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dancedementia

Another "help me with plan B" thread :(

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Soooo.

I got rejected from my top choice (NEU) and am pretty sure I'm not getting into my second choice (Suffolk). I've either been rejected, declined interviews, or waitlisted all other funded programs on my application list. I am holding two offers from Antioch University and William James, both PsyD programs with a large price tag.

I'm an older applicant, so emotionally I want to just take one of those offers and get going with my life. I went into this application cycle thinking I wanted to do primarily clinical work, which is why most of my programs are PsyD or balanced PhD programs. But as I've gone to these schools and spoken with POIs, I'm realizing that hey - I actually want to do research.

I have several years of research experience, but not in one lab (just lots of small projects with multiple PIs), so I know what I'm getting into and I know I enjoy it. I think I got a little jaded this past year because I was running a study that was going NOWHERE and I said "screw research". But talking with POIs about their projects, brainstorming ideas, etc... it made me want to go back to that.

So current options are...

  • Say screw research, take one of my PsyD offers, and get on with life.
  • Look for full time research coordinator positions, work for 1-2 years, and reapply
  • Work a full time clinical job (I have my masters degree so I can provide therapy) and volunteer for research on the side

The biggest considerations are:

  1. My PsyD offers have very little funding (I've gotten scholarships from both but they're like... 20% of my tuition lol)
  2. If I work as a research coordinator for 1-2 years and then apply, I'm going to be 40 when I graduate with my PhD. Ehhhhhhh.

Part of counseling and therapy is helping your patients understand limits and check their realities. I know we often tell folks, "You should go for your dream! You'll regret it if you don't! You're never too old for anything!" But the truth is, for the majority of us, we don't have that luxury. I do come from a lower SES background. I do want to finish my studies as soon as I can (my fiance is in med school and we'd like to sync up timelines as much as we can, because honestly, when you're in your 30's and MARRIED, long distance relationships are REALLY not cool anymore). I have chronic health problems that may very well mean that I will croak at age 55 (morbid, but hey, reality). Do I really want to spend my 30s in a lab, finally get to practicing at 40, and then not be able to have a fulfilling career before I go?

For that matter, there is NO guarantee that working as a full time research coordinator for 2 years will guarantee me ANYTHING. I could very well apply to these same PhD programs and get rejected across the board again. I'm risk averse by nature, and this thought sends shivers up my spine.

Thoughts? (Sorry for wall of text!)

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I don't have any clear-cut answers for you, but I did want to offer some support/thoughts. You're clearly in a tough position, and I can relate to that as I'm figuring out my plan-B as well. I'm also married, to a spouse who wants to attend a PhD program, so I'm totally with you on that one - it's not just your own desires that matter anymore! Balancing goals is complex, and sacrifice is virtually inevitable on both ends.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that huge student debt is rough, especially if your spouse has some as well. That fear is no joke, and you're right to take it seriously.

If there is anything useful I can offer, it is this: you will (ideally!) be age 40 either way. Which version of yourself do you want to be then?

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Like @EileanDonan said, graduate school loans are no joke, and the debt accumulated from those PsyD programs honestly isn’t worth the pay potential you’ll have as a doctorate psychologist. If you still have your heart set on a doctorate, saving up money by working in a full-time position for a few years (whether it’s research or clinical) is your best bet.

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Posted (edited)

First of all, I’m sorry this is how it’s going for you! This whole process is so stressful and feels so much more momentous than it probably is. You are more than your acceptance rate and funding levels! 

I think that if you know you want to do research, even if it turns out to be only a partial interest and you do counseling, I think you will be very unhappy in an unfunded PsyD program. And with your fiancé in med school, that is a TON of debt to take on. If you’re already able to do counseling, have you considered looking into other areas of psychology that are doing research in your area of interest? With your background and experience, you could probably apply to non-clinical phd programs after a year as a research coordinator and do really well with a focused and well written statement and contact prior to application season. 

