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POST-ACCEPTANCE ANXIETY (advice needed from fellow successful applicants))


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Hi everyone,

So I recently got accepted to my top school for clinical psychology and for some reason I'm stressing the f--- out. Let me back up a bit. So, this is my second year applying. Last year I applied to a bunch of schools, got to the interview phase for one school, and got rejected.

It was a mindfuck. Throughout my correspondence with my POIs I received consistent feedback that I was an excellent applicant and they seemed genuinely interested in taking me on. In fact, when I met with my primary supervisor we met and talked for over 2 HOURS! Fast forward to interview day, my interview with the committee went decent, but throughout the day I got consistent feedback from my supervisors again saying "I have a really good feeling about your application" and with the last thing one of my supervisors saying being "I think you're an excellent fit and I hope you choose [name of school]. Not I hope you get in but I hope you choose our school because with your calibre of application I'm sure you'll receive multiple offers.

After the interview, I heard that acceptances get sent out within days. So I emailed a thank you note to the committee and once again got a very positive response from my supervisor ("I look forward to being in touch in the future"). In fact, my other supervisor literally emailed me and asked me when I'd like to come for a lab tour and start a publication. I started to freak out and asked her - does this mean I got accepted?? At which point she backtracked and told me I'd need to hear from the committee. So, I waited two weeks... with my anxiety mounting every day... and got rejected. It didn't make any sense and it basically scarred me. I was depressed for months afterwords because it felt so close and I felt like I had just been played with.

So this year, I applied to about half the schools as I did for my first application, and I got an interview at a school I didn't even think I had a shot at.  This school takes 3-5 applicants a year, its students have INSANE CVs, and a significant proportion of them win VERY competitive scholarships. I had connected with my supervisor earlier that year so I made it through an initial skype interview and came in for the department interview. There were a couple other people interviewing for a spot in my lab but my supervisor spent significantly more time with me during the free time that was scheduled. My interviews went better and better throughout the day with my final interview (with the admissions coordinator) telling me straight up that my application really stands out compared to everyone else's and that I should be proud of myself. The point of this whole spiel is not to brag, but just to help you understand what an undoubtedly positive experience I had (I'm very fortunate) for this interview. 

And two weeks later I found out that... I got in! I was also informed very close after the committee admissions meeting leading me to believe i was at/near the top of the admissions list. So this all probably sounds great but basically I've been incredibly stressed for the past week or so (since I found out and accepted the offer).

First, after I received the offer and the department called to inform me, I literally didn't believe it. After I got off the phone, I started second guessing myself. I knew it had to be true but I couldn't bring myself to accept the good news. Fast forward two days later I got my official offer letter. And I felt better cause now I had it in writing. So I signed and celebrated. And now I'm freaking out again!! I've had nothing but a positive application process this year but in the back of my mind I still think it'll be revoked. I'm not even stressed about the work associated with the program but just that something is off and I didn't actually get in. I even feel guilty telling people that I got in!! Everything seems to be triggering my anxiety and I worked with individuals with GAD so I know what I'm feeling is COMPLETELY excessive. 

Has anyone else who got accepted into their top program felt this? Does ANYONE have any tips on how to deal with this? I just feel so incredibly silly. 😔

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Like all emotions, this will pass with time. It sounds like you are mindful of your experiences (both negative in the past and positive) and aware of what you are feeling. Though the anxiety now may feel “weird” to you, I think it’s a normal thing anyone feels when they make a big choice, like accepting a PhD offer or new job. I don’t have any specific tips, but your new reality will set in with time. It’s hard to fathom, and I feel like reminding yourself that you worked hard to get here is a good thing to say. 
 

 Congrats! I’m glad to hear this second time worked out so well in the end after a pretty crappy run-around your first time. 

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Reading all of that, I couldn’t help but be so impressed with how everything played out for you. You seem very aware of how insanely competitive this process is, and the validation you’ve gotten from your supervisor and admissions is truly incredible. 
 
