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Post-admission stress disorder (PASD)


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Hi. I recently got admitted to a top 10 school in Computer Science (Ph.D.). At first it felt great but now I'm constantly haunted by the thought that I'm inadequate. Has anybody had a similar experienced? Please share your coping mechanisms, if any!

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I often feel the same way, but then I remind myself to trust the wise and all-knowing admissions committees. After all, they've looked through hundreds of apps and picked YOU. Chances are they even met you and liked you. Considering the fairly low attrition rates of top 10 schools (at least in my field) there is a high probability that they know you will succeed. It's going to be hard, it's going to suck, but you can do it!

...and then I eat some Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia to drown the fear ;)

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It's called Impostor Syndrome, and it's very, very common amongst us soon-to-be grads. At a recent admitted students visit, a current grad student on a student panel even addressed it, saying, "at some point, someone in a seminar will say something that is just completely intimidating, because it's brilliant and you don't know what theory s/he is familiar with and talking about. But you're here for a reason, and everyone was once in your shoes, and you will get there and be the intimidating one yourself." That was comforting.

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Good to know I'm not the only one feeling like that. I have my mother constantly telling me: Honey, you can do it!! But it's my mum, so she doesn't really count. smile.gif I have to remind myself that if I've been accepted, it's for a reason. There are plenty of people out there that went through the same as us, and they made it through. So, why can't we?

Good luck!

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I felt this way for a while, even after 4 acceptances, but my fears were eased after I went to the prospectives week at the school I've chosen to attend. I sat in on a class for which I had done some of the reading ahead of time and found very dense and hard to understand. I was so worried that this was what grad school would be like and that I would never be able to engage in any sort of meaningful conversations with my peers. Much to my surprise, it turned out that the majority of the students in the class were just as baffled as me! That was a huge relief.

I was also really worried about taking on a TAship with no teaching experience. One person I met said to me "Well, I won't lie, you are going to be terrible at first. You're going to get an awful evaluation. Everyone does. But after you get through that first class, it will become much more natural." Though that might not sound very comforting, it really felt good to hear that others had experienced the same struggles. I know starting grad school won't be easy, but I'm now much less afraid that the adcomm made a mistake in accepting me. And I don't feel like I have to live up to impossible standards.

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Although I'm not exactly passed post-admission, I still feel like I will be completely clueless in grad school. I feel like I should start to review everything I learned during my undergrad so I'm at least somewhat prepared and look at the syllabus for classes I might take so that I can prepare myself for whatever I may be learning.

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I often feel the same way, but then I remind myself to trust the wise and all-knowing admissions committees. After all, they've looked through hundreds of apps and picked YOU. ... It's going to be hard, it's going to suck, but you can do it!

...and then I eat some Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia to drown the fear ;)

^ This.

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I know this sounds wrong but I am so glad that I am not the only one plagued by overbearing feelings of inadequacy. I knew within my heart of hearts that I could get into grad school and I did. Now, after meeting some of the other recruits and realizing how seriously they are taking the whole process - I keep asking myself if I'm prepared for this. I attempted to cope by telling myself that out of hundreds of students (yep, hundreds - that's what my ego has convinced me of) I was chosen to enter the program. If they didn't think you were capable, they'd have sent you a big fat no. But somebody, somewhere sent you a big fat yes. I'm also constantly reminded that we are going to school to learn how to be better scientists, academicians, etc. But, on those days where none of the aforementioned bahookey (pronounced: bullshit) works I do the following:

1. Slap on a towel as though it were a cape with my matching spandex and run around saying neener neener neener neener SUPERGRAD (to the tune of the original Batman theme song)

2. Put on my best rock band performance and belt out the lyrics to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" (I can send video if you think it'll help you through this situation)

3. Sprint to the kitchen, break out all manner of prep for brownies AND chocolate chip cookies, commence with the baking and eat until those niggling thoughts are drowned in sugar and chocolatey goodness.

