marginalized groups I wanted to encourage through my application and acceptances into programs. Though I identify (and exist) as a woman of color, I know I am not alone. I know there are countless women, people of color, international students, immigrants, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented or marginalized populations who hopefully can identify with these emotions and I just wanted to allow for a space for folks to be vulnerable.
I sure as shit am not. One round is enough. I don't want to volunteer in anyone's lab just on the off chance it will give my application any more strength. If I don't get in this round, I'm done. I'm getting a job as a lab technician for a year, attending a coding bootcamp, and then start a career as a full stack developer. This whole application process makes me hate academia and I can't stand it anymore.
So, it's been a while since I last updated this. The main reason for this is that there is little to no news. The adjoining reason is that what news there is likely would only lead to a pretty depressing post. I'll keep it as light and cheerful as I can manage. Since last we met, I've been rejected, either tacitly or directly, from an additional four programs, leaving me with two that have yet to send any information: Georgia State University and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. I'm not holding my breath that I'll get rejected from UMass-Amherst and then accepted to NYU, but stranger things have happened. I'm hoping that GSU sends me an acceptance, but since I've already been down this road before, I'm preparing for the worst (while, naturally, hoping for the best). In order to move forward with my life (or at the very least make a lateral move) I'm applying to teach English abroad in Japan. My SO is doing it, I want to have some semblance of independence, and I like travel. It's win-win-win. Going back to the constantly getting rejected from PhD programs bit, I understand that the admissions committees are busy and I am but a floating speck of dust in the cosmic scheme, but why wouldn't there be some system of feedback for these things? It seems like it would be simple enough to provide some pointers on where an applicant could improve their packet. "Did not attend Ivy League school for undergrad," or "You're kidding, right?" or even "Lack of formal academic training in Communication/Media Studies makes candidate unsuitable for program." As I've mentioned before, I have a lot working against me, so I'd like to know what it is that is keeping me out of the big leagues. This is what I get for not being much of a planner, I suppose.
I received word on Tuesday from the University of Wisconsin at Madison that my application to their Communication Arts - Media and Cultural Studies PhD was rejected. This was disappointing (I ate a pizza and watched The Flash in my darkened room after work, which I'd have done anyway, but that's not the point) but wasn't a huge surprise to me for a few reasons. The first reason was that their MCS division had been shrunk significantly in the previous years and only had about half of the spots available of the next smallest program. This is a trend in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) as higher education is being gutted (as it is nationwide). This is particular to the humanities and, to a lesser extent, the social sciences. Now I can prattle on about neoliberalism and the commodification of education in the United States, but I'd rather talk about myself. So, additionally, I suppose I may not have been the best fit for my prospective POI, despite the interest I perceived through our email correspondence. It could have been my abysmal undergraduate GPA (3.06. Never enter college thinking you'll be a doctor when all you made were Bs and Cs in science and math in high school. As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a planner.) or the fact that my two MAs had nothing to do with communications. Whatever the reason, they didn't want me. So, now I wait for the remaining six to render their judgment. I continue to have Rambo-esque flashbacks of last year when I got completely shut out. To paraphrase Frank Reynolds: "Wisconsin drew first blood!"