Monday, March 2, 2009

now what?

Over the past week I have gotten letters from Boston College and Harvard, politely telling me that they are very sorry, but they are not able to admit me to their doctoral programs for the fall. On one level that's fine, because the plan from the province is that I go to Syracuse in the fall and pursue doctoral work there, so not being admitted to places that I wasn't going to attend anyway is not a big deal. I can keep telling myself that, but admittedly it's both bruising to the ego and a little fear-inducing to get those letters. Good thing is that it has provided the occasion to observe my own screwy reactions, which I will try to record, but in a stream-of-consciousness pattern that doesn't really correspond to the actual stream of my consciousness. To set the record straight in advance, I'm really not as broken up as the following may suggest; this stuff has simply been in my mind at one point or another in the past week, and it's making me think outside of the nice ordered system I have just assumed would fall into place. So here goes: Getting rid of the letters fairly quickly so no one will see that I just got rejected. Thinking about people I know who have gotten into those places, feeling inferior or jealous or something, then wondering if there were just too many good applicants to admit, or if there was something genuinely deficient in my application. Maybe it's my writing sample, I think - all my papers were written in summer, or while I had a full-time job, so they are not as long or as polished as a full-time student could write. My GPA was good, test scores, competence in languages, teaching experience, cross-cultural work, so what else could the problem be? What does it say about me if I don't get in anywhere, regardless of whether I would choose go there or not?

What do I do, then, if I don't get in anywhere? Would I be able to get a job in this market? Would I be able to pull my own weight for the province? If I don't get in anywhere, maybe using this as an excuse to ask for an assignment to the missions - I've said for ten years that I would go back to Africa in a heartbeat. But then would that spell the end of my academic career if I were to get out of the system now? Is that just me looking for a consolation prize so I could say, "Well, I didn't get this honor, so let me go for this other honorable thing," so I could exit stage left and still look like I've done something noteworthy?

I just finished Joan Chittister's book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, which deals with a refusal from her community to pursue a graduate degree when she was young, and she works a lot of this stuff to death, but my community isn't the problem - then I could just get mad at them - but they've been great with all this stuff. My angstier reaction is that there is something wrong with me, not just that these places don't have room for me but that I'm not cut out for higher studies, despite reasons I could list to the contrary to massage my ego a bit. I thought her book was a bit melodramatic when I read it, but as I look back over this post, maybe it wasn't so melodramatic after all, or maybe I'm just even more melodramatic than she was...


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your letters, but it's BC and Harvard's loss. We had spoken about the possibility of your living here at Pascoag and commuting, but alas, it's not to be.
Enjoy Syracuse, come visit us (it's only 5 hours away and 2 guys from your Province are here) and try not to think about it too much.
Shawn McEnany, SC

Anonymous said...

Not feeding your ego, but laying out the facts:
-Your off-the-chart standardized test scores and academic recorded were the basis of you being selected early by ND, MIT, Tulane and Loyola for undergrad work. All, with possibly the exception of Loyola, are as competitive as BC and Harvard.
-ND selected you again for graduate school. Ditto on the keen competition.

In other words, its not you...

My "educators" guess is your academic field and the economy are key reasons. In spite of our increased enrollment, we are in deep discussions about cutting programs that cost more than they take in...
Love - You know who.