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No, I did not get into Yale.

I found out Friday, and that realization was the cornerstone of a day that got progressively worse and worse, until it ended very well (truffled macaroni and cheese and a curiously potent drink called The Zombie improved my mood so well that I’m pretty sure they could patent that combination as an anti-depressant). I won’t go into any details, but I will say that Friday was one of the worse days I’ve had in a long time, in terms of being emotionally capable of handling what was thrown at me.

I’m very happy Friday’s over. πŸ™‚

Now that the dust has settled, and I’ve had time to process rejection, I can honestly say that I am more than happy with where I’m going to graduate school. I know this is going to sound like Aesop’s fox in the vineyard, but you can ask Chad, and he’ll vouch for me: I’ve had a feeling for months now that I not only was going to end up at UCF, but that I need to go there. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that I’m very familiar with the area, and have lots of friends that are going there. But there’s something deeper to this feeling than the excitement of reuniting with old friends in a city I love. It’s even deeper than the realization that this department is a perfect fit for my academic interests, which is not an easy thing to find, even in a country full of graduate programs. It’s a sense of purpose, and a feeling that UCF is where I need to be, for some reason that I can only assume I’ll find out more about when I get there.

I’m not going to lie; I feel more than a little silly coming on my blog and telling the world that it’s my destiny to be in this program. I’m going out on a limb here by giving voice to the feeling that I’ve only really admitted to Chad. But I’ve had this feeling from the very beginning of this whole grad school application process, and I haven’t been able to shake it since.

I can only assume this is a God thing, and if it is, I’m excited to be a vessel for whatever is in store. If it isn’t, and this whole feeling is just something my imagination concocted, well, I’m still going to be getting a Master’s degree in a great program in one of my favorite cities in the country. So I don’t really see how this is a bad situation either way πŸ˜‰

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I’ve also learned a WHOLE lot about the graduate school admissions process this cycle, and you bet your sweet bippy I’m going to use what I learned to my advantage when it comes time to reapply to PhD programs. For anyone who is applying to grad schools now, or will be in the near future, here is some advice:

-Apply to as MANY places as you can afford. It’s ex-pen-$$$ive (catch my drift?) to apply to many programs, I know, but if you get into even one funded program, then the cost of your application fees was a good investment.

-Corollary to the above point: Only apply to programs that you feel would be a good fit for you. There is some debate on whether this just means research-wise (if the professors there are working on research in your field of interest), or lifestyle-wise as well. Some people think you should take the best program that accepts you, even if it’s in Nowhere, Wyoming and you have no desire to leave a city smaller than Atlanta. Other people think that, since graduate school is going to be at least a few years of your life, you should take the location and feel of the program/campus/surrounding area into consideration. I happen to fall into the latter group, but it’s ultimately up to you. Just be aware of this as an issue.

-Funding is important, and becomes more so the longer you expect to be in your program. While student loans might be justifiable for a one year program, they should NEVER be relied on as sole source of income for a 6-7 year PhD program. The income you’ll be making after you graduate just can’t cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll incur in living expense debt while you’re in school.

-Apply to a variety of programs in regards to ranking, no matter how awesome of a student you are. I had a very high GPA, fantastic GRE scores, three years of research experience, and publications under my belt when I applied, and I couldn’t break into the Top 20 of ranked programs. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, the economy has been in the tanks, and that means many people who may have been laid off recently have decided to go back to school to improve their resume, or to bide their time until there are more jobs to be had. Anecdotal evidence suggests that programs everywhere and in every field are seeing record numbers of applicants, which means everything’s a lot more competitive. I’m working on accepting that rejections don’t necessarily reflect on my poor preparation for graduate school as much as the high quality of applicants that I’ve been competing against. If you really think you’ve got what it takes, then by all means apply to Top 10 and Top 20 programs, but it would be foolish to not apply to some lower-tier programs too (unless those programs aren’t funded!)

– Don’t be afraid to use every resource at your disposal. I was very lucky to have academic mentors I trusted who could help me with my applications, but I also turned to family for help, as well as friends who recently went through the same process. This process can be stressful (especially during the waiting period), and it’s important to have a strong network of emotional and intellectual support. I’m going to guess this advice will still hold true for graduate school itself πŸ™‚

-Lastly, there is an awesome website called thegradcafe.com. Go, familiarize yourself with the content, and read everything and anything that may be applicable to your situation. I learned so much about this process from users who have gone through several application cycles, or who are in graduate school now and are dealing with issues I’ve never even considered. It’s a great resource, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I know I have a lot of friends who are going to be graduating from college in the next few years, and if any of you want to go to grad school and want help/advice/a shoulder to cry on, I would be happy to help how I can. I am so grateful to the friends that helped me, and I’d love to pay it forward.

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.- Abigail Adams

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