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Didnt realize that there are people like me who are facing PASD!! Considering everyone around me thought I was a fool to feel any other emotion apart from 'being ecstatic'!!!

Survival mechanisms:- 1. Been having an overdose of really expensive creamy pasta nearly every week at this cafe i love to lounge around in ...all alone!!

2. Been yelling at all loved ones...followed by a deep, long sleep..

3. On a more serious note- 25 laps in the pool every day followed by 3 hours of classical dance on weekends!!

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I know this sounds wrong but I am so glad that I am not the only one plagued by overbearing feelings of inadequacy. I knew within my heart of hearts that I could get into grad school and I did. Now, after meeting some of the other recruits and realizing how seriously they are taking the whole process - I keep asking myself if I'm prepared for this. I attempted to cope by telling myself that out of hundreds of students (yep, hundreds - that's what my ego has convinced me of) I was chosen to enter the program. If they didn't think you were capable, they'd have sent you a big fat no. But somebody, somewhere sent you a big fat yes. I'm also constantly reminded that we are going to school to learn how to be better scientists, academicians, etc. But, on those days where none of the aforementioned bahookey (pronounced: bullshit) works I do the following:

1. Slap on a towel as though it were a cape with my matching spandex and run around saying neener neener neener neener SUPERGRAD (to the tune of the original Batman theme song)

2. Put on my best rock band performance and belt out the lyrics to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" (I can send video if you think it'll help you through this situation)

3. Sprint to the kitchen, break out all manner of prep for brownies AND chocolate chip cookies, commence with the baking and eat until those niggling thoughts are drowned in sugar and chocolatey goodness.

love it. you are my hero!

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I'm confident enough in my preparation and abilities, so I suppose I'm lucky to be avoiding impostor syndrome. That said, I'm a little bummed that after all these years of building up relationships with people in my department, and building a reputation as a good student, come autumn I'll be a new nameless face and will have to earn people's respect all over again! I'm sure I'll be fine, but every now and again the idea wanders into my head that perhaps I won't be, and maybe after all these years of working hard I'll buckle and become some kind of deadbeat as soon as they hand me my diploma. I'm already considering taking a year out after my MA so I can enjoy a smidge of my 20s before committing myself to several years in a PhD program. But I think I'm starting to stray from the original subject, so I'll shut up now.

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I'm confident enough in my preparation and abilities, so I suppose I'm lucky to be avoiding impostor syndrome. That said, I'm a little bummed that after all these years of building up relationships with people in my department, and building a reputation as a good student, come autumn I'll be a new nameless face and will have to earn people's respect all over again! I'm sure I'll be fine, but every now and again the idea wanders into my head that perhaps I won't be, and maybe after all these years of working hard I'll buckle and become some kind of deadbeat as soon as they hand me my diploma. I'm already considering taking a year out after my MA so I can enjoy a smidge of my 20s before committing myself to several years in a PhD program. But I think I'm starting to stray from the original subject, so I'll shut up now.

I think we have all strayed from the topic at one point or another. I was forced to take a year off after undergrad because of funding issues and I refused to pay my own way when someone else could pay for me AND give me a stipend. I enjoyed my 22nd year of life searching for temp jobs and redoing the entire application process. NOT. FUN. I missed the life of a scholar and being around people that were excited about learning new things and being in school. I also worried that my year off would make me a deadbeat, but it just made me all the more determined that I was taking my ass to grad school. I can't stand office jobs. They suck. I'm committed to the PhD program now and I know it's going to be a tough road. But as soon as I can call myself Dr. Supergrad I'm jetting off to Europe for a few months and enjoying what's left of my twenties. If you do take a year off good luck to you and please party for those of us that are stuck toiling at the bottom of the totem pole!

And remember *all together now* DON'T STOP BELIEVIN' HOLD ON TO THAT FEEEELLLIIINNNN!

