twisting, slowly twisting
Amusing to watch you kids suffer and squirm as you apply to graduate school.
Am I the only one who applied to an odd dozen schools and programs, and then got rejected from every single one except the one that accepted me - and then had my future advisor call me back in a panic because the department had just lost funding and SHE was now out looking for a job...?
It doesn't matter how well prepared you are, kids. It doesn't matter what your recommendations folder looks like (since mine contains refs from all current bosses and several old ones, both of my old advisors, and one or two people of whom I am fond and I suspect respect me from a scientific perspective). It probably doesn't really matter how well you do on the GRE. I mean, if you did okay on the SATs, you'll do okay on the GREs. Unless of course you just can't do math fast on the infernal (and more expensive) 'computer aided test', in which case you will suddenly hose out that portion much like I did. Time to adapt new test-taking strategies.
I was amused to hear from one school that rejected me that I needed 'research experience', too. This amused me, because I had been doing 'research' for both the government at mosquito control and the private sector for over a year and half by that point. Not only was this a considerably longer period of time than most undergrads can claim, but I am performing identical studies to those that we provide to undergrads as stupid summer internships so that they can claim to have 'research experience' on their transcripts and resumes. Jeez. Next time I go undergrad, I'll remember to apply for more internships over the summer instead of actually working for a living.
Anyways... What seems to matter to the people I discussed my future with was a solid four-year undergraduate plan of work, and a solid indication of where you would like to take your studies in the future. It can't hurt to have your Master's thesis already written out and a government grant to boot, too...
But what would I know?
I was a part-time screw-up in College, and I got rejected. My bad first year of overconfident slackitude came back to bite me in the backside. Forget that I pulled my act together by my senior year! If you were a graduate committee, would you choose the candidate who never made any mistakes, or the one who made some but had hopefully learned from them?
Is eternal mouse-work my (lucrative) punishment in purgatory?
Maybe I am just bitter because I can't make up my mind about where and what to do with myself. I would be eternally happy to dedicate myself to the study of transitional communities in the fossil record, watching the geologically sudden explosion of diversity after calamity... specifically by looking at the radiation of root primates or the odd adaptations of the disappointingly extinct pterosaurs... but I suspect (and trade magazines and discussions with professionals in the field seem to indicate) that there isn't a lot in the way of paying work out there for people who know and care about these things.
So I am forced to consider alternatives that seem more applied but are tangentially related. Like maybe forensic science. It is just that I don't really want to do forensic science: interesting, but I am not in love with it, and I fear I might not be able to fully dedicate the next four to eight years to it... followed by the rest of my life.
On the other hand... I sure as hell can't stay here.