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Does obvious evidence of masochism help?


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Okay, well, masochism is obviously subjective. But lots of math/physics courses is certainly going to look masochistic to a "soft science" department. As are quarters with 5 courses or over 18 credits. Masochism could also show up in the LORs. Maybe the student works so hard that he sometimes sleeps in the department computer lab (i've done that before).

And masochism is a pretty desirable character trait in grad students. The masochism of the protagonists on phdcomics is obviously a strong reason why the comics are so funny.

At the same time, though, it can be associated with burnout. Not all masochists burn out, of course, but there might be a perception that the chance is higher than average. Of course, they might look for evidence of possible burnout from the LORs.

But has "potential of burnout" ever come up as an issue on a graduate application?

Edited by InquilineKea
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None of us sit on admissions committees and can really know, but if I had to imagine what I would say I think that "hard working" is good but "masochist" is bad. Yes, a lot of hard work is required in grad school, but as you say there is an increased risk of burning out. Not to mention that being too enthusiastic is not always such a good thing. It's hard to believe that anyone can sustain that level of enthusiasm for a full 5 years without having anything else in their lives. Overworking is the sure way to burn out, really, and I don't think that as such, it's anything to stress out in your application. Grad school is a marathon, not a sprint.

Beside all that, I can't see how you would mention any of those masochistic "anecdotes" in your sop in an endearing way. I wouldn't say they are particularly "cute" stories; they would be weird and stand out around what should otherwise be a professional document. So, the fact that you did more than you were required to do should be noticed by looking at your transcript, or it could be mentioned by LOR writers, and it should be seen as a good thing. But I wouldn't suggest addressing it directly in any way.

Edited by fuzzylogician
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Add to that, excessive levels of "masochism" coupled with "imperfect" grades doesn't look good.

So unless you've achieved a perfect 4.0/equivalent, it's not going to, probably, make you look like a more promising candidate: If you're THAT committed and THAT hardworking (and you're emphasising it), it's going to stand out that you still haven't managed "perfection". I certainly would rather accept someone (to the grad school in my imagination, obviously) who didn't emphasise the SOOOOO MUCH WORK THEY DID and ALLLLLLLL THE NIGHTS THEY SLEPT IN THE LAB but who got the same (or even slightly lower grades).

If someone's going flat-out all the time and getting a 98% performance, bully for them. But if someone's going at 75% of their maximum in terms of effort and they're getting 98%, they're the stronger candidate. Or even if they're getting 97, 96, 95%.

I dunno if this is getting my point across...

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^Yup, you're definitely getting the point across.

I have a really weird sort of masochism. And the correlation between my GPA and # of credits taken in a quarter is actually quite positive (it would be a negative for most people).

I often give people the impression that I'm a REALLY hard worker. I *can* be a really hard worker, but my variance is much higher than that of most people.

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