Dispatches from the Grad Decisions Abyss

Warning: melodrama ensues.

At every stage in this grad school process, I’ve thought to myself: Well, this has been really hard. It can’t possibly get worse.

  • After I wrote my personal statements.
  • After I submitted my applications.
  • After I visited every school and stayed on my very best behavior.

Well, I’m here to confess: I was wrong. It has gotten worse. It is currently The Worst.

Ironically, I’m in a position that one colleague called a “prospective student’s dream”: I’m holding multiple offers from remarkable grad programs. I feel very fortunate to be here.

However… I’m now at the tail end of the experience, during which I need to sit myself down and think through, very deliberately, my next steps. Cue: the acute agony of choice.* With so many viable options, I have to close some doors in order to (eventually, presumably) walk through one. This, from someone who spends half an hour deciding what to order at a restaurant? I can’t pick between fries or a salad,** let alone School A or School B. There are so many factors to consider: school and program ranking, research fit, mentorship style, cohort culture, location, funding, academic/applied balance, graduate placement, etc. I’m constantly thinking about all the pros, cons, and possibilities.

What’s worse? I thought I’d have a clear picture of my options by now. I don’t. The reality is that my offers haven’t all hit the table. I’m still trying to figure out funding and pin down moving targets. It’s excruciating and exhausting. I’m constantly refreshing my email inbox and second-guessing correspondence with faculty. I am literally sick to my stomach living in this state of limbo.

It should be simple, right? I’ve heard from so many people that, at the end of the day, it comes down to fit and where you intuitively feel most at home. I’m overthinking all of this… and yet, I can’t help it. It could be that I’m taking this too seriously. However, there are few moments in a person’s life where one decision can shape so much of the immediate and distant future. This is one of them. No big deal. Curls up into a ball and cries.

This should end in exactly two weeks. I’m praying I make it until then.

* See highly relevant articles on choice overload and the paradox of choice here.

** Fries. Obviously.


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