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I want it, but I don't want it..

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I'm a 22 year old undergrad at a university in Florida right now.

I applied to 10 clinical PhD programs. When I applied, I knew my GRE score was low and I have no publications and not that great of research experience so I considered myself to be not too strong of an applicant, but I applied anyway just "because".

I had ZERO expectations to get in anywhere. In fact, I had already started applying to jobs here so I could work for a few years. I was okay with that, I took comfort in it actually. I thought it would give me a break from school and prepare me to re-apply in a couple of years. But then...

I got into a program. I went on the interview, loved the faculty and lab members, liked the campus and the area, really liked the overall "feel" and the work that I would be doing. And I got in.

Naturally I was really excited and in complete shock that I actually got accepted - little old me! I didn't get in anywhere else. After a few days the excitement when away and I'm now terrified.

As I sit here for the last 2 weeks delaying giving them an official answer...I. Am. Freaking. Out.

And here's why:

- The program is in Michigan, more than a 20 hour drive from home.

My undergrad is only 1.5 hours from my hometown.

I have NEVER been so far from my friends, my family, and my boyfriend. If I'm ever homesick or just need to be with them, I can basically go whenever. 20 hours is a little less doable.

-I mentioned I'm from Florida. I've never lived in cold. Actually, I've never lived below 40 degrees, really, save a few freak cold fronts. Sure the cold and snow is beautiful to visit for a few days, but I have no idea how I'd deal with that...certainly I don't have the proper attire and I feel cold just thinking about it.

-I find myself asking myself over and over: can I REALLY handle this program? Am I really ready? I'm a great student but that doesn't mean I will make a great grad student. The whole thing is really intimidating and scary right now. I'm doubting my abilities.

Grad school is hard. Being away from everything I've ever known and loved is going to make it that much harder. I don't feel like i'm ready to basically leave my life behind and start a completely new, very difficult kind of schoooling in a totally new town (it's in a VERY small town and I'm from a BIG city), in different weather, in what may as well be a different planet from all that I know and am comfortable with.

I realize this post may come off as me lacking maturity, and I'll be the first to agree 100% I'm being immature about this. But the truth is, I'm TERRIFIED. And I'm not sure that that's normal...

But what will I do if I don't accept this offer? Besides being judged by everyone and their mothers, of course. I'll be that girl that passed up the opportunity for a great PhD program because I was

too scared.

Obviously it is very hard to get into these programs, who is to say it won't be just as hard if not harder if I chose to re-apply in a few years? I probably wouldn't have a much bigger chance of getting accepted to a school any closer either.

What do I do here? Am I psyching myself out and being crazy about this?

Please, someone, anyone - help.

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I say, give it a try. The fact that you realize all these things about yourself and about grad school means you are probably more mature than you think you are. Also, you don't want to be asking "what if I had went to Michigan?" for the rest of your life. You have an amazing opportunity! Sure, it's terrifying, but imagine all the future benefits it will bring to you!!

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Don't worry about what others think. The question is do you believe you are ready to meet the challenges discussed? Are you someone who deals well with change or really thrives when things are routine/predictable? This will tell you how much of a shock doing this new program will be.

Another thing to consider is that you could defer for a year. This will allow you to save some money and determine how badly you want to do this program. You could even take a few trips to Michigan during the winter to get a feel for the school and the weather. You could find a job further away from home in order to get a better appreciation of living farther away.

It seems like you are destined for graduate studies the issue is whether you would be able to handle so much change in addition to doctoral program? There is nothing wrong with deferring or reapply later. Better to wait than to end up dropping out of the program not because you can't handle the work but because the timing was wrong.

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I agree with the comments concerning maturity and investigating deferment.

Actually I'm feeling a little bit this way too. Except that I've been trying for 2 years to get into a program. But now that I've been accepted into a pgreat program (a little farther away from my partner and our wonderful apartment than would be ideal) I'm all of a sudden wondering if a PhD is a good idea and if I really can commit. However, I have the good luck of having a partner who went through this EXACT same thing last year when she was accepted to 5 top programs.

