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What was you first week like? I'm so scared!


Katanaji

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As the title says, what was your first week/month/year like?

I am terrified at the idea to start, I truly feel I have been accepted way out of my league and I am paralysed when I read what the grad students of the group I am to join in September are doing.

I am mostly a biologist, with a MS in environmental engineering from an 2/3 tier school. I am starting a Geoscience PhD with a lot of chemistry at an Ivy, and I don't know if I will be able to catch up. The website states: "Course work deficiencies should be remedied in the first year of course work after admittance to the program. When incoming graduate students meet with their advisory committees, the need for taking courses outside the Department is appraised, and additional courses in math, biology, chemistry, etc., may be advised".

How do they do this? Do you have to take a test?

Do you do research for your advisor in the first year? I have a fellowship, so I do not have to TA or RA in the 1st year.

Sorry for the long confused post and the naive questions. I am so anxious that they will realise they made a mistake when they admitted me :(

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I feel the same way! I go to a small liberal arts school with a tiny computer science department (think less than 20 undergrads total), and I've been accepted at two top 20 CS PhD program, which is great except that I feel ridiculously unprepared. It just kinda seems like there's no way my undergrad preparation has gotten me ready to go to grad school alongside people who went to large/well-ranked undergrad schools and that it will quickly become apparent that I don't belong there. (just 'cause I did well in my 4-person undergrad cs classes doesn't mean that'll translate to a larger department)

Soo...can't really help with your questions, but I definitely get how you feel.

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Without knowing anything about your program, I can tell you that you will probably spend your first year rotating through different labs before you find a "home" to do your thesis in. Why don't you just ask them? You're in, so you have every right!

Oh, and, calm down :) They would not have accepted you if they didn't think you could handle it. The admissions committee has been doing this for years and they know what they are looking for. Did you ever get to a class the first day, for example, and when you look at the syllabus you think it is overwhelming? But then, after you've been in that class, you realize that when you take it one day at a time you can handle it. When you looked at that syllabus you were looking at the ENTIRE class, not at each individual day.

Looking at a PhD program can feel like you are looking at that syllabus. You read about rotating/ qual tests/ dissertations... it gets overwhelming. Keep in mind that everything you are looking at is spread out over 5-6 years. I'm not saying it's not a lot of work and it's easy, but you aren't expected to do everything right away. It's a process that many have gone through, and you will be just fine, like most of them were.

YOU GOT IN. CONGRATULATIONS. Now, take it one day at a time, work with your advisor, and enjoy the fact that you got where you wanted to be.

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I feel the same way! I go to a small liberal arts school with a tiny computer science department (think less than 20 undergrads total), and I've been accepted at two top 20 CS PhD program, which is great except that I feel ridiculously unprepared. It just kinda seems like there's no way my undergrad preparation has gotten me ready to go to grad school alongside people who went to large/well-ranked undergrad schools and that it will quickly become apparent that I don't belong there. (just 'cause I did well in my 4-person undergrad cs classes doesn't mean that'll translate to a larger department)

Soo...can't really help with your questions, but I definitely get how you feel.

Don't knock the liberal arts schools. I went to one for my undergrad and I am just fine as far as my education goes. I think I might have a bit of an advantage because a lot more was expected out of us there. We were expected to write professionally and produce high quality work, even if it is a simple assignment for a class. Now that I am in grad school at a large university and I am a TA, I am often shocked at how little effort a lot of the undergrads put into their work (and this is an upper level course). That would not have been tolerated at my school.

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I'm in a somewhat similar position. I will be going from a regional public university to an Ivy program in the Humanities. All the other admittees I met during the visit were from other Ivies or public Ivies and they were quite an impressive group of characters. I feel like I am less worried about the amount and/or challenging nature of the work (I've already seen syllabi) than I am about how (or if) I will fit in with the rest of my cohort.

But, either way, the program would not have chosen you if they didn't fully believe that you could handle it. That right there is a huge vote of confidence which you should seriously take into account.

Edited by natsteel
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How do they do this? Do you have to take a test?

Do you do research for your advisor in the first year? I have a fellowship, so I do not have to TA or RA in the 1st year.

