Saturday, December 20, 2008

That's It. I Have Officially Lost My Shit.

I gave Dr. X the benefit of the doubt. I tried not to be a nag, using only gentle reminders and I kept tabs on all of my applications so I would know if and when he sent a letter in. 

It is now 5 days past the deadline for 6 of my applications. Only 1 of them has a letter from him, and it's the one I picked up from his office on 12/2. 

3 of my top 4 program choices are Ivys. They have enough well-qualified applicants that they don't need to make special accomodations for me because of one late letter. I have spent over $500 on applications that will very likely not even be reviewed by the committees. 

I sent the following email to Dr. X today:

Dr. X,

I am really not sure what else to do at this point. The deadline for
all of my top choice programs was this past Monday 12/15 as I had made
you aware over 2 months ago once you had agreed to write on my behalf.
None of them are showing a received letter from you.

I apologize if there is something going on personally that has
prevented you from completing the letters, but if that is the case I
feel that I have given you ample opportunity to let me know so I could
make other arrangements. Instead I have spent about $500 on
applications that most likely will not even be looked at by admissions
committees because the file is incomplete, even though they have had
all the rest of my materials since the first week of November. I feel
pretty sure that Ivy U #1 and Ivy U #2 have enough qualified applicants that
they will not make any special accomodations for me.

I understand that you are extremely busy, which is why I provided you
with the necessary materials and information at the beginning of
October. If you are not going to be able to complete the remaining
letters, please let me know and I will not finish the last 3
applications that I have not completed yet. If necessary, I will wait
until next year and re-apply.


I chose not to call his office for two reasons: first, because he most likely won't be there because the semester is over, today is saturday, and it's a holiday week, and second, because I don't trust myself to be able to leave a calm and collected message. I am abrasive enough with the written word, I don't think I could get my point across without having some kind of attitude. 

At this point, I don't even care. I'm questioning my decision to go to grad school at all, because apparently the universe wants to make it as difficult as possible for me to pursue my education, as evidenced by all the bullshit I have been through in the past 8 years just trying to finish my undergrad. 

The only reason I got my BA was because I wanted to go to grad school. I already have an awesome job for which I did not need a degree and which does not entitle me to a raise or anything else. That piece of paper has caused me to go into debt by $15,000 plus the money I actually spent out of pocket. I sacrificed nearly all of my free time, several friendships, my marriage (though there were many other factors as well), the quality of the work I was performing for my job, a chunk of my salary in order to complete this final semester by cutting back on my hours, etc., etc. And for what?

This is all I have ever wanted to do with my life and I have acted accordingly. I busted my ass to do what I did and get the grades that I did. Yet I found myself at the mercy of a professor who had OFFERED to write letters for me back in May of this year. 

I thought that after I graduated this past Sunday that I would be able to catch up on rest, enjoy my newfound free time, and just live my life again. Instead, I am unable to sleep at night because I'm so pissed off and can't do anything about it. I am entirely impotent right now in this situation, and that's just not something I'm used to on this level. 

Dr. Isis suggested that I contact the other professor who wrote on my behalf to see if she can do anything to help, like contact the programs and make a case for my consideration. I am going to try that, but I feel like it's Dr. X's motherfucking responsibility to fix this. I have given him multiple chances to back out of doing this, but because it's now past the deadline I can't change the registered recommenders to accomodate my back-up plan. 

I know I've done a LOT of bitching about this on my blog (and in comments on the blogs of others), but I am consumed by this dilemma right now. I just want to scream. 

I feel like I have every right to be a bitch about this, but I still can't bring myself to do it. I'm STILL giving him the benefit of the doubt in case something happened or whatever, though even if that's the case he should've contacted me and told me. 

And that's the worst part - I don't even have an ACKNOWLEDGEMENT from him of the fact that he has fucked me over. That's all I want at this point - an email, a phone call, SOMETHING that says "You're right, JLK. I dropped the ball on you and I apologize."

I'm gonna cry. I'm so wound up and I don't know what to do. 

I'm like 10 seconds away from posting all the schools I'm applying to so that if any of you go there or work there, you can make a case on my behalf. But I know that none of you know me from a hole in the wall - that's how desperate I'm feeling right now. 



Professor in Training said...

That totally fucking sucks. Send someone out to break Dr X's legs. Is there anyone else who could write letters of recommendation apart from Dr X? I'm not sure how the whole grad school admissions thingy works, but if the rest of your application is really strong, they might not care if you're one letter short. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this is all too common in academia. I applied for a postdoc fellowship (which BTW, my 'advisor' emailed the announcement to me and told me to apply). A month before, I sent out the email asking for references. No Problem. Three days after the deadline, I get an email from the program director that the reference from my 'advisor' wasn't in my file. GREAT. I was stunned (I shouldn't be after all this time in academia, but my little delusional self was stunned). Excuse: whoops, I forgot.
I got the fellowship anyway (THANK GOD) but I was climbing the walls just like you.