Also, I really love research, so in my case, if I knew I was going to die I would be happy careerwise, spending that time doing it, and making a lasting mark on academia. If you are more interested in what you get to do after you finish the research portion of your career path and get your PhD, then that’s something to think about too. Maybe you don’t want to do research after all. 

Edited by Psyhopeful

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17 hours ago, dancedementia said:

Soooo.

I got rejected from my top choice (NEU) and am pretty sure I'm not getting into my second choice (Suffolk). I've either been rejected, declined interviews, or waitlisted all other funded programs on my application list. I am holding two offers from Antioch University and William James, both PsyD programs with a large price tag.

I'm an older applicant, so emotionally I want to just take one of those offers and get going with my life. I went into this application cycle thinking I wanted to do primarily clinical work, which is why most of my programs are PsyD or balanced PhD programs. But as I've gone to these schools and spoken with POIs, I'm realizing that hey - I actually want to do research.

 

I can definitely relate!  This is my third round applying and I am quite a few years older than you.  If I start NOW I will finish when I am 45.  I have been accepted to 2 partially-funded PhD programs so far and can't decide what to do.  Do I give up 4 years of income and spend an extra $100k+ on top of my already large student loan debt to... make basically the same money I can in my current situation?  Sure, I'd be "following my dream," but is my dream worth that much money, really?  I've been going back-and-forth all over the place. I also applied to MSW programs because I moved to NYC after my master's that leads to an MFT.  MFTs don't have anywhere near the same number of opportunities in NY as in CA, they love MSWs here.  So I could do that and just work clinically.  Or I could pursue a career in research, which is what I am doing now.  Anyway, this isn't helping you, but know you are not alone.

I have started going through the things that matter to me: money spent, income lost, expected salary, location, research opportunity, job opportunities, match with students, career goals, etc. and weighing each item.  What things are MOST important to me?  Once I have finished, I will add everything up and hope it helps me make a decision. 

Good luck figuring it out and let us know what you decide!

 

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I will be older than both of you when I finish! But to me, that’s kind of a bonus, because now that I’m a mom, the idea of settling down in some nice college town and doing research that I love sounds good. It didn’t at all when I was younger. I actually met a professor at my last interview who didn’t start her master’s until she was 37 and then didn’t go for her doctorate until later. I found her inspiring. 

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11 minutes ago, Psyhopeful said:

I will be older than both of you when I finish! But to me, that’s kind of a bonus, because now that I’m a mom, the idea of settling down in some nice college town and doing research that I love sounds good. It didn’t at all when I was younger. I actually met a professor at my last interview who didn’t start her master’s until she was 37 and then didn’t go for her doctorate until later. I found her inspiring. 

Oh, I agree there are definitely advantages, I was just offering for comparison. :) 

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Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I will most likely go for the research coordinator track, as I think that was the most lacking part of my application, and reapply in 2 years. It's honestly a huge blow for me, especially since I had excitedly told so many people that I was looking forward to beginning doctoral studies in the fall. Almost like a walk of shame to have to give the, "Well actually...." speech. My consolidation is that I'll finally be earning steady money (even if it isn't a lot) for 2 years. I haven't had that experience in a long time (since I was in a masters program the most recent 2 years and was doing prereqs prior to that).

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12 hours ago, Psyhopeful said:

I will be older than both of you when I finish! But to me, that’s kind of a bonus, because now that I’m a mom, the idea of settling down in some nice college town and doing research that I love sounds good. It didn’t at all when I was younger. I actually met a professor at my last interview who didn’t start her master’s until she was 37 and then didn’t go for her doctorate until later. I found her inspiring. 

I was 38 when I graduated with my master's and I'll be 44 when I'm done with the PhD, but it's worth it. One thing you don't want to be is old and in debt because there's really no way to recover from that.  Best of luck in whatever you decide!

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26 minutes ago, paraent said:

recently heard (on twitter) that david badre, yael niv, ken norman, russel epstein are all newly looking for research help; ill post more names as intel comes in

Thanks for the info! Are the princeton job posts online anywhere (full disclosure: I looked at the lab websites, but not anywhere else).