To address your anxiety, though, because I don’t want to minimize your feelings: it sounds like you have a classic case of Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps? Feeling you shouldn’t have gotten in or that your offer will be revoked. You made it this far because of all the work you put into this and feeling like an imposter is an unfortunate beast to tackle. Trust in yourself that you got yourself here through hard work and you deserve a spot. Also, try to be in the present moment more because it’ll keep you ground and steady while you get ready to take on your top program!

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Hey :)

I was in your shoes last year. Applied and got in to my top school right before Christmas (and before some of my other applications were due!) I remember feeling joy, a sense of wonder/shock...and then? Now what? Now that I've achieved my goal, what now? After everything I've done/all the hard work and sacrifices in, I made it, but what now? It's an odd sense of fulfillment, and... emptiness? 

My advice to you is ENJOY what you're experiencing right now--that giddyness, the fact that you've achieved your goal. You DESERVE it. Know that You MADE it. Congratulations :) 

Happy to chat more if you'd like. Just shoot me a PM :) (and congrats, you did it!!)

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53 minutes ago, Mickey26 said:

Hey :)

I was in your shoes last year. Applied and got in to my top school right before Christmas (and before some of my other applications were due!) I remember feeling joy, a sense of wonder/shock...and then? Now what? Now that I've achieved my goal, what now? After everything I've done/all the hard work and sacrifices in, I made it, but what now? It's an odd sense of fulfillment, and... emptiness? 

My advice to you is ENJOY what you're experiencing right now--that giddyness, the fact that you've achieved your goal. You DESERVE it. Know that You MADE it. Congratulations :) 

Happy to chat more if you'd like. Just shoot me a PM :) (and congrats, you did it!!)

Thank you, YES, this is EXACTLY how I'm feeling. While this was just my second time applying, I've been preparing for this goal for the past 5 years. It feels like everything I did was working toward it and now its just... over? I mean it's great but I have no idea what to do with my spare time. I'm working full-time but at the same time I'm used to working FT and then planning for grad apps/studying for GRES in the PM. It's hard to believe it' all over.

But that you, I'll try my best to enjoy and remind myself of my accomplishment 😅

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Just now, velvetramen said:

Thank you, YES, this is EXACTLY how I'm feeling. While this was just my second time applying, I've been preparing for this goal for the past 5 years. It feels like everything I did was working toward it and now its just... over? I mean it's great but I have no idea what to do with my spare time. I'm working full-time but at the same time I'm used to working FT and then planning for grad apps/studying for GRES in the PM. It's hard to believe it' all over.

But that you, I'll try my best to enjoy and remind myself of my accomplishment 😅

Haha enjoy this free time while it lasts. Once you start up in the fall, you will be back to the grind. 

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1 hour ago, Clinapp2017 said:

Like all emotions, this will pass with time. It sounds like you are mindful of your experiences (both negative in the past and positive) and aware of what you are feeling. Though the anxiety now may feel “weird” to you, I think it’s a normal thing anyone feels when they make a big choice, like accepting a PhD offer or new job. I don’t have any specific tips, but your new reality will set in with time. It’s hard to fathom, and I feel like reminding yourself that you worked hard to get here is a good thing to say. 
 

 Congrats! I’m glad to hear this second time worked out so well in the end after a pretty crappy run-around your first time. 

Thank you! Yes, I'm hoping time will help ... it almost feels like time is dragging on though because I still have 6 months to go before I start and I want to start now! 

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1 hour ago, ClinicalApplicant2019 said:

Reading all of that, I couldn’t help but be so impressed with how everything played out for you. You seem very aware of how insanely competitive this process is, and the validation you’ve gotten from your supervisor and admissions is truly incredible. 
 
