Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Waiting Period: Graduate Admissions Survival


If you have a philosopher who happens to have applied to graduate schools this year, you are likely in thick of waiting. This waiting period is almost always intensely stressful for both you and your philosopher.

Depression during this waiting period can be exasperated by your philosopher, especially if they persist in checking their email frequently or if they insist on monitoring acceptances/rejections on online forums (such as gradcafe). This is especially dangerous for philosophers who are also working on MA theses (it’s the worst kind of distraction from work).

So how can you help alleviate the depressive effects of the application waiting period?

1. Make an alternate plan.

This may seem rather dreadful, but it will help both you and your philosopher if you develop a backup plan (what to do if your philosopher doesn’t get in anywhere). If your philosopher knows that they have alternate options—even if these aren’t ideal—then it might ease their mind a bit. For sure, having a backup plan can also do wonders for your mental health.

2. Reassure. Reassure. Reassure.

You will find yourself having to do lots of reassuring during this period. Prepare to be patient with your philosopher every time they descend into the slough of despond. Reassure your philosopher that they are really intelligent, they haven’t heard from every school yet, just because someone has been accepted on gradcafe doesn’t mean that all decisions are final, just because they didn’t get in this year doesn’t mean that they can never try again, etc. Just because they didn’t get into one of their lower-tier schools, doesn’t mean that they won’t get into an upper-tier school. Remind them. Here are two stories that might help your philosopher:

Story 1: A philosopher thought they had received rejections from every school to which they applied, as they had seen people post on gradcafe about each of their schools. Well guess what? An oversight had led to an acceptance letter—from their first school choice—either not being sent or being lost in the mail.

Story 2: An extremely intelligent philosopher received rejections from every place they applied one year. Instead of giving up, this philosopher applied to exactly the same places the next year and got in to several of them.

3. Bake treats.

This speaks for itself.

4. Distract your philosopher.

This is a good time to ply your philosopher with distractions. Help them train for a marathon; make a goal to watch all of the AFI top 100 movies; encourage them to prepare a paper for publication; refinish some furniture. Distractions are really necessary to keep your philosopher from being despondent sometimes.


When all else fails, direct them to Ph.D. comics.

~The Philosiologist

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2 comments:

  1. I work in graduate admissions and I can absolutely verify that some excellent applicants are unlucky one year, reapply the next year, then sail through. For PhDs it can sometimes be the case that there a particular area of research is very oversubscribed one year - often due to considerations of the funding the department has in place, which students it has already admitted, and which staff are able to take on new students - and eases up the next. That said, to next years' applicants, it IS important to apply to a range of different places and to apply early!

    I should also emphasise your point that, in my institution at least, admissions decisions are sent out over a rather long period (weeks to months) and that just because some have already received offers, there's no reason you won't. Sometimes notifications are done in alphabetical batches, sometimes in order of assessment, sometimes randomly.

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  2. Thanks for the reassurance! See, philosophers? :-)

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