 

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1 hour ago, philopsych said:

Thanks for the info! Are the princeton job posts online anywhere (full disclosure: I looked at the lab websites, but not anywhere else).

Places I like to check are:

http://post-bacc-ra-opportunities.1115000.n5.nabble.com/

https://undergrad.psychology.fas.harvard.edu/post-graduate-research-jobs

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On 3/8/2019 at 6:00 PM, dancedementia said:

 It's honestly a huge blow for me, especially since I had excitedly told so many people that I was looking forward to beginning doctoral studies in the fall. Almost like a walk of shame to have to give the, "Well actually...." speech. My consolidation is that I'll finally be earning steady money (even if it isn't a lot) for 2 years. I haven't had that experience in a long time (since I was in a masters program the most recent 2 years and was doing prereqs prior to that).

1

Oh yes! I'm feeling that now. I had one interview, haven't heard back but I saw one post of someone receiving acceptance. I'm also in my mid-30s with a 9year old child, I was hoping to be done by the time she was in high school to give me the chance to save $$ to help her financially through her college career. 

Feeling like a dope for even telling people that I was applying, I have had a lot of support from other graduate students and professors, as well as friends and some family. I know I'll also get the "I told you so" from my father-in-law who has been less than supportive due to the financial burden. 

I will be applying to a couple of PsyD programs that have rolling admissions, and seeing if one of the Universities that I have a part-time RA position with has any full-time openings. 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, PsychHeather said:

Feeling like a dope for even telling people that I was applying, I have had a lot of support from other graduate students and professors, as well as friends and some family. I know I'll also get the "I told you so" from my father-in-law who has been less than supportive due to the financial burden.

YES, so much this. My parents have been giving me the "I told you so" for the past year and have been horrified to see how much I've been spending to fly to interviews (they thought that the schools would pay for transportation hahaha what a funny joke). Everyone has been anxiously asking me if I've gotten good news and I'm just like, "Ehhhhh we'll see?" .____.

Also realized we have very similar research interests (eating disorders, adolescent anxiety). Wishing you good luck in your career, let's definitely keep in contact - maybe we'll collaborate years down the line haha.

Edited by dancedementia

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Posted (edited)

As an update for the folks who helped me (and for future applicants who may be in my situation): I got a full-time job as a research coordinator in an extremely productive lab at an amazing institution (which I frankly didn't think I had a shot at getting into). I'm honestly more excited about this "acceptance" than the three non-funded PsyD acceptances I had earlier this year, which really solidifies 1) the fact that I'm passionate about research, and 2) that I've made the right choice by declining offers and planning to reapply to PhD programs in a few years.

Yaaaay :)

Edited by dancedementia

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Have you looked into psychology research PhD programs doing second round (late) applications? Many programs such as the ones at North Dakota State University and Washington State University re-post the positions they did not get filled by the main set of applications. These positions are usually posted to APA boards, as well as the school's website. I know that both of these programs attempt to supply tuition waivers and stipends to all of their students. Depending on what type of research you did for your MS/MA you may be eligible for a waiver for having to restart that portion of the program. In other words you could finish the program in 3-4 years. Which I understand, the two schools I am giving an example of are more rural which does not appeal to everyone.

Best of luck going forward!

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This sounds very much like me last year.  I'm an older applicant, married, and was in my last year of my master's program in Counseling Psych when I applied last year, I only received 1 interview and ultimately was waitlisted and then rejected from that school.  It was my 4th time applying for PhD programs (long story I'd be glad to explain if it's important), I had done everything that had been suggested to me to do to be the best possible candidate and it was soul crushing to not get in.  My biggest two weaknesses of my application were that my research experience had never led to publication (we had a manuscript in progress for one research team, but it was only a lit review), and that I was applying to clinical programs with a master's in counseling which is an uphill battle due to some (real and perceived) differences in training models and emphasis of the training.  I applied for and was accepted into a year-long research training program in Europe, the Junior Researcher Programme, which has offered me opportunities to present my personal research and the work of my research team at conferences around Europe, allowed me to network with research colleagues from around the world (and is leading to some cool collaboration efforts on new projects in development), will lead to a journal publication (agreement between the journal and the program that they will guarantee publication as long as our manuscript meets their requirements) and that training has been the one thing every POI asked about in interviews. 

