I have been thinking about how to write this post for some time now, especially since most of my friends on Facebook have already heard what’s going on. I think it is the right time to make a public announcement of sorts so the next phase in my life, and blogging, doesn’t come as a surprise to the few cats who subscribe to this blog.
If you have read my blog for some time, you probably know that I was briefly in a master’s program that I decided not to continue after one semester. I did not go into details at the time for why I decided not to continue, but I want to say now that there was nothing wrong with the program, there was nothing wrong with my performance, I just found it extremely difficult to handle, and do well, while working full time and taking care of my family. I was overwhelmed and by the time the semester ended I was finished. I also didn’t feel that an MA alone would further my career goals enough to make it worth my suffering, not to mention that finishing an MA part time, with one class per semester, would have taken me something like five years. I couldn’t do it, so the decision came as a huge relief. I moved on, I made other life plans, but I couldn’t quite shake the idea of getting a PhD, which had been my plan all along. So, sometime in September of last year I decided to jump in the deep end and go for the PhD full time with no other work. All or nothing; it’s the only way I can do it.
Mind you, most people make that decision much earlier in the year and have plenty of time to prepare. Deadlines for most schools are either in early or mid December, so to start even thinking about it in September was already cutting it close. Not one to be put off by the last minute, I quickly got down to business. I registered to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination and the bane of my existence) with just enough time to be able to take it a second time if I needed to, started contacting the professors from whom I wanted letters of recommendations, started updating my statement of purpose, polishing my writing sample, etc. It helped immensely that this was not the first time I applied to grad school, and that with some very minor changes, my interests were the same.
One of the most difficult parts of the process was narrowing the list of schools down to a realistic size because applications are so expensive. Besides, I you must really find institutions that will be a good fit for you academically, personally, and a place that has decent job possibilities for your spouse if you have one. There are also added considerations if you have a family. The added hurdle is that with the state of academia, you must attend the best university that will take you, assuming fit is good. So, I narrowed the list down to about thirteen or fourteen, and started contacting the faculty members with whom I wanted to work explaining who I was, what I wanted to research, and asking if they were interested in supervising that research and were taking new students. For the most part, the responses were positive and encouraging, with the odd professor not taking any new students.
In the end, I applied to ten schools, all but two in the top 20 for the field (History). Go big or go home. Because I employed this strategy, and applied to fancy, elite, and extremely selective programs, I was prepared not to get into any of them, but I had to try. So, once all the applications were in, that’s when the fun, not, started.
The worst part of the entire process has been the waiting to hear back from the schools. The last of the applications was due on December 15th, and by the time early January came around I was already an anxiety ridden lunatic. It would still be another month after that before I heard anything at all from any school. I perused online graduate student boards, compulsively checked my email and the online applications portals, etc. Then one day, when I was deep in work at the office, my cell phone rang and it was someone from one of the programs to which I applied, and one that was in my top three choices. I was excited and terrified all at once. Then I heard him say “I am calling to let you know that you have been accepted to History PhD program at X University, congratulations!” I was speechless. I’m not one to be speechless, but I couldn’t find words, I sounded like an idiot. At that moment, I felt like a HUGE weight had been lifted off my shoulders; even if I didn’t get in anywhere else, I had an acceptance from a top choice school!
I did get other acceptances, and I did get rejections. I won’t lie, the rejections hurt, but I was expecting rejection.
So, now that I have officially accepted an admission offer following a campus visit, I am moving to New York City and becoming a full time PhD student! Yes, I am quitting my nice office job with amazing benefits and decent pay, and I am moving my family up to New York; we are all ready for a change. I am ridiculously excited not only about starting a full time, FULLY FUNDED with incredible funding, PhD program, but also about moving to NYC. I have wanted to live there ever since I can remember, and now I have this amazing opportunity. So, in the coming weeks, and the coming months, I will probably write about my journey as I wrap up my life here in South Florida, and attempt to settle in New York City, at least for the next five years or so.
I won’t lie, I’m scared about uprooting and settling in somewhere new…again…, I’m scared about starting a rigorous PhD program, and I’m scared of failing. But most of all, I’m scared of having to live with myself if I don’t go for it.