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I need serious help...I feel like this is no longer normal grad school anxiety?


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Hi guys. This has been on my mind for a long time and it's been really really hard for me to share with anyone, so thanks for taking the time to listen.

 

I finished applying to graduate programs and have been waiting to hear back to see if I get admitted anywhere. And the longer I wait, the more and more hopeless I am starting to feel. I really don't think I'm going to get in anywhere. I don't think I'm good enough. I started to think of a plan B for what I'll do if I get rejected everywhere, and I realized...I don't want to have a plan B. Nothing else seems worth it. It seems like this is my whole life, my whole future, my only option. The more and more I thought of it, the more I came to the realization.... I think that if I don't get into school anywhere I want to kill myself. I've been thinking this for about a month now. I know it sounds ridiculous and irrational but it seems like it's the only option for me. I've lost a very close friend to suicide in the past, and I know how painful it is to lose someone like that. I've been through tough times before, but I never wanted to follow through with it because I didn't want to hurt the people I love. Right now it seems like that's the only thing holding me back if I don't get in. grad school is my only chance for a future. If I don't get in, there is nothing else for me here. I know it's messed up. But I can't stop thinking like this. I am so behind in my schoolwork because I am constantly worrying about grad school and can't get myself to focus on anything else in my life.

it seems like my only option left.
I don't know what to do.

 

(note -- this is not an I am actively going to hurt myself/I am a danger to myself right now/etc etc... I just want to make these thoughts go away. I'm not going to follow through with those thoughts. But I don't know how to stop thinking this way...it scares me.)

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Is there a counseling center at your school? The thoughts you are having are alarming.  And if your anxiety is interfering with your day to day life, it's not a "normal" level so talking to a counselor may be of help to you.  I'm sorry this is stressing you out so much.  :(

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I know the feeling. Last year, I was in the same situation, waiting endlessly for acceptance into anywhere. And the nerve-wracking wait just got worse when I knew that many of my friends were getting acceptances into their top choices or somewhere. In the end, it turned out I was rejected by all the programs that I applied to. I was so ashamed to tell this to my lab-mates, my advisors, my friends and everyone else who knew I applied for grad school. I had been through the shame, the self-doubts, the anger and the frustration but I didn't give up. I hold on to my goals and move on with my other plans. I tried again, and now I'm going to attend graduate school this fall, doing what I wanted to do.

 

I know this is tough for you but some truths remain. No matter how hard you think it's gonna be the end of your world if you got all rejections, it's not! Attending grad school THIS YEAR cannot be your life-determining event and your only plan. Whether you like it or not, there are so much more you can do before the next application season. You can always try again as long as your don't give up. And you are not alone! I believe there are many people on the forum, including myself, who have been through two or even more rounds of application before getting to where they wanted to be. Key is you have to realize that things don't always work out the way we wanted them to. 

 

Try to let go all the negative thoughts and move on while holding on to your dreams and goals. Things will always work-out eventually. And always get help if you need to. Good luck! =]

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If your school has a free counseling center, definitely take advantage of it. Let someone know about how you're feeling, even just a close professor or advisor.

 

Even if you can't see a future without grad school now, I promise that there is one. And even though you may think it's the end of the world, it's only end of a small world out of thousands of possibilities. It's the end of the idea of going to grad school in fall and the expectations that come with that. But it is not the end of the world in which you can attend grad school at all, the world in which you can fall in love or travel the world, or the end of the world in which you can do many other exciting and fulfilling things.

 

Just remember that grad school is a small part of life compared to all that is out there. And you have a support system here and with your friends, family, and colleagues. /hugs

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@sophiak119: Hey! I would certainly advise you speak to somone you can trust - either a professional or a friend (or both). Getting into grad school is only the beginning. It seems like when the workload starts to pile on...you may need some extra support to guide  you through your program - so start speaking to someone now. There is no shame in it. Secondly, you cannot allow yourself to believe that schools rejecting your application, automatically means that they are rejecting you as a person. There are so many factors involved - direction of the dept, interest match, funding, etc. If you do unfortunately get rejected by all the places you've applied to, talk to these departments and find out why. Then you can prepare yourself for the next application cycle accordingly - if that's what you want. As someone said earlier - you may need to assess why you want to go to grad school in the first place, and why you feel like it's all or nothing. A grad program does not validate or define you...and there really is more to life than academia.

 

Please feel free to keep reaching out to gradcafers if you need to - but honestly, you need to get some extra support for this season.

 

Sending you warm wishes from London.

Edited by agej
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sophiak119, as others have said, please talk to a counsellor if you're having suicidal thoughts

Look, I was rejected from all the programs I applied to last year. It was shameful admitting that to my friends, family, colleagues, etc (and admitting to myself that I wasn't as good as I thought). Applying to grad school is time-consuming and a lot of people get more emotionally-invested in the procedure than they expect. 

 

But as I'm sure you can see from reading around the forums, it isn't that unusual to get rejected from all the grad schools we applied to on the first attempt. More people are applying to PhD and MA programs, while the schools are finding it harder to get funding. The end result is that a more people than ever are getting rejected and forced to re-apply. Everybody understands how crazily competitive the application process is, no one will consider you any less of a person if you don't get any offers this year. 

