My Grad School Story – The Truth.

homemade recipe # 5

In an effort to be transparent and truthful about my journey to graduate school. I felt a blog post was in order, I tried twice to condense everything into an Instagram caption, but there was too much left out. I know, popular culture right now says to “move in private, live in private,” but that’s not me. I wanted to share my story in efforts to help someone else who is going through or about to go through the same process.

So, this story actually started in May 2017. I shared this tweet. I wanted to start speaking into existence this goal that had been on my heart for years now. Peep the date (and follow me on twitter!).

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Shortly thereafter, like 2 months later I was accepted into my Post-Baccalaureate program in Pittsburgh. Which has literally been the greatest opportunity ever. I have learned so much and gained so much knowledge about graduate school that I would’ve never gotten otherwise. One of the main purposes of this program is to “bridge” students into a graduate school program preferably a Ph.D. program.

I applied to 12 Schools, 10 of which were Ph.D. Programs. I was feeling pretty good about every application. I recognized that my new application was MUCHHHH stronger than the one I submitted during my senior year at Hampton. Next, I had to play the waiting game, waiting for interviews. For most clinical psychology Ph.D. programs, you have to interview to even be considered for one of their spots. In this field, there is a very limited number of spots available each year. No interview = no admission chances. The waiting game here was pretty alright. I figured I would at least get one interview invitation. The interview invitations started rolling in. 1 here, 1 there… then by the end, I had 8 offers to interview. 1 for a master’s program and 7 for Ph.D. programs. I was feeling pretty good at this point, I had definitely exceeded my expectations.

After all the interviews began the REAL waiting game and this is the part I felt like no one really prepared me for. Everyone was telling me and encouraging me that I would hear back in about a week or so after the interview. But I wasn’t, it was just silence – on all fronts. So naturally, I started getting stressed out about it, because I should at least get one offer, right? Wrong. I start getting rejected instead. Being rejected from schools really hit my self-esteem as a person and as a researcher. I also was being waitlisted and for several schools, I was 1st alternate. I was basically everyone’s second choice and it made me feel really really crappy. I was borderline depressed, to be honest.

The month of March was so hard because nothing was coming through for me Ph.D. wise. It was a very very very sad time for me (ask my parents). It was like I was grieving the loss of potentially going into these Ph.D. programs. I cried a lot, almost every day. It felt like a crushing blow, like being hit in the face with a brick. I pushed people way fearing that they would not understand, and even when I did open up to them – they didn’t understand. “Oh Tanesha, just do the master’s program. That’s okay too.” I felt like everyone was pitying me. I was overcome with shame like I had let everyone down who was rooting for me – my mentors, advisors, parents, friends, everyone.  Which wasn’t true, I am sure that they would’ve been supportive of whatever I chose to do. But it hurt. It hurt like hell. I felt like a disappointment, to be honest, I didn’t have the problem of having all these offers like I believed, and my peers believed I would have.

After the 5th rejection, I figured the Ph.D. life was not going to be for me. There was no way, I had just been rejected basically everywhere and was still waitlisted at two programs. I decided to throw in the towel. I had 3 master’s program admissions in my back pocket that I was holding. I started making arrangements to go into a social work and public health joint program. Let me note here, that even though social work was my back up plan – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that social work is super amazing because I do. I kick it into high gear with trying to get everything together to learn as much as I can about social work and public health. Essentially, going into both programs blindly because my focus has always been on psychology programs. I just wanna add here, shout out to all the Hamptonians that I reached out to about MSW programs and that helped me decide that this was going to be my next move. Also shout out to Dr. Duncan, who helped calm me down on several occasions.

By this time is the first week of April, I was fortunate enough to meet a woman who put me in contact with all these public health professions and set up meetings with them. And I was able to finally really see myself in these programs. I had a game plan, it might not be the straight shot for my goals that I thought it was going to be; however, it was nonetheless a round-about way to getting to do everything that I wanted to do. I was ready to transition my goals to this new journey!

I was ready, I was preparing to submit my deposit for the MSW program and submit my application for the public health program. For some reason, I got distracted and had to take care of something that was away from the data lab. I was gone for like ten minutes before I realized that I left my phone.  So, I run back to my office to grab my phone and there was an email from one of the advisors at the two schools I was still waitlisted at. I just figured it’s just another rejection email, so I decided to wait to open it.  Rejection hurts, and I wasn’t about to cry in the data lab. So, finally, I decided to go ahead and open it. And Y’all guess what –

I WAS OFFERED ADMISSION INTO A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY Ph.D. PROGRAM!

Have you ever seen the Pursuit of Happyness? I literally felt like this scene below. I sat at my desk and cried with such happiness and joy. I finally felt like someone was taking a chance on me and my academic abilities. There are no words to describe that feeling. Just an overwhelming amount of happiness and relief. I literally just cried, I couldn’t do anything else for a few minutes just sit there in awe.

 

After basically a month of crying, and rejection a program that I was waitlisted at offered me a spot of admission. I wrote all this out to say, if you are on this journey to graduate school – it is not going to be easy, but don’t give up! It’s super messy, emotional, expensive and it will challenge you in many, many different ways. This was my second cycle applying and honestly, I would not have done anything differently, as a matter of fact; I was considering applying again after I finished those masters programs. I posted this quote on Instagram, but I think it applies here as well: “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but NEVER the goal.” I think that even if you have to take a roundabout way to accomplish your goals – you should still do it. You deserve to still do it. You are smart enough to still do it. Be persistent. You (and your goals) are worth it.

Blessings & XOXO

-Tanesha Renae

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9 thoughts on “My Grad School Story – The Truth.

  1. Boujeeratchademic says:

    Yesssssss CONGRATS!! idk, for some reason people don’t properly prepare us for the phd app process. It’s such an ordeal. especially as POC, we take the rejections sooo hard. I didn’t learn until AFTER the fact how layered a phd rejection actually is. It’s so not like applying to anything else where your accomplishments/qualifications are pretty much it. It’s crazy and I know a lot of people who have internalized negative feelings about hemselves from the process. Definitely exacerbates impostor syndrome.

  2. Juliann Li, MSW Candidate says:

    This is such an honest post, and completely reminded me of my own process this year applying to graduate programs. Getting rejected to programs and the level of competitiveness that accompanies higher education in general is so challenging in this time. Congratulations!

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