The application period for the Junior Researcher Programme is open for a few more days.  If applying for that is something that is interesting to you, send me a PM and I can send you the website link so you can check out more info.

There are lots of things you can try to do over the next year to improve your application, but ultimately every application cycle is different and there's a definitely element of luck involved, as you never know if a certain professor will have funding, what departmental politics are going on, and if your POI has a specific need to fill in their lab (are they looking for a person of a particular demographic, with a particular background, etc.), and that can all change year to year.  So if you decide to apply again next year, hopefully luck will be more on your side - at least you will already have the GRE out of the way and you can focus your time and effort on other areas of your application (I found that to be incredibly comforting this cycle).  Good luck!

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2 hours ago, topsailpsych said:

I was applying to clinical programs with a master's in counseling which is an uphill battle due to some (real and perceived) differences in training models and emphasis of the training

I'm curious about this. Was this explicitly stated by mentors/POIs? How were you able to overcome this bias? (I too have a masters in counseling, and not even counseling psych, but a CACREP counseling masters).

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3 hours ago, dancedementia said:

I'm curious about this. Was this explicitly stated by mentors/POIs? How were you able to overcome this bias? (I too have a masters in counseling, and not even counseling psych, but a CACREP counseling masters).

This was feedback I received from three different people in academia whom I have developed relationships with over the last few years - all at different universities, and none knew one another - 2 in clinical and 1 in counseling.  I did not seek advice from any of these people during my initial application cycle but went to them afterward to seek further advice on how to improve my application.  All three explicitly stated that they have experienced this at each of the universities they have worked at and in talking to colleagues it seems to be common that it is harder to get into a clinical program with a counseling background.  Because of this advice, I focused more on counseling psych programs and had far more success.

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On 3/9/2019 at 10:43 AM, dancedementia said:

Just applied to 25 research coordinator positions, with more to come. Let's dooooo thissss.

if you dont mind me asking, where are you finding these research coordinator positions?

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10 minutes ago, Itzik said:

if you dont mind me asking, where are you finding these research coordinator positions?

scroll up on the thread, two sites are listed by OP.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Itzik said:

if you dont mind me asking, where are you finding these research coordinator positions?

Yep, mainly from those two sites that @higaisha referenced earlier up on this thread. I also go directly to the sites of AMCs and scour their career sections. I applied to 8 positions from McLean just from looking up open positions.

6 hours ago, topsailpsych said:

... it is harder to get into a clinical program with a counseling background.  Because of this advice, I focused more on counseling psych programs and had far more success.

Gosh, I never even thought about this! I might reevaluate some of my school choices to include more counseling programs. Thanks for the info!

Edited by dancedementia

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Everyone has given great advice but just want to add my own opinions.

To me, there is no situation in which going to a non-funded PsyD or PhD program is a good idea, especially given the tuition rates at these programs tend to be quite high. Unless you are a drug dealer or heir to a large fortune, you're going to ultimately be dealing with paying premiums with exorbitant interest rates for multiple decades...which will be challenging even if you are in the top 20% salary for psychologists. 

Clearly research is something that engages and interest you. This is a tough position to be in, and you have other commitments and needs to consider. Unfortunately, life is rarely linear and it requires a lot of course-correction. Think of it this way, a gamble of an extra year or two now...to end up at the career/lifestyle that is most meaningful for you for the rest of your life...not the worst deal in the world. You are privileged to even be able to consider these options. 

Now of course it is a risk and there is no guarantee you will be admitted should you apply again. So if you plan to, you better do your research, talk to professors/researchers in the field, and maximize the potency of your application.

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Thanks for the feedback, @Sherrinford. If you scroll up a bit you'll see that I got a nice research coordinator position I'll be working in for 2 years and then reapplying to PhD programs.

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