 

A bad first attempt wasn't the end of the world for me, and it won't be the end of the world for you. I took time strengthening my application, re-applied and got acceptance letters. Sure it took a year out of my life, but as far as I'm concerned it was worth it.

 

It sounds like you've got so fixed on the grad school applications that you've lost sight of the bigger picture (ie, that grad school is not the be all and end all of your life). Spend a day hanging out with your friends doing something fun. Take up a new sport. Volunteer for a charity. Have a mini weekend holiday to a nearby city. There is more to your existence than getting into a graduate program.

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Like others above, I think that you should talk to someone "in real life" and get some professional help dealing with the thoughts you are having as well as finding out why you have them in the first place. Because if you've had them before, there must be some underlying issue and they may come back even when you get admitted to grad school and start on the program in future.

 

That said, I understand your situation. Like so many others here I too am on my second round of applications, and for weeks I asked myself what I would do if I didn't get into any grad programs. For two years I had a job I didn't like, that actually made me very unhappy. I realized that research is all I want to do and the thing I am really good at, but there are few options in research if you don't have a PhD. Now - on my second attempt, like I said - I've been admitted to two great programs. It is possible. Actually, I think it is very likely that those who have a strong passion and know exactly what they want and why they want it will be successful in the end. Even if not necessarily on the first attempt. And maybe having to go through the process twice is even beneficial in some ways because it strengthens your direction and your passion and gives you greater appreciation when you get what you desire in the end. If you don't get into any programs this year (and you don't even know for certain!), you have a year to strengthen your application. Retake the GRE if necessary, take additional classes or get other additional qualifications, work on your statement (people on this forum here are very willing to help you optimize your statement of purpose from what I've seen) and maybe consider different/additional schools to apply to.

 

As someone who's really had to fight for their dreams in recent years (and still is, on many fronts), let me tell you that I firmly believe that you will get where you want to be in the end - even if not on the easiest and least burdensome path possible. And in hindsight, any detour may prove to be a good thing. Best of luck!!

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Hi, I think a lot of people have said some very important things.  I just want to add something that I had written on another thread a while back. It seems appropriate.....

 

Self care is so very important under stressful conditions. Sometimes it is important to take a step back from the situation and gain some important perspective. You may get in, you may not. You may have to make some tough decisions in the next few weeks or you may not. But no matter what, there will not be a scenario that you CANT handle.
In the larger scheme of things, this is just one hurdle in your life and believe it or not, it will not be your biggest. It just feels like it because you are in the 'here and now'. If you look back at your life, consider all of your accomplishments. I'm willing to bet that you can think of several examples where you had to do something at least twice to get it right--whether it was learning to ride a bike or perfecting an academic achievement, it took time and patience to get it right.

You still have plenty of time to hear back from your schools. If you get in, that is wonderful. If you dont, it is not the end of the world.
If it helps, think about your plan 'B'. Although it sucks to get rejected, knowing that you can do something about it is empowering and motivating.
Most importantly, remember that getting into the perfect grad school does not define you as a person nor should it measure your sense of self worth. It is just one aspect of 'you'. If you get in, be proud because you have every right to be. If you dont get in, be persistent and know that you can and should reapply. And, be proud. This process is not for the faint of heart and getting this far says a lot about you as a person, regardless of the result.
 

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Like many of the posts before me, you really should get counseling. The moment you start to have suicidal thoughts, even if it's followed by "but I'm not going to do it." It's a cry for help. You're still in school and it might feel like the end of the world now, but in a few months time, you'll look back and think you're crazy for worrying so much. Also, graduate school is going to be even more stressful than the wait to go to graduate school. Even if you think you might be ready for it academically, maybe maturity-wise you aren't. You can always preoccupy yourself with finding a job, just because you don't want to do it, doesn't mean you shouldn't. Just take care of yourself and finish school with good grades, so you don't close the door on applying again to similarly ranked schools.

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to be rather blunt, if you are anxious and suicidal now, it will only get worse in graduate school - much worse. just wait until you have to do your comprehensive examination. sometimes you will be treated like a slave. sometimes the expectations on you will be unbearable. i think that you need psychiatric intervention immediately. do not put yourself through the torture of graduate school if you can't deal with rejection at the outset.

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I completely agree with Selecttext as well as all the other posts above me. If just the wait and the uncertain future are causing you this much stress and anxiety, is it really the best thing to go into Grad School which requires a whole bunch of uncertain chaos? Also, you need to go to a counselor/therapist ASAP. Once again, if this wait is driving you insane and causing these emotions then (to be straight forward) you most likely are not mentally ready to handle Grad School. However, if you talk to a counselor and/or a therapist they will work with you in developing techniques to handle stress (and get rid of those thoughts...). In short, you need to manage your stress NOW before heading off to Grad School. Taking care of yourself should be your first priority (if you are happy, you will be more efficient with work).

