Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I got a response from one grad school last week (they accepted me), but it was not one of my top choices, so while I was excited to hear anything, I was still holding out. Today (yesterday by the time you read this), I got a call from one of my top choices. I have been waitlisted. Honestly, I was devastated.

According to a few of my friends this is great news because they are one of the top schools in the country, especially in what I want for my specialty, and I should be honored. Of course I am grateful that I wasn't rejected outright, meaning I have some potential, but to me waitlisted is as good as a rejection. It reads "we don't dislike you, but you are not someone we want either... we will think about it." The man who called me simply works in their graduate division so he could not give me many specifics. And of course I spent the better part of the day thinking of all the things I had done wrong. Thankfully it was the first day of the semester at the school I work at, meaning I was unbelievably busy all day and couldn't dwell on it for too long at a stretch. I received the call while in the middle of doing things. My cellphone rang on my desk, I saw the number, but I was on my office phone with a student and couldn't do anything about it. While I didn't recognize the number, I knew who it was. I just knew. At the first opportunity I called him back. I knew it couldn't be a rejection because then I would have simply gotten a standard form letter, but the voicemail told me everything I wanted to know. He simply said to please call them back. That didn't sound too promising. And it wasn't.

He said they have not made all of the decisions, so he could not even tell me what part of the waitlist I am on, but I will know shortly. So they haven't made all of their decisions, but they were sure I was waitlist material. I continued asking questions as tears welled up in my eyes. He had no answers, and I had to compose myself before getting back to work. I am actually glad this didn't happen during one of the semester lulls when I could have taken the rest of the day off to go home and spend the day crying into nothingness.

I know waitlisted doesn't mean no, but it doesn't mean yes either. I guess this is such a shock because this is the first time I have ever been rejected, or seemingly rejected, academically. My academics and my career have always been my strengths. Recently my career has taken a turn for the better and better, as I am about to receive my second promotion of this year. I was hoping my academic career would follow suit.

I may not always be the best mother, and God knows I am not great at anything else. But I have always excelled in academia. Apparently not. And I don't even know where I went wrong. I mean, my first thought was my GRE. My general is great, but my subject is only 710... and even if that is better than most, it is not competitive enough for some schools. While I understand this, I thought I had other things going for me, like GPA, writing sample, etc. Honestly, I don't know what it was about me that they didn't quite like, so these are all stipulations on my part. Maybe my 3.93 GPA wasn't good enough... some people with 4.0's got rejected. Maybe I should not have written that stupid piece on Horodotus to send them, and should have stuck to my medieval studies.... but I was too self conscious to send them any of my medieval pieces thinking those weren't good enough either. It couldn't have been the letters of recommendation. All three of my writers were nice enough to let me see the letters, and if they sent what they let me see (and I can't imagine why they wouldn't), then those were fine.

But who knows, maybe they didn't like that I had been out of school for a while. What was I doing? Maybe they didn't like my personal statement. Maybe they didn't like my resume. Maybe I haven't been to enough conferences, or published enough articles. I have no idea.

Well, today, too, I cannot dwell on it. I have work to do, and a class to teach tonight. I shall continue this way all week. Friday it will hit me. 


  1. Your scores are fine. Better than fine. Competitive *everywhere*. It is just a numbers game--especially in geographically desirable areas. Your letters were fine (everyone walks on water in their rec letters). UCLA is a top-twenty school. These places admit 7-8 people per year. That is 160 people across the entire world, not just the US, and they tend to reach for non-local candidates. Nothing comforts, I know, but these places that admit 7-8 generally "accept" about twice that, anticipating refusals (and everyone gets them, even in the top twenty). People are admitted from the wait list every year. That's why they have it. All hope is not yet lost.

  2. Thank you for the kind words. As I typically say, I am the most optimistic pessimist... I expect the worst, but always hope for the best. I guess all I have at this point is hope.