So. BES has applied to graduate schools this year, and it's that time of the season where she's begun to hear back. The news has, for the most part, been utterly bleak.
Rejections to the left of her, rejections to the right.
Wait-listed at one place.
Silence from the remaining few schools.
Now, the waiting list news is really awesome (top 25 program and one of the most highly ranked programs to which she applied), but the rejections come from a range of types of programs and rankings, so when we talked yesterday, one of the topics we covered is that there is absolutely no logic to this process. We also covered the following: waiting sucks, rejection sucks, waiting and rejection are the central features of academic pursuits post undergrad, everything will be ok no matter what happens, and it's very important to keep in mind that none of this is about one's value as a person.
Here's the thing. This is a bad year to be applying for graduate school. Lots of programs are reducing their number of slots (ah, budgets) while at the same time there are record numbers of applications. BES is a strong candidate, but as we all know, strength of candidacy is not all in the crap shoot that is pursuing anything academic. One of the things that she's struggling with is that as much as I told her the worst possible scenarios for all of this, she'd never really believed they could happen to her. See, this is the first time she's ever faced this kind of rejection, the first time there has ever really seemed like it was possible that her merit and various talents would not get her what she wanted. On the one hand, this is a good lesson to learn at this point in the game. On the other hand, wow does it suck.
She was talking with her dad a few days ago about what's happening, and the topic came up of what she'll do if she doesn't get in anywhere, and she said to him that she wasn't sure if she'd apply again next year. Now, I really like BES's dad, but he gave her what might be the worst advice in the world about not "copping out" and "being a quitter" and if being a professor is really what she wants that she should keep applying every year until she realizes the dream of a grad school acceptance. Now, I see where he's coming from. He doesn't want her to accept defeat, and he wants to support her dreams. He wants her to be a person who goes after her dreams. But from my perspective, I'm not sure it would be the worst thing in the world if she held off and did something else for a bit, in order to evaluate whether, knowing now what she didn't know then, this really is her dream, and even if it is, if it's worth the opportunity cost of getting there.
This is not to say I wouldn't support BES if she did want to apply again next year. I would. I just don't believe that this is the only or best path available to her. And I don't think there would be anything wrong with her saying that she wanted to hold off on putting herself out there again, if the worst case scenario happens.
Here's the thing: I have every ounce of faith that BES is good enough to get accepted with funding into a good grad program. I have every ounce of faith that she'll excel if admitted. But I also know what's on the other end of that best case scenario: a job market that's brutal and that offer no guarantees of employment at the end of it. As much as this round of rejections sucks for her, subsequent rounds of rejections promise to be even more awful. And those rounds of rejections will come, no matter how great she is. And knowing that? Do I think it's the worst thing in the world if she doesn't single-mindedly and relentlessly pursue admission to grad school? No.
It's so weird being in the position of mentoring her through this stuff because I'm walking this fine line of cautious optimism and realistic pessimism. It's weird because obviously I'm a real-life example that following this path can actually work out ok. It's just I know that I'm the exception, not the rule.
So do I want BES to follow her dreams? Of course I do. But I'm not sure that there's any such thing as One True Dream to follow.
In other news, I've got minor revisions to do on a review essay that I completed months ago, I've got MLA panel submissions to review, I've got grading to continue, I've got preparations to make for class tonight, and I've got a bunch of research stuff to do so that I can return some library books. I've also got a paper that I need to look at for a student presentation, another paper that I need to comment on for a grad student from last semester, a conference paper I need to draft (the conference isn't for a hundred years, but I've said I'd present a version of it at a grad student symposium thing that is only a few weeks away), and god only knows what. Oh, and I'm still waiting on news re: The House (my realtor said they're optimistic we'll have a response by week's end, but we'll see). And my stupid Man-Kitty woke me up at 4 AM, and while in theory I could have gone back to sleep after giving him some breakfast, my mind was so clogged with all of the things that I've got to do that I just said fuck it and woke up, so that means I should crash sometime in the next two hours and need a nap.
4 years ago