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Letting off some stress-out steam

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I don't what's gotten into me, but this whole process is really starting to stress me out. I have so many questions, and it's just beyond overwelming. When should I give the rec forms to my rec writers? How do I muster the motivation to revise that writing sample I haven't looked at in three months and dread having to edit yet again? Do I contact POIs or not? How much detail do I need in my statement of purpose? At least the GRE is behind me! That's one great comfort for sure!

Is anyone else feeling the same way, or does anyone have any answers to my above questions?

Thanks for letting me vent...


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It's a very stressful process—you're surely not alone. I developed stress-induced TMJ (kept unconsciously clenching and grinding my jaw) and other embodied responses to the stress while I was applying last year, especially during the spring.

Take a deep breath and take it one step at a time. I found it helpful to map out a concrete list of achievable (emphasis on achievable!) tasks for the day or the week. Instead of telling myself "OMG, I need to have my WS done soon!!" I told myself to have it sent out to a friend for comments by XX date. Or I'd tell myself that I'd have to email my LoR writers by the end of the day.

As to some of your questions: honestly, it's never too early to get information out to your LoR writers, and it's one stress off your back. I found it kind of comforting and satisfying to get administrative tasks like that done, as well. (It's an easier "check" on the to-do list than, say, having the SoP done!) Why not make that your first goal for this weekend or the coming week?

Get someone to look at your writing sample. Having an outside perspective will help and give you more motiviation: again, it'll give you more achievable, discrete tasks when someone else is focusing your revision to what needs looking at the most.

I'd also recommend getting someone to look at your SoP—it's a good way to break down that process into goals, for one, and for another it's the best way to answer your question about how detailed it should be.

Last, about contacting POIs: you're going to hear conflicting advice about whether or not it is helpful in the humanities (see ), and so IMO it comes down to whether you have the time and energy to do it. If you feel so stressed by the entire application process that you just don't think you can do it, then maybe don't and work on another portion of your application instead.

I didn't contact faculty when I was applying, partly because I knew that it could sometimes be artificial, and partly because I was so stressed that I knew I couldn't handle it! I thought my time and energy was better spent revising my SoP into the ground (I had two professor's and two grad students' input) and adding to my WS.

Edited by runonsentence
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I completely agree. It is never too early to contact your prof's and let them know, or send them the links/forms for the recommendations. Giving them ample time is NEVER a bad thing. And runon has a great method of making a date that you want to have your friend review your work by. You can also reach out to people on the board for SOP feedback. I've been advised it is very helpful. I didn't do that last year because I found the board after apps were in, but know that you are definitely on time. You are going to be A-okay!

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