A friend and colleague of mine recommended this talk to me during a meeting about a week ago. I watched it and it has really stuck with me. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t take things personally; I think some of it is human nature, but some of this thinking can change. As a student clinician, I liked how the speaker discussed his own experience and how he provided easy ways we can begin to view interactions with others through a less negative and less self-focused lens.
What did you think of this talk? Were you surprised that the speaker actually became a referee in order to work on taking things less personally?
I had the opportunity to write a blog for the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) a few weeks ago on healthy media use and wanted to share it with you! Here is a snippet of the article:
Although social media and the 24/7 news cycle are not new, they have become much more pronounced as much of the U.S. has engaged in social distancing measures. In recent months, the role of the media has been amplified for those of us living in the U.S. who still seem locked in an enduring and grueling election cycle. Even those of us who used to rely solely on standard news outlets may now be scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram to stay up to date on current events (often alternating between two platforms at any given moment).
It has been a while since my last post! As you might guess, this semester is kicking my butt; between classes, clinical work, and research I’ve stayed pretty busy. I heard this Ted Talk in class the other day and thought it was quite beautiful; the message around asking questions thoughtfully and remaining curious really resonated with me. I hope you enjoy this talk!
Did you enjoy this Ted Talk? How comfortable are you with asking questions?
I had no idea what to expect when starting graduate school interviews! First, I had not thought too hard about interviews because I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I would even get any interviews. I took a non-traditional path and worked at health-focused start-ups in the Bay Area rather than working as a research assistant in a lab or something that more clearly led to a PhD in psychology; I was not sure whether this difference would help me or hurt me in the application process. Luckily, I think it helped me! I ended up getting a number of interviews, which I felt completely unprepared for.
The first thing I did was lots and lots of research. I heavily researched each faculty member who I was interviewing with; I read all of their papers, listened to podcasts they had been interviewed on, and looked for snippets of their lectures on YouTube. I went all out and I 100% believe it was worth it. This kind of research helps you learn about their research focus, but also about how they engage with the community.
The other thing that was really helpful was talking to another trusted friend who was interviewing at the same time. My friend was interviewing for clinical programs so we were on different tracks, but he had so much insight into good questions to ask and seemed to understand the unspoken rules of interviewing for graduate school more than I did. We chatted about the process, discussed our anxieties, and answered practice questions with each other–all of which made me feel a little more at ease.
I think anxiety is one of the hardest parts of this process; making it to the interviews means that you are qualified and would do well in a PhD program, but the interviews are all about fit. I kept reminding myself that if the program or faculty member did not see my interests or goals as a good fit for their program, then I probably would thrive there any way. It has to be a match on both sides. I also remember interviewing at a few places where I felt uncomfortable with faculty or the students gave me bad vibes (I wish there was a better way to describe this!) and, in hindsight, realize those were all great reasons to be comfortable with being rejected, waitlisted, or turning down an offer. For example, I remember one program where students from one lab were talking about favoritism and clearly not including some applicants. Take note of these observations and feelings because they tell us more than what students might say about their experience in a program. If students look and act miserable and say the program is perfect and they wouldn’t change a thing, don’t believe them.
Lastly, when you get your interview schedule I recommend reading a little bit about everyone who you will interview with. If you are interviewing with every faculty member at a program it might take some time, but coming in prepared with at least one thoughtful comment for each professor indicates preparation and respect.
For the next post I will talk about the financial side of the interview process–how to cut costs, make the most of your visits, and manage anxiety.
I’ve watched previous ted talks by Guy Winch and when I saw his name pop up for this video, I knew I had to check it out! He is an engaging speaker and does a great job weaving together personal stories, anecdotes, and data. This talk is particularly helpful as our boundaries have become more muddied with many of us working from home with COVID-19. I hope you enjoy!
Do you ruminate on work during your free time? What tricks do you use to keep your work life and home life separate?
I talked a little bit about the application timeline in my last post, but I think it is helpful to have a full post dedicated to managing all the components of grad school applications. Ideally you want to have the GRE done and out of the way as early as you can. The GRE is good for ~5 years so take it when it works well for you. Maybe you have a light class load if you’re in college or you are working a 9-5 that means you have extra time in the evenings–take advantage of that time and study or take a prep class for the GRE. I love the Magoosh app for vocabulary (it’s free)! The GRE can feel like a major time suck at times, so I suggest you try and knock it out early.
Next, I would reach out to potential recommenders to see who has time and get a shortlist together. If you are applying to programs with a Fall deadline (November/December), then try reaching out to your potential recommenders in July or August. Don’t be offended if your favorite professor doesn’t have time to write you a letter–it’s easy to forget professors have lives too! This is is why it is nice to have 5-6 people feel comfortable asking and who know you well enough to write a thorough recommendation letter.
As you are reaching out to recommenders, I suggest also working on your personal statement. Your recommenders will likely need this document to tailor their letters, so it’s important to have a solid draft ready for them. Hopefully you are applying to similar faculty and similar programs so you won’t have to change everything about your personal statement for each school. Get a draft of your basic essay ready as early as possible. Send it to trusted friends and family for editing! If your college has a helpful writing center or career center that works with alumni, it could also be useful to use that resource. Personal statements are hard–give yourself time! I would recommend having a solid draft of your bare bones personal statement by the end of September so you have time to change it up for each program and faculty member you are applying to work with.
Unfortunately every school has a different application process. For example, some schools have an online portal and some require you to email all materials to an admin. I would recommend making a big spreadsheet to keep track of what needs to be submitted where and when. The whole application process requires a ton of juggling so starting early makes it just a little bit easier!
After submitting your applications in November/December, you can expect to hear back about interviews or a decision starting at the end of December through the beginning of April. If you get an interview, you will likely find out between late December and early February (at the latest).