To address your anxiety, though, because I don’t want to minimize your feelings: it sounds like you have a classic case of Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps? Feeling you shouldn’t have gotten in or that your offer will be revoked. You made it this far because of all the work you put into this and feeling like an imposter is an unfortunate beast to tackle. Trust in yourself that you got yourself here through hard work and you deserve a spot. Also, try to be in the present moment more because it’ll keep you ground and steady while you get ready to take on your top program!

Thank you, I appreciate that ☺️☺️

Definitely feel like I have the imposter syndrome. I think trying to be more present sounds like a good idea.. it's so weird, I never thought I'd feel this way. Generally when people get into grad programs like this, I've more so heard of them being anxious about being able to tackle the workload.

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I also had anxiety about the offer being taken away. I also feared that they may have mistaken me for another person and would eventually figure it out and rescind the offer! I think it all stems, in some degree, from imposter syndrome--and I'm sure your first experience didn't help much at all! You got in though, that's all that matters! Now you can be confident knowing that they chose you, you are qualified, and you'll kick ass in grad school 🙂

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8 minutes ago, springxsummer said:

Yes I feel this. I'm sitting on an offer at my top choice that I intend to accept very soon. I have this weird anxiety that they'll take it away.... It makes no sense.

Yes, exactly! Hopefully you'll feel better after you submit your acceptance!

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1 hour ago, Mickey26 said:

Hey :)

I was in your shoes last year. Applied and got in to my top school right before Christmas (and before some of my other applications were due!) I remember feeling joy, a sense of wonder/shock...and then? Now what? Now that I've achieved my goal, what now? After everything I've done/all the hard work and sacrifices in, I made it, but what now? It's an odd sense of fulfillment, and... emptiness? 

My advice to you is ENJOY what you're experiencing right now--that giddyness, the fact that you've achieved your goal. You DESERVE it. Know that You MADE it. Congratulations :) 

Happy to chat more if you'd like. Just shoot me a PM :) (and congrats, you did it!!)

Yes! I am in a similar situation, accepted a spot at my first choice program this year and now I have no idea what I'm going to do. I knew it was Imposter Syndrome but I also recently had it described to be as an anxiety hangover: I've been so gosh darn stressed the past few months (a year even) that now that I've gotten in that anxiety has no where to go and I feel almost empty. So I've been subconsciously looking for things to stress out over (like getting on grad cafe, for instance lol). Don't get me wrong, I'm still thrilled to have gotten in! But now that the excitement is starting to wane, I've begun to feel that emptiness creep in since this is something I've been anxious about for a long time and that anxiety is now gone. Pretty sure this is a fairly normal thing, and I would also recommend going to talk to someone if that's something you can feasibly seek out.   

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2 minutes ago, Psych20 said:

Yes! I am in a similar situation, accepted a spot at my first choice program this year and now I have no idea what I'm going to do. I knew it was Imposter Syndrome but I also recently had it described to be as an anxiety hangover: I've been so gosh darn stressed the past few months (a year even) that now that I've gotten in that anxiety has no where to go and I feel almost empty. So I've been subconsciously looking for things to stress out over (like getting on grad cafe, for instance lol). Don't get me wrong, I'm still thrilled to have gotten in! But now that the excitement is starting to wane, I've begun to feel that emptiness creep in since this is something I've been anxious about for a long time and that anxiety is now gone. Pretty sure this is a fairly normal thing, and I would also recommend going to talk to someone if that's something you can feasibly seek out.   

THIS!!! Also I am stealing the phrase "anxiety hangover" because that is a perfect way to describe. I went on grad cafe more AFTER i got in than before just as something to do to revel in that admissions process again. It is so crazy! I'm just going to take it day by day and try to invest some time in hobbies...