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I just got into a 3 year paid program. I was #1 on the wait-list, and I was so nervous. I thought, who in their right mind is going to give up a spot (10 total) in a 3 year paid program???

I was woken up Friday morning with the unbelievable news. Seriously, I still can't believe it... and I was starting to think I was crazy for not being the most ecstatic person in the world, or at least just ecstatic...

Now I know I am normal, and that a lot of us are going through these feelings of inadequacy. We just have to try our very best and prove it to ourselves that we can work really hard!!!

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I just got into a 3 year paid program. I was #1 on the wait-list, and I was so nervous. I thought, who in their right mind is going to give up a spot (10 total) in a 3 year paid program???

I was woken up Friday morning with the unbelievable news. Seriously, I still can't believe it... and I was starting to think I was crazy for not being the most ecstatic person in the world, or at least just ecstatic...

Now I know I am normal, and that a lot of us are going through these feelings of inadequacy. We just have to try our very best and prove it to ourselves that we can work really hard!!!

Congratulations! I know how tough it is to be wait-listed and have to sit around waiting for a response. This is obviously the program you were meant to be in! Isn't it great when your prayers are answered?biggrin.gif

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Thank god for this post...I was beginning to think I must be the only one out there stressing! I'm also a first year TA and I'm wondering how in the world I'm going to do it all....I'm totally totally anxious about that first day of class as a TA...Undergrad was so long ago for me that I can't even remember what my TAs were LIKE! It's really challenging because I'm moving so far away and there are all these unknowns...where will I live? with whom? will the undergrads listen and respect me? will they be little monsters? AHHH!

Thanks for the advice, though...Now every time the thoughts start a-rolling, I'm going to just start singing Don't stop believing....ohhhhh OH!!!"

That helps...oh it helps...

That, and a nice cold one...

Above all, I will keep repeating...I am my own glee club...and... I am my own rainbow!

Anyone else out there who is a TA in a class they've never actually taken???

(:

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I keep getting that inadequate feeling, too.

Despite the fact that I'm already on good terms with my future advisor. And the fact that his class is fun and not super hard.

So far he seems great at talking me down from my random anxieties. It seems like the start of a beautiful friendship...

I can't recommend enough to other people to talk to people in the program. Professors, students, even administrators. I keep bugging people and they're AWESOME, comforting but realistic, with interesting perspectives and a MUCH more diverse background than I would have guessed (I come from a different discipline). Seriously, it's great therapy. And it's getting me more and more excited...!

I would be much more nervous if I were teaching my first semester, but fate has it that I won't be, not quite yet.

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Anyone else out there who is a TA in a class they've never actually taken???

(:

At the risk of sounding like this guy --> cool.gif , I've been the instructor for classes I haven't taken -- you'll do just fine, I'm sure!

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Thanks for the feedback! One more question for you all...As I will be a TA in my first semester and I haven't yet met my professor, should I initiate an email to the professor to introduce myself? What questions should I ask? Any protocol here? Also, am I crazy for thinking I should try to read up on the class this summer? Any other suggestions? To those of you who have TA-d before, what advice would you give those of us who haven't? In particular, how do you approach the first class?

Thanks again for your advice, suggestions, thoughts...

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I can relate to so much on this page.

I'm still finishing my undergraduate senior year, though. Whenever I'm about to graduate from a school, I get really (irrationally) worried something is going to go wrong and prevent my graduation. Unfortunately, the stress almost works as a form of self-sabotage. I remember, when I was transferring from community college to my university, I suddenly froze and became horrifically terrified that I might somehow fail my chemistry final and not be able to graduate. (I had a B+ / A- in the class!) My chemistry professor practically had to talk me into sitting down and taking the final. I was actually that panicked. (I did great, though.)

It is too weird because I normally function insanely well under stressful conditions. I only seem to recognize the insanity when I'm about to graduate, and then I suddenly see all that I'm doing and ask myself, "Hey, wait a second, how am I doing all this...?!" And my confidence goes poof!