Sorry for the long confused post and the naive questions. I am so anxious that they will realise they made a mistake when they admitted me :(

As a chemist who started a geoscience program a couple of years ago, let me reassure you that you will be okay.

As a previous poster said, they assessed what remedial classes I had to take by looking at my transcripts. For me that meant I had to take mineralogy and petrology (I'd taken an intro geology class in undergrad).

Most people do start research in their first year, but usually they are just assisting other grad students on their projects rather than getting into full-fledged research for their own dissertation.

And everyone, EVERYONE feels like the administration made a mistake in admitting them. It's called impostor syndrome, and all grad students suffer from it.

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Thanks everyone for your answers, I feel better knowing I'm not the only one! Good to know that there is no scary test on the first day :D

UnlikelyGrad : Could you please advise me good chemistry and geology books please? I have not done any geology since High School....

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Thanks everyone for your answers, I feel better knowing I'm not the only one! Good to know that there is no scary test on the first day :D

UnlikelyGrad : Could you please advise me good chemistry and geology books please? I have not done any geology since High School....

Classwork:

If you haven't done any geology since high school, I have no doubt they will make you take classes in that subject. For chemistry: you should have a strong background in general chemistry, though the rest of what they ask of you is going to be program-specific. If you're getting into mineral interactions, for example, they may want you to have some thermo and some inorganic. If you're doing biogeochemistry, they may want you to have organic and/or biochemistry; I assume you've have one or the other of these if you're a biologist.

What classes you take will depend on your program, no doubt. (Can you describe in more detail: What sort of program is it? What is your research specialty going to be?)

Books:

I don't know if it's the best out there, but a "classic" intro chem text is Chemistry: The Central Science by Theodore Brown. This is used in many universities and they seem to put out a new edition every 3 years or so, so you can get an earlier edition for very cheap--just a few bucks. Buy the solutions manual too. If you work through the whole book you'll probably get enough thermo and organic that you can "speak the language" (even if you aren't very talented at serious problems yet).

For geology, since it has been so long, I recommend going to your local public library and getting a couple of overview geology books written for the layman. Again, your aim is to be able to speak the language--enough that you can listen to geologists talk about sills and alteration and deposition and not get totally lost. Even if you pick up a textbook later you will find that this exercise has been very helpful. (Besides, books at the library are usually far more readable than any text.)

I have yet to find a good intro geology text. You might have better luck posting this question on the earth sciences board, where the "real" geologists hang out. :)

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during my first week, i had to sit in front of a panel of 6 professors from all subfields and get grilled on my dissertation topic, even though i was just starting my MA. they were nice about it, splitting the 18 hour interrogation (department requirement) into three six-hour sessions, no break. at the end, they told me all my ideas were worthless and i had to go in front of the entire faculty to justify my existence. there, the faculty took turns ripping off a piece of cloth from my body and spitting in my face before commanding me to confine myself to the library microfilms for three weeks until i could emerge with a real thesis project. after that, all i had to do was eat some broken glass and then, by about november, they decided to start actually giving me my fellowship paycheck.

no biggie, really. you'll be fine.

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during my first week, i had to sit in front of a panel of 6 professors from all subfields and get grilled on my dissertation topic, even though i was just starting my MA. they were nice about it, splitting the 18 hour interrogation (department requirement) into three six-hour sessions, no break. at the end, they told me all my ideas were worthless and i had to go in front of the entire faculty to justify my existence. there, the faculty took turns ripping off a piece of cloth from my body and spitting in my face before commanding me to confine myself to the library microfilms for three weeks until i could emerge with a real thesis project. after that, all i had to do was eat some broken glass and then, by about november, they decided to start actually giving me my fellowship paycheck.

no biggie, really. you'll be fine.

HAHAHAHAHAH I actually thought you were serious until I got to the "ripping off a piece of cloth" part. :lol:

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HAHAHAHAHAH I actually thought you were serious until I got to the "ripping off a piece of cloth" part. :lol:

Me too :D

This just shows how ridiculously anxious we all are. It's gonna be alright.... hopefully ;-)

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