My advice is that these feelings are natural. And, if you're funded, why not give it a try? Negotaite how things will work out with your partner and family of course, and plan to come home to visit as often as possible. At worst you'll realize that you can't deal with the location/seperation and you'll have 2 years at most before earning an MA and an easy exit strategy. But at best, you'll love the program and have a great experience and a PhD to show for your daring!

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Eh, I wouldn't worry too much about the distance thing.

I went 1,000 miles away for undergrad and studied abroad about 9,000 miles away. Both times I didn't know a soul.

You will make friends and have great times, assuredly. I'm an introvert and not the most social guy so if I can do it, pretty much anyone can.

In fact after about 1.5 - 2 years in Michigan you might even dread 'returning home' to your small little state/ town. There's so much of the world out there to see, and having never done that yourself (have you even spent a month outside of Florida?) you don't have that perspective.

Things I would consider:

How long is the PhD program? Clinical psychology is 5-7 years usually, right? I'm not sure myself.

Obviously graduate school can be a big step but if you know clinical psychology is the career you would love, then go for it. The long distance thing/ seriousness of the boyfriend is something you might have to consider.

Hmm.. I'm no help at all am I hah. I'm still weighing whether or not I should go to graduate school myself.

Family/ boyfriend/ roots is indeed a consideration, but I would also look at the pros at moving to a completely different location. This is much wisdom, adventure, and 'life' to be gleaned from living away from your home town in a different part of the country for some years. New opportunity, new awesome people ---- and a sort of new found freedom as well.

Obviously no one here can give you an answer either way, it's a complicated decision of course that ultimately you have to make and truly know in your heart.

I would just breathe, think it over for a while, and try to figure out what concerns are valid, etc.

And when it's all said and done, really no one can predict 100% what choice will be better or what the future will bring, etc. That's just how life works. Good luck.

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Bellatrix, never pass up any opportunity because of fear. You'll regret it and regret runs deeper and lasts longer than nervousness.

I actually moved from Texas to Ann Arbor in 2005 to attend a graduate program. EVERYONE warned me about the cold, but you know what? It really wasn't that bad. Southerners are infamously terrified of any temperature below 60 degrees. But, if you move to Michigan in the summer and slowly add layers as the fall and winter approach, you might find that it really isn't that bad. At least, I was shocked at how manageable snowy weather turned out to be.

Finally, yeah -- you'd be moving away. But, not forever. You'll have many breaks (winter break, summer break, spring break -- U of M even has a Fall break!) where you can travel home. Also, you'll have these new exciting experiences, meet different (and similar) people and perhaps even learn to ski on the cheap.

Having said all that, if you think the timing isn't great. Then, maybe it isn't. Find out if you can defer enrollment for a year and work on your separation anxiety in the meantime.

Good luck with either choice!

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I would say go for it! Clinical psych programs are super competitive from what I understand and this may be the opportunity of a lifetime. I am a lifelong FL resident too and will be moving away from everything I know and love when I leave in the fall but as my mom always says "You are never more than a plane ride away" and you could always cut it short with your master's degree and you wouldn't have to stay for 5-7 years if you are unhappy there. Be brave! You have been given a wonderful opportunity :) Good luck to you!

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MOO, DeeLovely79 and Hahlj are offering outstanding guidance on how to balance the intellectual and emotional/psychological components of making a difficult decision.

What ever path you pick, BL, please do what you can to purge the "Can I do it?" fears from your deliberations. You can do it.


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I'm in a similar situation, also been accepted into a (very good) program in a cold, far away area.

Though I have been living away from my home-area (for masters, then work) for a few years now, so I am not new to that. One gets used to it, but it is not ideal, and it is still a consideration for me.

Am still undecided, and also still waiting on a school that is much nearer.

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On the distance thing:

My undergrad school is two miles away from my house. Two miles.

I hate driving, and I've never been away from my family and SO for longer than 10 weeks.

And yet, none of the graduate schools I've applied to are closer than 14 hours away by car. They are all strong programs with labs doing the research I want to do. I decided that this was more important than than being close to "home."

Am I going to be nervous as hell driving on unfamiliar roads and highways? Probably. But I'll get over it with practice.

Will I miss my family and SO? Definitely. But I'll have email/skype. And my SO will probably move in with me, eventually. And in any case, I'll likely be too busy most of the time to get homesick.

