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Regretting my graduate school choice


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Firstly, I feel sorry about English; I am an international student and not good at English.

Since my admission decision, I was suffering from an occasional anxiety attack, regretting my choice of graduate school starting this fall semester. I applied to Ph.D. programs with a vision to better understand and conduct independent research on a specific topic in Physics, but it seems not only that I can't achieve my goal in the school I chose, but also that I may end up with a non-Physics job at the end of my Ph.D. These days, I can only think of the readmission in (old) age, 26 and am constantly worrying about my life. 

Before the decision, I had two options; one of the 17th rank and the other on the 60+th rank. The research works of a professor in the school with a higher ranking seemed more closely aligned with what I wished to learn during Ph.D. while those of the professor in the lower ranked school seemed qualitative and not fit my interest. The first school has a nicer location, cheaper and safer to live and fits my cultural standard better than the second school. But, students of the professor in the first school didn't recommend the school and told me their difficulties with the professor. I remained indecisive until the last minutes of the admission deadline and chose the second school, believing I can work independently, and the professor would help me when I am stuck in my research. After my decision, another student graduated from the first school sent me a (late) reply. His email resolved my concerns and explained how it can be misleading about the professor in the first school. A few days later, a student in the second school replied to me (lately again) that the professor in the second school won't give me advice about what I am interested in. Many professors around me worry about my decision saying that the professor in the second school is known to academia for not working properly. I lost the ground for going to the second school. I asked the first school about considering me again, however, they couldn't accept me. Since then, I have developed anxiety gradually to the extent that it keeps me from working normally. 

These days, I am considering applying again to the first school. But I guess the probability of admission is far lower than the last year. I wonder how to explain why I apply the school after rejecting it and how to get a reference from professors in the second school, with a high risk of failing the re-admission. If I fail, I doubt whether I can study and conduct research on my dream topic in the second school. I am very much worried that without a professional guide from an advisor, I would lose my vision of Ph.D. and spend 5+ years with great pain. Will there be a chance for me to get into the first school again? Can a student achieve his or her goal in academia without getting professional advice? How can I get over this anxiety? What stance should I take? These questions bother me constantly.

Edited by holo
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That’s a very tough situation and I’m sorry you’re going through it. Given the no-return situation you’re in, I would try and make the best of it and go to your new school with as positive a mentality as you can muster. There are many aspects of graduate studies and you might be very happy with your new program. It might be that you realize that some of the concerns were unmerited. You can attempt to prepare for the alternative by readying your materials just in case, but don’t assume that it will be terrible, it might be better than you think.

If the situation is ultimately as bad as you fear, talk to your current advisors (not in your new program) about the possibility of reapplying. It’s hard to say whether you would get readmitted to the previous program, but if you want to attempt it I’d assume you’d have to come up with a good reason why you rejected it the first time and wish to reapply.

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I know exactly how you feel. I regret many decisions in my life, but I try to take it calmly. I advise you to get rid of anxiety and just do your best to achieve your goal. I wish you good luck!

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