Last year I alluded to some things that were in the works for 2012. Initially, I wasn’t going to talk about this one unless it turned out positively, but after some thinking the past few days, I decided to share.
I am applying to a PhD program in Creative Writing. My final application, writing sample, personal statement, and cv actually left my obsessive revisions today and passed out of my control into the hands of the university, even though the deadline isn’t until Tuesday. The past few months I have been worrying and what-ifing, revising, and judging myself. I’ve made lists of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve made my family and friends read my statement and writing sample until they are all sick of them. Last semester, the day after I finished administering and participating in final exams, I sat for the GRE (FYI, GRE results are only good for 5 years. So the whole only taking it once thing is a myth. Shockingly, despite being mentally drained, my writing and verbal skills were great. Math . . . eh. I did well on the parts that included stats, logic problems, and data analysis–basically the math I do on a regular basis.)
I am lucky to have three wonderful professors to write me recommendations. However, they warned me that the program I have selected is ridiculously competitive (4 out of 50 applicants accepted). I am very much aware that the phrase “a snowball’s chance in hell” is certainly applicable. And so I have slowly been making myself crazy evaluating myself, changing single words in my samples, and running scenarios. Today I realized enough is enough. I submitted the application because there is nothing that will change in the next three days aside from my continue vacillation between using the word ‘influence’ or ‘inspiration’ in paragraph three of statement.
I know that I will probably not get in the program. Next year I will apply to other programs. And the year after that if necessary. I want a PhD.
I hadn’t talked about any of this before because a.) I’m superstitious and didn’t want to jinx anything, but mostly b.) I didn’t want to be embarrassed when it didn’t work out.
After much thought, I can say this: I am not a weak applicant. I have a 4.0. My test grades are high. My recommendations should be solid. The personal statement is well-written, focused, and addresses things specific to their program. The writing sample won third place in a state graduate writing competition. I have college teaching experience and realistic expectations.
And I want it badly. I’m a fighter. I went to a two day graduate weekend class–eight hours a day–two days before my first baby was due. That meant driving three hours each way and talking about Thoreau in depth while I was nine and a half months pregnant. (I found out later that my professor thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown because she was so worried I would go into labor.) I ended up missing the next class session because my doctor would not give me medical leave to travel, having had a c-section three days before. I was going to go anyway, but my family refused to drive me. Thankfully the professor didn’t penalize me because I had already turned in all the work for the entire semester on the first day of class. Yes, I take my education seriously. And yes, that professor, the same one who when asked about me by a potential employer simply said, “Hire her now,” wrote one of my recommendations.
So, short of lying about my publications or plagiarizing someone elses short story, there is nothing else I can do to make the application stronger. I have given them the best of me (well, except maybe the math part–I tried to study but got halfway through the review and called my math teacher mother to tell her that her subject is stupid. I can say honestly say that I have never needed to know how to find the slope of the line.)
I am sharing this part of my journey because I decided today that if I don’t get in, it is because there are other people who deserve it more than I do. I should consider my own worth and know that I am not defined by the words Accepted or Denied. And I can start working on next year’s applications to make them the best they can be.
So I challenge you, readers, to take a few moments to jot down what you are really worth. At your work, in your relationships, in your life. Chances are you are more spectacular than you realize. Once you own that, then you can start pushing forward, going for what you want, even if it can sometimes end in disappointment.
As I mentioned last year, aside from matters of shopping (sadly the green sweater was not meant to be), I believe in doing everything I can and then turning things over to Fate.
Here you go, Fate.