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I'm really glad you posted this since I feel the EXACT same way. I got into a program I was afraid to tell people that I was even applying to due to fear that they would judge me for aiming too high. When I got the news on Friday, I was calm. I have yet to celebrate. I think it's a mistake and that the offer is going to be retracted. This is my second time applying as well. My first time, I applied to 4 schools and got 0 interviews. Now, all of a sudden I have an offer from my top program and it feels...odd. I wish I could celebrate, but really, I'm in limbo. I don't think it's real or that I'm qualified. I keep thinking that my POI feels bad for me or something and that's why he selected me. I also keep thinking that things will crumble once I get there and they realize I'm really not capable. As much as I want to celebrate, my mind is filled with imposter syndrome.

I think for me, I must have told myself for months that I was a complete failure. After not getting in the first time, I felt so terrible about myself. It made me work hard, but it cost me my self esteem and confidence. Now, I'm supposed to be happy, but my mind refuses to accept that this is real.

I think it's good. I'm a spiritual person and this experience has taught me a lot about faith, happiness, and hard work. This week I'm bound to celebrate and you should to. Because truthfully, we did earn our spots and should be proud! The worst thing about becoming a psychologist is knowing all the cognitive fallacies. We are smart, capable, and best of all...admitted. Nothing separates us and the people who were lucky enough to get in on their first try. We're all here now, and for that, I'm choosing to be humble yet proud and letting all guilt subside by rereading that admission letter :).

 

Congratulations!

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On a related note, what did folks do with other interviews after receiving an offer at their top? (Because everyone on this thread is definitely capable and has/had interviews and acceptances, first or second or Xth try, now is the time. ❤️)

Did you decline the other interviews -- that was/is my inevitable next question to myself. It seems rude to not attend (say, if interview is in 2 days), but also potentially inconsiderate to attend if one knows a school isn't their top/having been accepted at their top choice school. Of course, there is always the possibility that one could change one's mind and I haven't signed any offer letters yet! What do others think?

Edited by childcenteredwork
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17 minutes ago, childcenteredwork said:

On a related note, what did folks do with other interviews after receiving an offer at their top? (Because everyone on this thread is definitely capable and has/had interviews and acceptances, first or second or Xth try, now is the time. ❤️)

Did you decline the other interviews -- that was/is my inevitable next question to myself. It seems rude to not attend (say, if interview is in 2 days), but also potentially inconsiderate to attend if one knows a school isn't their top/having been accepted at their top choice school. Of course, there is always the possibility that one could change one's mind and I haven't signed any offer letters yet! What do others think?

If there is any chance you could see yourself attending the other school, you should go to the interview.

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25 minutes ago, childcenteredwork said:

On a related note, what did folks do with other interviews after receiving an offer at their top? (Because everyone on this thread is definitely capable and has/had interviews and acceptances, first or second or Xth try, now is the time. ❤️)

Did you decline the other interviews -- that was/is my inevitable next question to myself. It seems rude to not attend (say, if interview is in 2 days), but also potentially inconsiderate to attend if one knows a school isn't their top/having been accepted at their top choice school. Of course, there is always the possibility that one could change one's mind and I haven't signed any offer letters yet! What do others think?

I was accepted to my top choice a few days before my final interview and chose not to attend the interview. I feel as though it came across as unprofessional so close to the interview day and I regret giving the program that impression of me. However, it made more sense financially (and frankly travel stress-wise) not to attend. My POI at the school I was interviewing at had also reached out to tell me they were leaving the program a few weeks beforehand, so I did not feel as though the interview was going to lead to an acceptance (or at least be a good fit) at that point anyway.

My advisor (who accepts clinical doctoral students) said people drop out of interviews all the time and it's no big deal, so it likely wouldn't come off as inconsiderate (but I know different POIs can have different perspectives on this).

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33 minutes ago, childcenteredwork said:

On a related note, what did folks do with other interviews after receiving an offer at their top? (Because everyone on this thread is definitely capable and has/had interviews and acceptances, first or second or Xth try, now is the time. ❤️)

Did you decline the other interviews -- that was/is my inevitable next question to myself. It seems rude to not attend (say, if interview is in 2 days), but also potentially inconsiderate to attend if one knows a school isn't their top/having been accepted at their top choice school. Of course, there is always the possibility that one could change one's mind and I haven't signed any offer letters yet! What do others think?