But now that I've been accepted to graduate school, it's even scarier. :/

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Thanks for the feedback! One more question for you all...As I will be a TA in my first semester and I haven't yet met my professor, should I initiate an email to the professor to introduce myself? What questions should I ask? Any protocol here? Also, am I crazy for thinking I should try to read up on the class this summer? Any other suggestions? To those of you who have TA-d before, what advice would you give those of us who haven't? In particular, how do you approach the first class?

Thanks again for your advice, suggestions, thoughts...

Hi, Switzerland!

This is my third year working as a Teaching Fellow in a small Liberal Arts College. Before that I had some teaching experience, but nothing as serious as what I do now.

I'm not going to lie to you. At the beginning it is difficult. You're really nervous, you don't know what kind of students you'll have, you're not sure how you're going to teach, you find it hard to grade (specially papers... oh! I hate grading papers! they're soooo subjective!), etc. One of the hardest things that I found at the beginning was planning the lessons. Sometimes I ran out of things to do, and sometimes I ran out of time to do all the stuff I wanted to do.

I know this sounds scary, but...

I can promise you, it will soon be over. I've made my mistakes, I've screwed up several times, I've had to struggle with students, but I've learned. A lot. I've gotten really good evaluations from my students. Now I don't prepare my lessons that thoroughly (at the beginning I would teach a whole lesson at home to make sure I could teach it again in class). I improvise, I change plans, I accommodate the lessons depending on the students (the same syllabus doesn't work the same for one group and for another). It just takes a little bit of practice.

Just be confident, make students feel comfortable at your class and relax. You'll do it. The first two weeks will suck, but then, it'll be over.

And, just for you to know, a professor of mine once told me that even professors with many years of experience get nervous the first day of class, since they don't know what kind of students they will have or whether their course will work that semester (specially if they're teaching a new course).

Oh, and, BTW, teaching at this college was one of the reasons why I applied to Grad School. I would love to make research, but I would also love to be able to teach at university level. It's soooo much gratifying compared to teaching at secondary education...

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Thanks for the feedback! One more question for you all...As I will be a TA in my first semester and I haven't yet met my professor, should I initiate an email to the professor to introduce myself? What questions should I ask? Any protocol here? Also, am I crazy for thinking I should try to read up on the class this summer? Any other suggestions? To those of you who have TA-d before, what advice would you give those of us who haven't? In particular, how do you approach the first class?

Thanks again for your advice, suggestions, thoughts...

On TAing--It's different at every school. You'll most likely have some TA workshops before/during your first year teaching that help you with pedagogy and application. Some schools give their TAs amazing freedom, others not so much. At my school, TAs have complete control of choice of text, assignments, lesson plans, syllabus text/requirements (pretty much everything). But other TAs I work with have been instructors at universities that really limit the amount of control TAs have over their courses: predetermined texts, major assignments, even grading rubrics.

You'll also probably have a "mentor," an advanced TA who will show you the ropes and help you deal with problems/concerns. (I was one of these this year and it's been wonderful). Most TAs don't have any teaching experience when they come into the program (some have high school or college teaching depending on past jobs/college degrees). I hate to say it, but most TAs are pretty bad when they start their first semester. It is a learning experience, at the beginning and when you're more advanced. The way I approached my first semester:

1) Don't let the students know it's your first semester teaching (I didn't even tell them I was a TA unless they asked--they assumed I was an adjunct). This is all about power and control of the classroom. Women usually have a bit more trouble controlling the classroom at first, especially if students know the instructor is "new." My friend told her students she was a TA on the first day of class and one student got up and left. I wanted to avoid that. Most students assume TA means something less than it does in reality. Reality: I am your teacher and I do the grading.

