Rejected from a Ph.D. program, now what?

Rejected from a Ph.D. program, now what?

When I applied to undergraduate programs, I was accepted to all 3 universities with no issues. No wait list and no rejection came from that process. Graduate school applications are not the same as undergraduate. As the title says, I was rejected from the programs. So this blog is about how I dealt with my rejection. And how I didn’t cope with it for a bit. 

The Ph.D trackline for Clinical Psychology is a whole different ball park. Not only do you need certain classes, but you also need research, possible publication, clinical experience, higher than a 3.5 GPA, and about 160 on Verbal and 155 on Qualitative for the GRE. Many of these steps are not easy on their own, let alone with a full schedule and not very good balance. I had bits and pieces, along with help from my advisor for my personal statements. I finished the school year with a 3.57 GPA, so not too shabby if I do say so myself. I had about a year of research going into my senior semester. So I started an independent project with a professor of mine and presented it at my college’s social science symposium. The summer before my senior semester, I gained my clinical experience. I studied for months and took practice tests for the GRE. I took the GRE twice, the first time I got 142 V and 154 Q. So I needed to study more verbal. So the second time round, the testing site was next door to a bar that was having a Halloween party at 12 pm on a Saturday. So even with the soundproof headphones, I could still hear “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. My scores from that test were 152 V and 149 Q. The scores were not perfect but I was hoping that it wouldn’t be the only factor keeping me out of the program. For some programs I had to take the Psych GRE and I scored very well. I got a 680 which puts me in the 66th percentile. I thought I was a good candidate for a Ph.D. program. My advisor thought that getting into the program shouldn’t be an issue, he was working with me since I changed my major. 

I hit submit before Thanksgiving break, and I was broke after applying to 7 programs. There are so many fees included with applying which sucks. But this started the waiting game. During this waiting game, I graduated and started my full time job. One day, after a rough shift at work, I got an email from Michigan State. It was early January at this point. It was my first rejection letter. It crushed me. I knew going into it that Michigan would be a stretch but I wasn’t expecting it to be my first rejection. Then February came around and I didn’t really hear anything. Which was not a good sign. Then the rejections started rolling in as the shut down came in. The first one hurt the most. By the 5th one, I was numb to the rejection. I didn’t know what my next step was. I didn’t know what I would do.

I took the month of March and half of April to focus on work. It was easy considering things changed dramatically in response to COVID-19. Finally I emailed my advisor to ask what I should do now. He was surprised to hear that I was rejected from all of my programs. He offered for me to join his newest research project. We would be working on a meta analysis with 2-3 other people. This would give me a publication if I continue in on it and help write the paper when we reach that step. Having gone 4 months without doing research, this was exciting. So I joined the project and met up with someone who was working on the project too.

Part of me gave up the idea of graduate school entirely for a year. That I would reapply Fall 2020. But that made me nervous to be away from school for over a year and a half. This was around the time when my boyfriend talked to me about the possibility of a master’s program. Which started me down a rabbit hole of searching, and if you want to read more my last two blog posts go more into it. It has taken me awhile to be okay with I’m not going to have Ph.D. by the time I’m 28. I might go back for it or I might not. I am more open to seeing where my next step takes me. This is something new for me, to be okay with the unknown. 

Originally I wanted to look into the relation between anxiety and depression. As I continue with my current population and just talking with my supervisor. I think my research interests might shift to transgenerational trauma. I had never heard of that term prior to working in the field. While working, I think I’m going to try to look into current research relating to transgenerational trauma. So if I do reapply I’ll have a good understanding of the topic and can come up with a research project relating to it. Which is something that Ph.D. programs want to see that you’re capable of it. 

Did I think I would be here a year ago? No, absolutely not. But I am not mad or upset at that. I was rejected and in the moment it sucked. I have accepted the rejections at this point and am moving forward. I am excited to go for a masters. This will allow me more understanding in the clinical field. This will help me to excel at my job. This is not a form of settling or having regrets. What happened, happened and no amount of regret is going to change that. This degree will still move me in a forward direction in the clinical field even if it’s not a Ph.D. I am still young have so many experiences and chances in front of me. So I am not worried, I am going with where life takes me. I don’t think I would have this same mindset, had I been accepted this first round of applications. But I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn and if I decide to go for a second round of applications, I will be ready for it. Until then, we are living in the here and now. Not 10 years down the line. 

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