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Hi everyone, first time poster here. I recently started a masters of biology program and had an excellent first semester. I made friends and thought life couldn't be better- I was in a lab doing work I really liked and was interested in. I was a top recruit based off my qualifications and got a full scholarship and good stipend. I thought my advisor and I really got along. My second semester I went through some health problems and did my best to push through, but couldn't physically make it to the university at times. I had no ongoing project yet and still made class, lab meetings, and helped with my lab mates projects. But I also had a lot of doctor appointments that took me off campus, sometimes quite far away. Something seemed amiss my second semester about midway through the year. I noticed my cohort of about 5 other graduate students stopped inviting me to socialize with them. They always seemed to do things in the lab without me. Then one day, I received a hateful and angry message from one student who I thought had become a close friend of mine. It hurt like hell and I still haven't recovered. After this very rough end to a semester, I had an international trip planned with my advisor to a research station. We seemed to be on great terms when we left. The environment in this remote location is quite stressful however. In the first few weeks of my trip I tried to ask my advisor about PhD programs. To start that conversation he proceeded to tell me that I was at fault for my lab mates disliking me, (despite evidence that I helped them and was a good lab mate even when I got sick,) I had to change my behavior, but the only behavior he could think of was that I am occasionally tardy by less than five minutes. Then, he abruptly ended the conversation saying that was all I was going to get out of him about PhD programs. Days and weeks went by and I noticed whenever we spoke about my academic aspirations or life goals, he would say very demeaning, passive aggressive things. For example that not everyone is cut out for a PhD, or that you aren't a real scientist until you do a PhD, or that he was the only one who did any real science on site (totally disregarding my project). Today he brought up my situation with my lab mates at home and called me dead weight. He also said that if this were a PhD program I wouldnt have made the cut. He brought up once again that I was tardy a few times but otherwise couldnt really say anything negative. This is after I have been in the field lab constantly putting 110% into my project for 12 hour days every day with no breaks for 8 weeks. I literally missed meals for this project and worked very hard. He said he'll talk with my lab mates back home but if he has to get involved beyond that he wont sacrifice 5 projects for one. As in, even though there is evidence that I have done my best and helped others until they started to exclude me, and even though I have worked so hard on this project, he still thinks of me in a negative light and wouldn't hesitate to cut me from the lab. He also mentioned passively aggressively that he has written bad review letters for PhD programs before. Tldr; my advisor thinks poorly of me despite me working as hard as absolutely possible during our field season and does not want me to go on to a PhD program. The only real evidence he has against me is that I am tardy every once in a while (which is due to health problems out of my control mostly- though I have not told him that as he is incredibly ableist). He has never criticized my analytical abilities as a student studying to be a scientist yet puts my dreams of going on to a PhD program down constantly and passive aggressively says mean things, going as far as making what I would consider a personal attack to my face. I dont know what to do. I am considering switching advisors or labs if I can do so when I return home. I'm afraid of my scholarship being affected as well as needing to spend extra time in school before my PhD. He has impacted me in such a negative way though that my emotional and mental health have taken a real nose dive. I dont think I can stomach another year in his lab after the type of things he and my lab mates have done. Please help me.
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 wanted to say THANK YOU to this great group of supportive people. I've been working on getting into a PhD program for the last two years, and I finally got in!!!!! Last year was incredibly deflating as rejection after rejection poured in. After wallowing for a little bit (but not too long, I have a family with one small kiddo at the time and another kiddo that was born right in the middle of the rejections, so I was quickly distracted by life), I made a plan to try again. As I told one of my recommenders "As with any setback, I am taking this as an opportunity to regroup, reassess, and improve." Below is a description of what I did, in case it's helpful to anyone else out there who finds themselves in the same position this year (if so, you can still do it!). I reached out to every school that had said no (all 13 of them), and bugged anyone who would pick up a phone or answer and email to figure out what happened. It was really two buckets: Bad fit of program with my research, or I was simply not in the top 2-5 applicants. So, I did three big things to close the gap and increase my odds: First I started from scratch on defining what my research interests actually are by constructing a realistic research topic I could dive into on day one, and then sticking with that in every conversation. This helped me rapidly filter programs that didn't match, and quickly gave me new leads in conversations ("We don't do that sort of behavioral operations work here, but Professor XYZ at school ABC is an expert. Let me send her an email") Next I did something very practical: I retook the GRE. And this time I really studied for it! I actually bought an online course (Magoosh if anyone is interested) and listened to every lecture and did every practice problem (all 1200+ of them). After three months of work on nights and over my lunch breaks, I went from 76th percentile in quantitative reasoning to 92nd percentile. I also improved my other scores (got a perfect verbal the second time), but that quant score came up during my interviews repeatedly. Will knowing how to quickly find the number of non-repeating diagonals in an arbitrary n-gon help me in my PhD studies? No. But I finally had a score that matched my ability to learn and it made an incredible difference this year in opening doors. Finally, I did something radical. I quit my job. Technically, I formed an independent consulting firm to work on non-traditional projects, which I really did do! It just also gave me the flexibility to physically drive to campuses around the East Coast and meet faculty and students in person. I was literally checking doors to see if they were locked and wandering into offices to introduce myself. Forming that company has been a terrible financial decision (man I miss corporate healthcare), but it gave me the flexibility to become a known face when my application came up for review. Face-Time = Name-Recognition = Success The result: Multiple acceptances, including to my absolute top choice, and incredible connections at many fine research institutions that I will be able to use in the years ahead! Plus no wallowing! The entire time, I was looking here at The Grad Cafe and reading about other's work and experiences applying, both failures and successes. The stories here, and genuine heartfelt support and advice was one of the things that kept me going. Thank you all for your support, and good luck to those still reaching for the dream!
I remember myself having to deal with getting a cut off GPA one semester and read my eyes out.The strategies that include staying up late,taking extra classes and other things so I don't fall short. It is actually difficult to concentrate when you are under so much pressure so I did all I could and then came the exams,I did all I could and still fell short.Moral of this is to never out yourself under pressure. Anyway,I hired a professional hacker who then helped me change the grades so I'm good lol but let's not miss the point here. Study at your own convenience