Resilience (Part 1)

Starting with the story of how I arrived at graduate school seems as good a place as any to begin my blog. It’s a long and winding story that showcases what I think is my strongest attribute as a graduate student – resilience. That being said, I also hope that you’ll see the moments where I stumbled and struggled. I want to include the difficulties to showcase the human side of grad school so that we can all feel more connected.

I was pretty certain I wanted a PhD early on in my college career. I made sure that my work study job was in a lab even if it was mostly washing lab ware and measuring minuscule amounts of dirt. I completed a senior thesis and even got a few grants for that work. I thought I was doing everything correctly because getting into college was a thankfully straight forward process. But applying to graduate school was a totally different beast and oh boy did I know so comically little about the process.

I applied to a handful of programs and made sure to reach out to individual faculty ahead of time (which is necessary in my field, but not all). I had some but not much correspondence with the faculty I emailed. One person responded that he could not take on new students because he was a professor emeritus. I didn’t know at the time him that emeritus was academic jargon for retired. I didn’t get offered any interviews but still opened all my admissions decisions full of hope. I was too naïve to know that in my field only people who get invited to interviews get accepted. I had close friends who got into math, engineering, and literature programs without interviews. I assumed it was just that some schools hosted interviews and some didn’t. I didn’t realize that my field was inherently different from theirs. Seeing my friends navigate the process with much more ease and success left me feeling as though there was one day where everyone learned how to navigate graduate school admissions and I was just out sick that day.

As a result, I found myself graduating from a well-regarded university, but no job or plans post-graduation. I had applied for a few jobs at my alma mater and was so adrift that it wasn’t until the week of my graduation that my mom bought me a train ticket to move back in with her. The three months I spent at my mom’s home without any real prospects was definitely a low point in my life. But as you know from the title of this blog, things did eventually turn around and land me in a PhD program. Check back next Friday to learn about the other twists and turns I took to reach this point.


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