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Hi everyone,

So I figured I'd start this thread not to encourage pessimism, but to talk about the realistic possibility of receiving all rejections. I have personally applied to seven Psychology PhD programs with no response (as of January 13th) and I think a forum like this would help those of us, like me, who are facing this anxiety. This is my first round of graduate school applications and I think this could be a beneficial space to maybe hear words of encouragement from those students who went through a rotation without any acceptances? "Everything happens for a reason" is a great quote but not necessarily one someone wants to hear after years of their hard work doesn't get recognized the way it should.

I hope whoever joins this conversation can give advice on how to stay motivated, what to do in regards to self care, and address the "what nows?" that have infiltrated our thought process. Again, I really don't want this to come across as pessimistic or too hopeless, rather a realistic approach to this tough process. I wish everyone on here the best of luck in regards to admissions. 

Applications: UT Austin (Counseling Psych); University of Houston (Clinical Psych); University of Louisville (Counseling Psych); Florida International University (Clinical Psych); Clark University (Clinical Psych); Harvard University (Clinical Psych); USC (Clinical Psych)

Acceptances: ?/7; Interview Notifications: 0/7; Interviews: 0/7; Rejections: ?/7

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I feel a similar way. I only applied to 5 schools, 2 of which were masters programs. I haven’t received any sort of emails (rejections or interview invitations) for any of my programs and some other people have already heard back from different advisors from those programs.

it is difficult to find that balance between not being too emotionally invested and keeping up hope and also being realistic given the circumstances. A lot of people say that it is still relatively early, but I think that does not do much to quell anxieties.

i think the major thing we can do right now is just let ourselves feel whatever we are feeling. I don’t think any rational decisions are going to be made in the immediate time after applications because the process is very emotionally exhausting and I think we should give ourselves space to feel whatever emotions we may be feeling whether it includes sadness, anger, confusion, or others. One thing that someone told me recently that made me feel reassured was that, “if not today, there are other days to come.”

I hope my rant helped and I just wanted to say I see you and empathize with you because I’m in a similar boat. 

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I think this is a great thread. Im applying for the second time now with a very different outcome than my first time, two years ago. I had applied to 14 schools (clinical psych) and only heard from one (to which I was not accepted). 

I was convinced that there was nothing I could have done differently or better, but that's not true. I think one thing that helped me beyond the "everything happens for a reason" bit is to remember that academia is highly insulated. Even now, I feel very strongly about the research I do and I work for a PI that is internationally recognized for her work in the subject matter...but my friends, parents, roommates, uber drivers, bartenders acquaintances (the list goes on..and yes, I bore strangers with science) have no idea who she is...and for that matter, couldn't care less. Life goes on. Life is bigger than prestige and academia. This attitude helped me to think more globally about my applications this time around. Having this attitude helped me maintain a sense of confidence in my writing (statement) and preliminary phone interviews. 

With all of that being said, getting into a program was and continues to be a goal for me, and as such, I think that a person should commit and do what it takes to get there. I took a 10K paycut and had to move for my new job but it was worth it because my scientific productivity was high. I think the point there is to continue to be proactive! Email PIs, reach out to folks to express interest in their work...change your environment to reflect what you hope to achieve. if you're at a dead end lab - branch out and take an educated risk. Dont rush. I can't stress that enough. Im not a spring chicken and if you looked up the term impatient in the dictionary...you'd see my surly face..being impatient. But taking your time to really refine your interests will only pay off in the end.

Finally..and I mean this as much as possible in a non sugar and spice and everything nice kind of way, but remind yourself that you know your shit and that you're a worthy candidate. Always stay curious and maintain humility, but that doesn't entail discrediting your accomplishments and hard earned/acquired skills and knowledge. Work your ass off so that next time you know you crossed the t's.

Wishing you and everyone whose feeling down the best of luck. Keep yr chin up.

Edited by Timemachines

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So, this isn't my program, but I thought I'd weigh in. I was rejected from all my potential programs last year and it hurt. A lot. But, one of the things I did was immediately begin analyzing my application and critically thinking of what I could improve for the next round.

One of the things that I did was focus even harder on fit this time. That meant, in my case, applying outside of my previous field. I also decided my previous SoP was crap and spent a lot of time editing that section this time around. I also asked multiple friends (many of whom are currently in the programs I applied to) to review my SoP to help me make it even better. Between my first round and second, I finished my MA so I used my project report from that as the basis of my writing sample this time (submitting the entire report when asked, a chapter or two when a smaller sample was requested). I also presented my research at conferences and other mediums when possible. My GPA was basically the same (I think it went from 3.96 to 3.97 by the time I graduated) and I did not retake the GRE. 