And I'm excited about getting to experience a new part of the country, finally.

So don't underestimate yourself. If you're committed to graduate school, and this program has what you want, don't let the unfamiliar aspects deter you. If you you enjoy what you're doing, then you can deal with the rest.

And not all change has to be bad. Maybe you'll end up liking the weather in Michigan! I've heard people say they prefer places with four distinct seasons (including winter).

Besides, if you intend to become a professor someday, it's quite likely that you will have to look for positions all over the country. Better to get used to the idea of living in a new place now. Plus, I've been told that it looks good to have degrees from different parts of the country, because it shows you are not geographically limited.

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Thanks Pitangus for your insights.

I know I also dreaded moving to go to my undergrad uni, though that was just an hour away, and in the end I really loved the place. Then I moved abroad to do my masters. This move was easier, as it was a very 'lovable place'. I worked hard there, and really liked it from the start. It was only a short flight away. Now however I am working on a different continent, and have my offer here (but in a different area) as well. In terms of distance it is a much bigger deal. Not just in terms of travel-time, but also cost.

I'm still undecided.

Especially as the area is less 'lovable'. And the uni, while top-notch for my (small) field, is moderately ranked otherwise.

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I'm from Michigan and I love it. I can't imagine being somewhere without 4 seasons. Fall is beautiful, especially the farther north you go. Winter, too, is beautiful and not THAT cold (granted, I'm not from Florida). Summers can still be really hot and humid--so then you'd feel at home! Oh, and spring is really good too. Plus, you have the Great Lakes. And good beer. Really good beer.

What city is it in? Just curious.

I'm also having similar doubts and fears, and it's with a program that I'm not totally in love with....

Good luck!

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Well first, congrats on being accepted! That's a pretty huge accomplishment and you should definitely be proud.

As far as your concerns, they're definitely legitimate. Obviously your academic future is important, but you also need to be happy where you are in order to succeed. The reality is that if you're going for a PhD, you're going to be there for a fairly long time.

I think a big part of your decision should also be if you're able to find a job right now. If you receive an offer for a job that you like and is relevant to your area of study, then you should definitely consider it. If, however, you're not really finding any jobs, then grad school might be the better option. Basically, if you can find a relevant job now, I feel like that would only help your chances of getting into other programs in the future--and possibly programs that are a better fit (geographically, personally, etc).

As someone who had never been away from my family for long, moving across the country was really tough for me. I cried some that first week and wanted nothing more than to go back in time and reverse my decision. But after that first week, it got SO much better. So I wouldn't worry too much about making new friends or finding your way. The important thing is to get out of your room and not be by yourself for that first bit. But if you're pretty serious with your boyfriend, then you need to figure out if you could make a long-distance work, or if he would consider moving to be with you at some point.

It sounds like you plan to go to grad school at some point, so I wouldn't worry too much about regretting not going right now. Getting more experience can only help your resume, in my opinion, and personally I thought taking a year off after undergrad was great. Good luck!

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Thank you all SO, so much for your encouragement. I have decided that I am going to accept this offer and am feeling optimistic about the future!

And if all else fails, home will always be here :)

So glad I came on this board. Take care.

Good for you! Remember that they picked you because you show potential, not because you're already an expert. Don't feel like you won't be able to handle it because you're not already doing something as rigorous and challenging. Re: Michigan - she's my home state and I've lived in every major city for at least a year, and it is a really fantastic place. On top of the natural beauty, folks are genuinely friendly. You'll make friends quickly! Feel free to PM me for specifics on any area.

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Good for you! Remember that they picked you because you show potential, not because you're already an expert. Don't feel like you won't be able to handle it because you're not already doing something as rigorous and challenging. Re: Michigan - she's my home state and I've lived in every major city for at least a year, and it is a really fantastic place. On top of the natural beauty, folks are genuinely friendly. You'll make friends quickly! Feel free to PM me for specifics on any area.

Truth! I've lived in Michigan for my whole life minus a semester abroad and a summer in DC. What school are you heading to? I'm from the Metro Detroit area and spent a summer at Michigan.

Edited by Stephanie Jaczkowska
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