The Waiting Game

As that ancient philosopher, Tomulinus Pettius, said: \”Waiting is the hardest part.\”  I\’m not entirely certain that he formulated the statement in regards to grad school applications, but it works–waiting is tough.  During November and December, I was so hectic trying to finalize the schools to which I would apply, talking to professors at those schools, formulating purpose statements and soliciting requesting professors to write letters of recommendation for me that time flew.  Even into January and February, I was busy enough with my job and family (my wife and I are expecting our first child in early May!) that I didn\’t really notice the time.

However, once March started ticking I began to think: Why haven\’t I heard anything yet? I should start hearing something by now. I wonder if anyone else has heard anything back from schools yet? Then the time started to crawl. Slowly. I started to think, Even a rejection letter would be welcome!  Anything would be better than nothing.  I thought that for about a week until my first rejection letter came.  And then the second. And then the third (I\’ll talk about dealing with rejection in my next post).  After that, I was a firm believer in the \”no news is good news\” philosophy.  Luckily, after that, I received a few \”waiting list\” letters and some acceptance letters with funding offered that helped soften the blow.  However, by that point we were well through March and I was just waiting on the last few schools.

Now, into April, I\’ve heard back from all but one of the schools to which I  have applied (I decided to drop them an email just to make sure they hadn\’t forgotten me!) and time has really slowed down.  The closer that we draw to that April 15 deadline, the slower time seems to proceed.  It is as though Zeno\’s Paradox has taken on a chronological guise just to spite me and other like me.

Luckily, another week and a half will put me out my agony, but even while I\’m waiting there are still things I\’ve done to stay productive that you might want to consider if you\’re in a similar position:

1. Start making your decision: You might not know all of the schools that offer you admission, but you do know some of those that will and some of those that won\’t.  You can use this information to start formulating your decision even before you hear back from everyone.

  • Discuss your program with your potential advisor
  • Email students in your program again with specific questions
  • Figure out financial aid or fellowships
  • Make note of any special status/prereqs you need
  • Make a tentative \”top choice\”

2. Start considering logistics: Time may feel like it\’s crawling by now, but from April 15 to Orientation is a very short four months that you will need every minute to figure out…

  • Where will you live? (Campus? Apartment? House?)
  • Will you need a job (if you don\’t receive enough funding)? If so, start considering the market.
  • Will you spouse need a job?
  • Will your children need to be enrolled in a school? When is the first day?
  • How will you move? 
  • When will you pack?

3. Start prepping yourself for your future: No matter how prepared you are for graduate school, you will never be completely prepared until you know exactly where you\’re going. Part of this should have been done before you applied, but the field is much narrower once you know where (or probably where) you will end up.

  • Completely familiarize yourself with the program (what date is your Hebrew entrance exam? What dates for your German, French, or X language exam? Etc.)
  • Completely familiarize yourself with your professors major publications
  • Fill any gaps in your knowledge
  • Get reading lists from current students
  • Brush up on your German
  • Learn German!
Mostly, I try to remember that while waiting might seem like the hardest part of grad school yet, I\’m about to start my PhD and I should probably enjoy this period of calm now and understand that it\’s just the calm before the storm. 

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

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