The phrase over at Isis that SCREAMED out at me was the part about being ticked at people who hold her back.. that's exactly how I feel. all. the. time. It's my career and all these d00ds can sit around and fuck shit up left and right and they will be ok. I won't be ok... but they will be ok.

Some advice:
(don't worry, I won't tell you not to be angry... you have every right to be pissed off as all hell - go spit fire for a while, it's ok)

Dr X from hell has a boss.. it's the chair. I promise you that the chair cares about his/her little department getting a student into an IVY grad school. Here's the dealio: email (don't call) the chair of Dr. X and write something like:
From JLK
To Chair
Re: IVY graduate school applications
Hi Dr. Chair, I applied to IVY grad school 1, 2, and 3 a few weeks ago and asked Dr. X to write some letters for me, and he happily agreed. After many reminders over the weeks, it turns out that my letters from him are still not part of my file. The rest of my applications are complete - the only part that's missing are his letters, he's not responding to my emails, and the deadline was last week. I am not sure if he is having personal problems, but I don't know how to handle this and thought I should ask you for help.
Thank you.
Sincerely, JLK

Good luck.

scicurious said...

Jeez, I'm so sorry. This has happened to me as well. Professors get old and famous, and then they get forgetful, and then they get egotistical and call you out for telling them they are forgetful.

Can you get someone else to write a recommendation? Better yet, can you get the chair to either a) get on X's ass or b) write a letter himself, which probably would be well-received.

I'm so sorry. I would write you one myself if it would help! Sadly, I don't think letters from grad students count.

DO NOT GIVE UP. I am also completely miserable right now. But it's my career, it's my duty, and it's what I do, and on some days, I even love it. I will never again seriously consider giving it up. It really is a calling, just in an entirely different way than most people think.

It will take some horrible days, some bullshit, but you will make it. And after all that hell for a Bachelor's karma OWES you a relatively easy PhD.

We should have drinks. Many drinks.

JLK said...

To PiT - I can't get anyone else to do the recommendation at this point because of how the online system works. You can only register a different recommender before the deadline, so now I'm fucked.

To Sci - I would LOVE to have a drink. Many drinks. Too bad I have a feeling we are very, very far away from each other. :(

Also, this professor is not old or famous. He's relatively young and is an associate professor in the dept.

@ everyone: Do you really think I should email the department chair? I don't want to get him in trouble when I'm counting on his letters. (Why I feel guilty, no idea).

I feel so helpless. I just want to get shitfaced drunk and wallow in my defeat.

PhizzleDizzle said...

JLK, I am so, so sorry about this. That sucks balls. Wtf is up with Dr. X?

That being said - I am not sure this means your apps are just going to be thrown out the window. Academia is pretty incestuous and a standout letter from someone they know will probably go a long way, no matter what.

I am ambivalent about going to the chair, but I'm not sure if that's because I'm just being a non-confrontational girl. "Tattling" to me always seems like a last resort because it's never good to create enemies, especially mentors/established members of the field.

I'd say go ahead and get shitfaced drunk. I don't think your $500 are wasted. They will probalby get their shit together soon and send out the recs. Dr. X is in academia so he probably has a different sense of the urgency of this app - he's probably sat on admissions committees and realizes it's a lot less rigorous than you might be imagining. That's my suspicion. YOu have every right to be pissed off, every right to get drunk, and every right to tell him off, but I don't think you need to feel like your grad career is over before it started.

I am thinking of you and wishing you the best.

...tom... said...


hey there JL...

What the others have already said. It really sucks to be dependent on the (relatively) small efforts of others and have them not follow through as promised.

You have my thoughts if nothing else. As the others have suggested ... hang in there.


leigh said...

fucking shit, that's ridiculous. i'm sorry this bullshit is happening.

but can i mention one thing...

one true challenge of grad school is getting through this jungle of bullshit. it doesn't stop with the admission letter. letting this bullshit stand in front of you and STOP you altogether, well, you gotta start to work around that.

become your own advocate. tap any and all available resources that can help you. this is what you learn how to do in grad school anyway. i'd wait to get a response from dr. x before going to the chair, give him a chance to explain. but then if the chair can help you, bring your case.

call up the directors of graduate studies, tell them how absolutely driven you are to complete your application despite this roadblock. they are searching for the most hardcore of the hardcore (beyond the academic performance), because they know these people are going to be the ones who are good AND refuse to quit.

the ones who take no action will reap no rewards. you've got lots of angry energy, justifiably so, but channel it into something more useful to you.

i'm rooting for you.

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