Although not directly part of my application, I also reached out to either a PoI or DGS at each program (that didn't say something against doing that) and asked questions to better understand how I would fit there. In some cases, this communication actually convinced me to not apply and, in others, it made me confident in my choice to submit an app. I learned quite a bit of information about the programs, campuses, surrounding town/city, and ways I could contribute to the program (in addition to the basics of earning the degree). Personally, I think this went a long way in making me a stronger applicant this round. I've been accepted to one school already and admissions decisions for my other programs aren't expected to go out until February (two of the programs do send out interview invites later in January though).

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I went through 3 application cycles with rejections, and finally got accepted into a clinical PhD program the 4th time around. It's a hard process. It was so hard that the 4th was going to be my last, acceptance or not. I didn't even get any interviews my third time applying. I found that each application cycle with no acceptance continuously fuelled me into improving my application. I got more publications, I learned more advanced statistical techniques, I did some clinical skills workshops. I aimed to make myself as competitive as possible and it paid off for me.  

It's really easy to get obsessed with the process when you're waiting to hear back. My advice is to not constantly check your email or even this forum. Do things that make you happy. If do you get rejected, take some time to be sad, but then pick yourself back up and try again. 

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I was a business and psychology double major for my undergrad and went through business internship/job hunting for almost four semesters. I would say during those days my thought process, some of the questions I asked myself, were quite similar to those OP listed. Eventually it comes down to

  1. keep trying something I think could increase my chance or achieve my goals
  2. resist taking it personal and recognize that there are many environmental factors in the process besides what I was doing, and while I put in my efforts, my strategies are also subject to re-evaluation and re-focus 
  3. have some reliable sources of support from other people.

I think the thoughts posted in the other replies above are all great and applicable. In the end the results of the application will certainly neither doom us nor guarantee us anything. With consistent motivation (maybe also some reasonable up and down), reflection and adjustment, something would emerge eventually I think.

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I had a--relatively--dead application cycle last year.

Due primarily to family crises and financial hardship, I only applied to a limited number of schools (3) and got accepted to one program but some things came up within the department and my PI couldn't take me on. As a result, I've had this year to work on myself and strengthening my application.

I can honestly say that being rejected was a really good thing for me as it made me really think about how badly I wanted to pursue graduate study. I accelerated through my undergrad and MA program and never really took the time to reflect on why I was doing what I was doing. I just always knew I wanted to be a faculty member. This year gave me the opportunity to serve as one--albeit as 'just' and adjunct--and it really solidified my drive to continue doing what I'm doing.

The soul searching really helped and I've been able to pin down my research interests more specifically which has helped a lot in the interviews I've had so far (4 of 11!). I took the year to focus on my research and finished about 7-projects with 3 out for review.

Refining my research interests also lead me to apply to new faculty members that I either didn't know about or was not confident enough to apply to last year and now they're some of the schools vying for me which is incredibly exciting.

Another benefit is that I got to take the GRE again and bumped all my points up a collective 22-points (Verbal and Quantitative).

Don't lose hope. A round of rejections is certainly a blessing so long as you look at it in that way. Sure, you're 'losing' a year but you're gaining perspective. Your statements are already largely written and can only be improved upon, you can retake the GRE if you need to, do more focused research, and really figure out if this is the right thing for you.

Edited by MutedSeraph

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This happens in academia far too often. You could have near-perfect GRE scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and even fit; yet you're still not selected. Social capital is a powerful thing, I wish there was more research on it. I worry when applying to programs that also have a terminal masters because of how often schools transition (though deserving) students from the masters to PhD program. Faculty of a student that know other faculty. Students finding their POI at a conference and getting face-time...they are playing the game. In IO we learn about how the most random factors like name and handshake can affect your likelihood to receive a job offer, especially when the process is unstructured. The application process is very unstructured: some professors hate the GRE, some love applied experience, some publications, sometimes it's just random in terms of who you apply to. It's hard not to take it personal. Graduate applicants are conscientious; you can tell by the path they've chosen.  However, I've never met someone intrinsically motivated that didn't get in. Keep hope. Learn. Find out what the accepted candidates "had" that you didn't. Objectively you may have been much higher on the list, but the list isn't objective; otherwise, a computer would select who gets in. 

 

 

In reality: I cry and listen to Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away"

Edited by Left Skew

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Two years ago, I applied to 8 clinical programs, and I didn't hear a word from a single one until I got my official rejection in the mail. Some of what I have ot say is advice, but I also find just writing about it be a bit cathartic. 

