As we enter into the latter portion of our undergraduate careers, we start to ponder the things that have deeply interested us thus far while simultaneously being encouraged from many different people to start giving thought to what's next. And the thought is exciting. It was thrilling to think about my endless options. Did I want to take time off? Was I prepared and excited to enter the workforce? Or was I interested in pursuing a graduate degree? My plan was to apply to graduate schools.
After acknowledging that research was the highlight of my undergraduate years, and many conversations with great mentors, I decided to apply for doctoral programs. As I entered the application phase, the excitement wore off just a little bit because it is draining. How am I supposed to adequately present myself to this institution? There is no doubt about it; the application phase is a difficult several months. Between taking the GRE, writing personal statements, continually editing my writing sample, meeting with professors for frequent advice, gathering letters of recommendations and still being enrolled in 19 credit hours and working part-time, my excitement wore off a little bit. But once those applications were all submitted, I felt intense relief and total excitement. I had applied, and I was officially a part of the waiting game. It was a time during which I could simply imagine myself attending these various doctoral programs, and it felt wonderful.
For students who are part of the application phase, or who may soon be a part of that phase, ask a lot of questions. Ask your peers who may have just gone through it, and ask your professors. Because, as I was continually reminded, questions are totally normal. I had hundreds of them, and that is okay. Furthermore, make sure you are managing your time well. It is helpful to set time aside each week, dedicated purely to application materials, so that by the time the deadlines are approaching, you are way ahead of the game. And finally, remember that this is only a part of the process.
And here I am, rejected from two of those programs, accepted by four, and still waiting on two. I am incredibly excited, yet also thoroughly terrified. Where will I be living in a few short months? How do I know whether I am making the right decision? As everyone offers completely different advice, I find it tough to digest it all. And I think that this is probably normal, too. But through this phase, with which I am not yet done, I have learned the importance of talking it through with those who have just been through it. It's tough. What do I decide? There is a lot at stake, and this is a huge decision; it will definitely have an impact on the rest of my life. So I am still learning to continue to ask questions, but it is harder to take in the answers. This is partially due to the wide range of emotions that comes with this time period, but it is also due to the fact that everyone has had different goals for themselves, different experiences, and different outcomes, and I don't know where I quite fit in or with whom I align most. So it is critical to remember that this is my decision, and that my experience is unique. I look forward to the recruitment weekends for each of the programs to which I have been accepted thus far, and I have a huge decision to make in the very near future.
This phase is exhilarating, terrifying, joyous, anxiety-ridden, and still a part of the great unknown. I wish the best of luck to all others who may find themselves in this wonderful situation, and I am so grateful to my exceptional mentors, my incredibly supportive and reliable research colleagues that became close friends, and all of my loved ones who have been intimately involved, by default, in this long process.