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ShewantsthePhD101
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I have literally done everything possible to ensure that I get in to a PhD program. I have had my SOP read by several current PhDs, my recommenders, and edited it thoroughly. I've got a 3.9 GPA out of a possible 4.0. I selected an article I had published for my writing sample. I've spent the last year and a half buffing up my cv like you wouldn't believe. I've got decent GRE scores. I've contacted people in the departments I'm applying to... and all of a sudden I am just 100% certain I'm not getting in anywhere. There are so few spots and so many applicants - does anyone else feel like "good enough" doesn't exist?

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Of course! Probably all of us have felt it at least once or twice ... a day! It's a sucking feeling and it'll only suck more if your first notifications are rejections. I can tell you though that once your first acceptance comes in, it's all gravy. You take a deep breath and go "Alright, I was, at least, good enough." Should you have choices, you'll be cloud nine.

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I think given your qualifications, you should be able to get into a program.

However, when it comes to getting into specific programs you're shooting for, I found (in my own experience) that it has less to do with credentials and more to do with "fit." This is anecdotal, but from my own experience and in speaking to another friend at a smaller PhD religion department, students are often taken in by an advisor because the proposed research interest sounded interesting to that advisor at that particular moment they were reading the application. Sometimes it depends on the mood of that POI that particular day, whether they are feeling generous towards the stack of applications to go through that day or if they read something earlier that day that shifted their interests. Or the POI might suddenly decide to teach something they've been interested in that semester and decided that in line with the course they are offering, takes on a student in that particular course, whether or not the POI is known for tackling that particular topic. On the one hand, it sounds capricious, but I share this to say that in general, qualifications can get you into programs but in specific circumstances, it's mostly out of our control.

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I can second MarthUser's statement. Of course, you want to be as strong a candidate as possible, but it really does change significantly depending on the application year, to a level that it is out of your control. I know for a fact that there were stronger candidates than me on paper at a few different programs I got into, but when the time came the fit that I had was much better than others. Smarts and drive will probably get you the interview, but being interesting, having good questions, or at the end of the day just being an actual, socialized human being is often what will get you through the door--again, in my own experience. 

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This is actually a really good feeling to learn to control and tame. It doesn't ever really go away. But getting into a program is just the first step in a long process of continually applying for things and waiting for rejection with a few joyous acceptances peppered in. That's a lot of what academia is, tbh. Conferences, journal submissions, fellowship and grant proposals, the job market. All academics submit themselves to these things, all academics have these moments of panic, and all academics experience rejection. The key is not to allow the rejections to speak to who you are as a person, which, I think we get trained to do in our graduate programs, especially at the PhD level.

As everyone has pointed out, there are so many contingencies--things that are beyond your control that, should they lead to rejection, have nothing to do with your abilities as a scholar, your intelligence, and certainly not your worth as a person. It's the most frustrating thing ever (though the job market is worse), but accepting that this is just part of how it works mitigates some of that frustration (at least for me.)

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On 1/10/2018 at 12:33 PM, marXian said:

This is actually a really good feeling to learn to control and tame. It doesn't ever really go away. But getting into a program is just the first step in a long process of continually applying for things and waiting for rejection with a few joyous acceptances peppered in. That's a lot of what academia is, tbh. Conferences, journal submissions, fellowship and grant proposals, the job market. All academics submit themselves to these things, all academics have these moments of panic, and all academics experience rejection. The key is not to allow the rejections to speak to who you are as a person, which, I think we get trained to do in our graduate programs, especially at the PhD level.

As everyone has pointed out, there are so many contingencies--things that are beyond your control that, should they lead to rejection, have nothing to do with your abilities as a scholar, your intelligence, and certainly not your worth as a person. It's the most frustrating thing ever (though the job market is worse), but accepting that this is just part of how it works mitigates some of that frustration (at least for me.)

wholeheartedly agree with this. 

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On 1/4/2018 at 8:25 PM, ShewantsthePhD101 said:

I have literally done everything possible to ensure that I get in to a PhD program. I have had my SOP read by several current PhDs, my recommenders, and edited it thoroughly. I've got a 3.9 GPA out of a possible 4.0. I selected an article I had published for my writing sample. I've spent the last year and a half buffing up my cv like you wouldn't believe. I've got decent GRE scores. I've contacted people in the departments I'm applying to... and all of a sudden I am just 100% certain I'm not getting in anywhere. There are so few spots and so many applicants - does anyone else feel like "good enough" doesn't exist?

Oh boy are you going to love grant applications :P

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On 1/10/2018 at 12:09 AM, KnightGeorge said:

I can second MarthUser's statement. Of course, you want to be as strong a candidate as possible, but it really does change significantly depending on the application year, to a level that it is out of your control. I know for a fact that there were stronger candidates than me on paper at a few different programs I got into, but when the time came the fit that I had was much better than others. Smarts and drive will probably get you the interview, but being interesting, having good questions, or at the end of the day just being an actual, socialized human being is often what will get you through the door--again, in my own experience. 

Out of curiosity, who's your advisor at Baylor?

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8 minutes ago, Carly Rae Jepsen said:

I just want to say that I feel the same for the most part. I've had at least a couple panic attacks as I wait for a response. Hope you hear from your programs soon!

I figured your music career would've acclimated you to stress! I feel better now :-P

Yea, I'm feeling stressed too. Two of my programs have Jan. 15th deadlines but have said they're moving to accept top applicants by late January in order to try and encourage accepted students to make decisions quicker, in an attempt to phase out their waitlist.

Realistically, I know I'm likely to not have a stronger idea of where I might be going until mid/late-Feb.

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I'm right there with you. I test extreme low in neuroticism and am very even keel. I work a job that most people find stressful and it doesnt really phase me. However, this process has stirred up some negative emotions. I suppose my biggest fear is of failure and this process pokes at that spot like little else.

Like others have said some of these things are out of our control. I just remind myself that I'm not going to stop until I get into a good fit program, so the universe might as well accept that so we can all move on. :lol:

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5 minutes ago, marXian said:

Congrats!

Thank you! And today I just received word I'm going to Emory's visitation weekend!

I think I can actually do this. Scratch that. I know I can do this! I've done it! I'm in somewhere. And that's all I needed.

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  • 2 weeks later...
4 hours ago, xypathos said:

Haha, if past cycles are anything to rely on - it should be fairly quiet this week and next, and then hopefully, the floodgates open for 1-2 weeks, then silence til mid-March.

I'd really like those floodgates to open *now*. I'm on the results page more frequently than I should be. Harvard has already sent out a PhD rejection. UNC Chapel hill has already sent out several decisions. Yale has interviewed several. I've heard from none of them...

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  • 1 month later...

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