Self-Care
I'll admit my self-care following my rejections sucked...like really bad. I gained some weight and trended towards depression. I pretty much had no motivation to do anything for a few months. Didn't really go out with friends, let my school work go, and kept to myself. Perhaps what made the whole thing worse was that none of my friends or classmates or even my parents really knew what I was going through. Mostly, I regretted a lot of my choice during my undergrad and blamed myself for how things turned out. This isn't very fair to yourself though; you're young and you're going to make mistakes. Things improved for me when I started my Masters and a lot of my cohort were also Ph.D. program rejects. Then at least I could talk to other people about what I'm going through. I wish I could offer better self-care advice. All I can say is don't do what I did.

Motivation

Once I got myself more under control (several months later), motivation wasn't too big of a problem. One of the biggest motivators I've ever had is to make sure that this never happens to me again. While other people in my Master's program decided they wouldn't take the GRE again prior to applying to Ph.D. programs, I was motivated to not take that risk. Also, I was highly motivated to seek out opportunities to get publications, and I was motivated to do well in my graduate classes. Just let your rejection be a motivating force. It can really drive you.

What Now

A lot of people suggest reaching out to the programs you were rejected from and perhaps asking for feedback. I didn't do this. However, I did take a long, hard look at my application once I got back on my feet. *You don't need to do this immediately after rejection. You can practice self-care first*

Being critical and realistic about your application is one of the most important things you can do after a bad application season. A few things became clear to me. 1) My undergrad GPA was below average for all programs, 2) My GRE scores were below average, 3) My research experience wasn't enough at that point in time (only a year of experience), 4) My SOP sucked (everyone always assumes they wrote a great SOP. Have you noticed that? Looking back, I cringe at mine).

There were two obvious options of where to go from there. First, I could join a lab for a year and try again next year. Second, I could do a terminal Masters. My reasoning in picking the second option was that I had three big issues in my application, and I needed some extra help from a Masters. Ultimately, this has shown to be a good choice, but I often recommend people to just join a lab for a year if all they lack is research experience.

If you do end up doing a Masters, I highly recommend doing research outside of your thesis. A lot of people in my program just focused on doing their thesis and did not join other labs. This is extremely wasteful because your thesis won't be far enough along to discuss with your POI by the time you apply in your second year. Plus joining other labs lets you potentially get publications and posters and opens you up to other areas of research.

I took the GRE again, and I had some big improvements. If you have a less than stellar GPA, I really do recommend spending the time and taking the GRE again. Your scores don't have to be amazing, but don't let them be below average.

 Other Notes

"Everything happens for a reason" is a really sucky quote. However, I would acknowledge that I am glad I didn't get into a Clinical Program. During my Masters, I discovered Quantitative Psychology, and I realized that I really wouldn't have been happy in a Clinical program. In that sense, I think I really benefited from not getting into a Ph.D. program on my first try. It can be beneficial to regroup and realize that maybe what you thought you wanted to do isn't actually what you want to do.

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Just keep the final goal in mind.

Life is not linear, and in fact, many of the doctoral students, psychologists, and psychiatrists I've talked to and worked with have had non-linear paths to get where they are now. Psychology is the most popular major in America and clinical psych programs are the most competitive graduate program to gain admittance to, above med and law school. Many awesome qualified applicants take more than one try to get in. But the thing that separates the people who do get in and the ones that never get in is that the former group didn't give up and kept trying. 

It can be really hard to kind of "put your life on hold" for another year or two in order to apply again. But remember your final goal. You want to do this because you'll end up with a career that is infinitely rewarding for you and will last through the rest of your life. An extra year or two in exchange for that? Pretty good deal in my opinion.

In terms of dealing with rejection, it sucks. It just fucking sucks. There're no emotional shortcuts to dealing with rejection, and self-care is certainly important in those periods. Also in my non-scientific opinion, karaoke and a few shots of bourbon also expedite the recovery process. 

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On 1/14/2018 at 11:17 AM, Left Skew said:

This happens in academia far too often. You could have near-perfect GRE scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and even fit; yet you're still not selected. Social capital is a powerful thing, I wish there was more research on it. I worry when applying to programs that also have a terminal masters because of how often schools transition (though deserving) students from the masters to PhD program. Faculty of a student that know other faculty. Students finding their POI at a conference and getting face-time...they are playing the game. In IO we learn about how the most random factors like name and handshake can affect your likelihood to receive a job offer, especially when the process is unstructured. The application process is very unstructured: some professors hate the GRE, some love applied experience, some publications, sometimes it's just random in terms of who you apply to. It's hard not to take it personal. Graduate applicants are conscientious; you can tell by the path they've chosen.  However, I've never met someone intrinsically motivated that didn't get in. Keep hope. Learn. Find out what the accepted candidates "had" that you didn't. Objectively you may have been much higher on the list, but the list isn't objective; otherwise, a computer would select who gets in. 