2) You can say things like "I want to try this assignment out with you guys. Rhetorical analysis is a little more complicated than a traditional analysis paper but will ultimately be more helpful to your college career." Usually students will take this as a challenge to do well and exceed your expectations. Students love context. Explaining the assignment/course competencies as beneficial to their college coursework (whatever the major) will always get positive results.

3) Learn from your mistakes. You aren't infallible, and your students aren't expecting you to be.

4) Expect student evaluations to be a range of positive, neutral, and negative comments/ratings. This always happens no matter how many years you've been teaching.

5) Peer and professor observations: Breathe.

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Thanks for the feedback! One more question for you all...As I will be a TA in my first semester and I haven't yet met my professor, should I initiate an email to the professor to introduce myself? What questions should I ask? Any protocol here? Also, am I crazy for thinking I should try to read up on the class this summer? Any other suggestions? To those of you who have TA-d before, what advice would you give those of us who haven't? In particular, how do you approach the first class?

Thanks again for your advice, suggestions, thoughts...

Definitely contact the professor, introduce yourself, and ask to set up a face-to-face meeting. Much depends on whether you are truly assisting the professor or you are actually the instructor. During the meeting, ask the following:

  • what does the prof expect of you/what are your responsibilities?
  • how long has the prof been teaching the class?
  • what is the prof's pedagogical POV?
  • what does the prof value as the key student learning outcomes for the course?
  • may you have a copy of the syllabus/course outline?
  • to whom should you speak about getting a copy of all the texts for the course?
  • may you have copies of all assignments/tests/quizzes/etc. for the course?
  • how does the prof grade/what criteria (or rubrics) does the prof use?
  • does the prof have examples of A/B/C/D/F student work?
  • what does the prof see as the greatest challenges of the ocurse for the students? for you?
  • (if you are actually teaching), would the prof recommend a book/article for first-time teachers?

Then, yes, read up on the course this summer. The more prep you can do ahead of time, the more confident you will feel in the classroom.

On the first day (and thereafter), show up to the classroom 10 minutes early. Be friendly to the students (how was your summer, are you happy to be back, etc.) -- small talk goes a long way towards building the student/teacher relationship. Remember, many of those students will be just as/more nervous as/than you! (At the same time, you are not a student, so veer away from participating in any conversations about partying, etc.)

If you are the actual instructor, there are a ton of articles and books on how to handle your first teaching assignment and the first day of class. You might want to begin by heading over to the campus' Center for Faculty and asking for help. In addition, Ken Bain wrote a famous book, What the Best College Teachers Do, and Barbara Gross Davis' book, Tools for Teaching, breaks out everything you need to know.

Hope this is helpful -- good luck!

Edited by oldlady
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Congratulations! I know how tough it is to be wait-listed and have to sit around waiting for a response. This is obviously the program you were meant to be in! Isn't it great when your prayers are answered?biggrin.gif

It is sooooo great!!! I worked my tush off and it actually paid off!! I am going to be a TA too, and I hope they put me in a class with freshmen undergrads... I have never done anything like that before, and I look like I am 16!

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Thank you so much to all for your thoughtful replies...I really appreciate it! I actually won't be on campus until the fall as I live on the opposite coast...Should I initiate a meeting via email or do you normally meet the week before with the professor? Are TA's normally provided the texts for the class in advance and free of charge? I think I will simply be leading discussion sections, attending lecture, and maintaining office hours, but now I'm wondering if there is more to it than this....It sounds as if most of you have had much more responsibility than that...I didn't realize that TAs were actually teaching classes, by which I imagine you are presenting lectures, etc? Also, I am a woman, and I'm wondering your advice on getting problematic students to behave. Do you ignore them? Call them on it? On the first day of class (in my case, discussion), how did you introduce yourself? Also, how did you respond to questions to which you didn't know the answer? Lastly, what kind of dress code should I follow? Thanks again for your advice...You have NO idea how valuable it is and how I much I appreciate it!

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