I was just in your shoes, I got into my top choice and still had two more interviews left. I ended up going to the next interview because it was 3 days before and I felt like I was going to burn some bridges. However, it wasn't a good experience....the entire time I was there it was hard for me to seem excited about the school because I had such a perfect fit at my top choice. In the end all it did was help solidify my choice which may be helpful for you (although I hated spending more money to do so). I ended up cancelling my last interview in the hopes that it would open up a spot for another applicant and they were super understanding. 

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Hi folks, I’m hearing that some programs might consider it unsavory to drop, some may appreciate/understand, but that the interview experience may not be fun for me - but help solidify my choice. I think it would be hard for me to seem excited, admittedly. I will do some more soul searching and then decide..! Thank you all so much for weighing in! 

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O

17 hours ago, childcenteredwork said:

On a related note, what did folks do with other interviews after receiving an offer at their top? (Because everyone on this thread is definitely capable and has/had interviews and acceptances, first or second or Xth try, now is the time. ❤️)

Did you decline the other interviews -- that was/is my inevitable next question to myself. It seems rude to not attend (say, if interview is in 2 days), but also potentially inconsiderate to attend if one knows a school isn't their top/having been accepted at their top choice school. Of course, there is always the possibility that one could change one's mind and I haven't signed any offer letters yet! What do others think?

Out of my top 3, I was accepted to 1, am waiting on funding decisions (which will determine my acceptance) at 1, and waitlisted at 1 - so at this point, I've been declining and withdrawing my app for any other interviews. For example, my safety masters program reached out - so I declined so that they could offer someone else. I had a phone interview with one program and then they invited me to their visit weekend which I declined so their resources weren't wasted on me, since I know I wouldn't choose this program over one of my top 3.

It's great to have options but also be respectful and realistic in this process. You (and they) only have so much time and resources. Be mindful of where you truly see yourself and if you would go to the program if you had other options.

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1 hour ago, Psychological Yam said:

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Out of my top 3, I was accepted to 1, am waiting on funding decisions (which will determine my acceptance) at 1, and waitlisted at 1 - so at this point, I've been declining and withdrawing my app for any other interviews. For example, my safety masters program reached out - so I declined so that they could offer someone else. I had a phone interview with one program and then they invited me to their visit weekend which I declined so their resources weren't wasted on me, since I know I wouldn't choose this program over one of my top 3.

It's great to have options but also be respectful and realistic in this process. You (and they) only have so much time and resources. Be mindful of where you truly see yourself and if you would go to the program if you had other options.

This is basically exactly what I did. I've been accepted to one program, waitlisted at another, and waiting for a decision (coming next week!!) from a third and they are all in my top three. So when I got an interview invite to a school I was less interested in I declined so someone else could take the spot. I know that program is someone else's dream school so I'd hate to do anything to negatively impact anyone else's experience (if I can help it). This is a stressful process and I can definitely understand the urge to hold onto everything, but I still need to feel like I'm being true to the kind of person I want to be.

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Thank you all for your input!

I concluded that I was sure my top was my top - made up my mind, though it is not always so easy, admittedly - and declined the offer to interview at the next school. Sadly, it is just a day and a half before interview day, but for transparency's sake, I thought it good to not use up the faculty's time. My funding details and offer were only formalized yesterday. I wish I could have told the program I was declining earlier, but at least now they can possibly whisk another candidate in - or at least not spend time discussing me/giving me an offer. 

In terms of how - I called to decline. The program coordinator I spoke to (POI's phone went to voicemail) seemed to approve of my decision to cancel, saying she thought it "classy" - so at least there's some indication I did not offend. I then followed up with an email to folks.

Thank you all again! I appreciated the weigh-ins, from all sides. :) And congrats all.

Edited by childcenteredwork
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