Grad School Purgatory

Since urban dictionary doesn’t quite spell it out for you, I will: This is when applications have been completed and sent, but there is neither an acceptance nor rejection from anyone. There is little to no knowledge of when an answer will arrive, if ever. This is grad school purgatory.

Michael Scott from


Whether you’re in high school waiting for acceptance into a degree program or in college waiting for acceptance into graduate school like me, answering peoples’ questions about the future can make you feel like Michael Scott banging his fists against a desk and screaming at the top of his lungs.

There are a handful of sites that offer advice on how to handle The Waiting Game, another term for this anxiety-riddled part of life, but my philosophy is that coping skills are different for everyone. One person advised applicants to begin MARATHON TRAINING to get their mind off grad school! Regardless of how difficult “purgatory” is, the solution probably is not a 26 mile run in snowy weather with a windchill below zero degrees. If you’re in California, maybe it’s a different story.

For the stars reach
Yoda themed graduation cap from Pinterest.

For me, potential rejection isn’t the worst part. The quintessence of rejection would be when my family and friends hear of the tragedy that has befallen me. And by tragedy I mean not getting accepted into a masters program in Biological Engineering, Water Management, or Environment and Resources. That’s a broad spectrum of programs to NOT get into. I mean, so much of my life has lead to this point. Between this blog, the mentors who have poked and prodded me through my undergraduate career, and the NGOs I follow on social media, rejection could potentially weaken my engagement in the scientific community. At some grad schools, if a student isn’t accepted on the basis of good grades, he or she will have to wait 5 years to be reconsidered for an experience-based application. Yikes. To add to my pile of concerns, the leaders of NGOs as well as governmental non-profits I have researched all possess master’s degrees, with the exception being those who have PhD’s. Regardless of the challenges I am up against, I’m not going to walk away from a career in science because one opportunity doesn’t present itself. Alternatives to graduate school include working for a private or public engineering firm, writing for a science magazine, selling my services as a Professional Engineer, or moving to Bali and becoming a yogi. Only time will tell.

So, how do you handle your anxieties? Let me know the ideologies you follow to get through tough times! Sincerely, The Earth Goddess

Further reading: Application PurgatoryTen Stages of Waiting

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