In reality: I cry and listen to Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away"

I don't know how this works in other departments, but I can tell you that in mine they only offer two interview slots to the terminal masters students. I don't think that's something they say on their website. This year a ton of masters students applied to the Ph.D. program and it was basically a bloodbath. Anyways, I wouldn't necessarily see the presence of a terminal masters program as negative. 

I don't think we ever really know why we don't get in. But here's a story I want to share from a PI I've worked with. 

There was a clinical program he loved and he applied the first time and didn't get in. Next round of applications he applied and didn't get in -- but he got into an experimental Ph.D. program and went there. He completed that Ph.D. After that he still had an interest in clinical work and applied again to that original clinical program -- and didn't get in. Even with a Ph.D. and years of research experience and multiple publications. But he applied again the next year and finally got in. He went and now he has two Ph.D.s. 

I think the point is that persistence is the name of the game here. The application process is crazy and a lot of it doesn't make sense. You could be amazingly qualified and still not get in. It isn't necessarily something negative about you. There are things we can all do to improve but that is always going to be true. 

So.... if I don't get in this time around I'll probably cry for a couple of weeks straight and then force myself to get back to work. Then I'll apply again next year with more experience... and show them that there's nothing they can do to make me give up on this. 

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I'm currently on my second round of applications. While it hasn't been perfect, I have an in-person interview scheduled... so it's not off to a bad start! During my first round, I applied to four schools and had the belief (which was encouraged by faculty at the school I went to undergrad at) that I would definitely get in. Needless to say, I did not.

I... did not take it well. When I found out that I was not being invited for an in-person interview with the only program that I had gotten any contact from, I cried a bit. Fortunately, I work in an understanding lab, and I was able to take the day off. The PI in my lab helped me by providing just the right amount of work to do while I refocused.

My first step was to reach out to one of the researchers I applied to work with. Since we established a positive relationship, she was willing to offer me advice that strengthened my application. I strongly suggest this if it is possible. Rejection sucks, but it offers an opportunity to improve and strengthen your application. I followed these steps to strengthen my application:

  1.  Spent even more time working in labs
  2. Sought out opportunities to work on manuscripts (it's fine if they are listed as "in prep"!) and  conference submissions
  3. Studied and retook the GREs. My scores weren't bad, but they needed improvement
  4. Rewrote my SOP. The SOP that I submitted last cycle wasn't bad, but it definitely needed some work
  5. Submitted an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship application. Even if I don't get funding, going through the process is super useful!
  6. Refined my research interests

 

I'm honestly glad that I didn't get accepted last cycle. If I had, I would have missed a lot of opportunities to make myself a better researcher as well as a lot of life-based opportunities. 

The best method of self-care for me was to allow myself to grieve the loss of the possibilities I saw and then refocus my efforts to be a better candidate next go around (all while allowing myself to live my life). I hope this helps!

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Also not my field, but I'm got some experience with very selective admission committees and wanted to add an important point to all the great ones mentioned above:

Don't take it personally

Seriously. You would not believe how, at a certain point, this process is largely arbitrary. Because, really, it's not like the departments are looking carefully at each application and saying "this person meets our standards, this person doesn't" and all the former get in. No. They do that, then look at the still large pile of people who meet their standards and they'd like to accept, and then somehow figure a way to whittle it down to the number of slots they actually have available.

It bothers me when I see people on results page say "oh, I knew my GPA [or GRE] wasn't good enough" or "I bet it was because I didn't have any publications." If your GRE/GPA is way below the average for your program, that might be the case. But for people at or above the average, it is literally impossible to guess why you weren't accepted and someone else was. (It's not impossible to know, you could ask them and they might tell you. But it's impossible to guess.) Once you meet a certain standard on the basics and you're on the shortlist, you can bet that what gets you accepted or rejected after that point is entirely out of your control. Departmental politics, a particular faculty member's ability to take on another student, the profiles of the students accepted last year, the profiles of the other students who will probably be accepted this year, unconscious biases (or affinities), funding issues ... Or a billion other things that could affect the decision — all of which are out of your hands, and none of which are even really about you.

So if you get rejected, even if you get rejected by all of them, don't take it personally. Take a good look and if you have obvious deficiencies make a plan to correct them, but if you don't, don't drive yourself crazy trying to find what small flaw caused them to reject you. Because, a lot of times, it's not you; it's them.

 

scaling-startup-house-not-all-about-you.

 

 

Edited by semling

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