 

There are some horrible events that have happened due to stress, for example - http://www.nytimes.com/1998/11/29/magazine/lethal-chemistry-at-harvard.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

 

Plus, there are always options. Take a year off school and work (save up money). Take other Undergrad classes. Find a job. Also, look at this article (geared towards Phys/Astro...but still helpful), it lists other options if Grad Schools are in your near future - http://astrobites.com/2012/12/10/when-graduate-school-isnt-in-the-immediate-future/. Plus, depending on what you do, it could be a stepping stone into Graduate School next year. 

 

By no means is Grad School the only option though, it might seem like it...but its not.

Edited by AstroPenguin
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@sophiak What program are you applying to?

 

As some people on here mentioned, I was rejected the first time I sent in my PhD applications, and I was absolutely crushed. I was accepted into a Master's program and I am reapplying for PhD this cycle. 

 

Stress and anxiety are normal, but if you don't get in this round, you can either go into a Master's program or work in a related field, and then reapply as a stronger applicant. As someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I found comfort in meditation, talking to close friends, talking to my undergrad advisor, and yoga; maybe you could try one of those to ease the anxiety? 

 

Your life isn't over if you get rejected; there are other ways to improve your application and be a re-admit. Don't give up!  :) I know that at the moment it seems scary and daunting, but remember that there are people that care about you and will help you!

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Ok I am just going to be 100% honest with my advice. The first thing you need to do is immediately quit thinking about suicide. Any life is better than no life.

 

Now, let me tell you what happened to me last year. I applied to about 5 schools, all of which were much higher goals than I could reasonably handle with my level of experience at that time. I had only 1 summer of internship experience. So, I got rejected from every school, except one, which I interviewed at. Then I got waitlisted, and then rejected from that too. So then, I moved to a random city and found a really awesome lab tech position (that I am still doing until this fall), which gave me loads of experience.

 

This application cycle, I've applied to about 5 schools so far, and have gotten interview offers at all but one (the longshot school). I feel like a pro now compared to the other applicants, who remind me of myself from last year.

 

Therefore, my advice is to just find something meaningful to do with your extra year off, and then aim high next year. You REALLY won't regret it, trust me. I am glad I was rejected from that one school, because my interests have changed greatly and I have much better goals in my career. It was really a great gift to be forced to find experience in the real world for a year.

 

You can mail me if you want more details, and I can give you more specific advice. But seriously, just stop thinking that going to grad school this fall and death are your only two options.

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just be glad that you don't have to wait for acceptance letters while also writing a master's thesis that is already late

 

Ugh I'm in the same position. Mine's do in April, so I'm doubly stressed out. I feel ya

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*hugs sophiak* I think you needed that hug. And try to remember you're in distinguished company. Like many others, I had applied and failed last year, and that all turned around this year. It CAN happen. 

 

Everyone's above advice are great. In addition..

 

If you ever feel truly overwhelmed by your feelings, you can turn to confidential helplines. Two of my closest friends have volunteered as crisis counselors, and on the whole the people there want to help you. They DO help. http://www.suicidehotlines.com/ has listings by state, or 1-800-273-8255  - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are great resources. Also, if your school has a psychology program, they sometimes offer a free psychology clinic, at least my alma mater did. 

 

Stay strong.

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Hi everyone, I just wanted to say thank you all so much for your honesty, and your words of advice and encouragement. These are thoughts that I have been struggling with for some time now, and have felt really embarassed and ashamed to admit them, so it means a lot that so many of you had such helpful and thoughtful things to say to me. I really appreciate it.

 

I decided that tomorrow morning I'm going to make a few calls and see if I can find a way to get in to see a counselor in my area. I've been thinking for a while now that it could be helpful, but I was scared to take those steps until now. I also had been thinking that maybe having these thoughts wasn't too unusual and maybe I was making too big of a deal out of them, but your responses have led me to realize that they may be more serious than I had thought. I also have been second guessing whether it is a good idea for me to attend grad school next year, whether or not I get accepted, since I'm not sure how stable I really am at the moment. I guess I will see if I do end up getting accepted anywhere, and whether or not talking to a professional helps, and then decide from there.

 

Thanks again for all your inspirational stories and words of encouragement, I do feel a little less alone in the process after hearing from you all :)

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As someone who has been through a lot of what you're dealing with and has gone through therapy to help figure it out, I'm glad that you are willing to give it a try. The thing that really stood out to me reading your original post is that you seem to fall victim to a lot of cognitive distortions. Here is a list of examples if you want to take a look: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2009/15-common-cognitive-distortions/

 

Therapy really helps you identify and question destructive thought patterns along those lines. I just wanted to warn you that it is neither quick nor easy. Before I started it seemed like everything I read gave the idea that therapy was this amazing thing that you start and all of a sudden everything gets better, and honestly it made it a lot more difficult at first when that didn't happen immediately and I felt guilty because I thought this was somehow my personal failing. It really forces you to become aware of and talk about a lot of thoughts that you are having that you try to ignore in the past and this can be really a really challenging process. However if you stick with it and make a real effort, it is SO worth it and your effort will definitely be rewarded. You just need to start telling yourself that you deserve to feel better. 

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