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Doctoral Debacle

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Upon completing my master's degree, I applied to doctoral programs, not so much because I expected to get in, but because I thought it was a funny experiment. If anyone should not be called "doctor," it was me. I completed my master's with a near-perfect GPA, but that seemed like a fluke. Through primary school and college I was a complete dipshit, barely passing from one grade to the next.

After applying, I was offered an interview with Ball State University. What a cluster-fuck that interview became.

Interviews were scheduled on a Friday in February from 8am - 4pm. I made arrangements to fly from Philadelphia International Airport to Indianapolis International Airport, pick up a rental car and drive the hour and twenty minutes from Indianapolis to Muncie the Thursday before.

When I arrived at the airport, I was informed that my flight was cancelled due to a snow-storm in Indiana, but that I could fly out early the next morning. I called the folks at Ball State and left a message letting them know that I would be late and settled in for a night at the airport. Not being a real academic, I figured that interviews from 8am - 4pm meant that the applicants would all wait in a large room to be called for their interview, similar to job interviews I had attended. I just figured that the school would bump my interview to the end of the day. I had no clue that this sort of interview entailed a day's worth of scheduled activity.

After sleeping on the filthy fucking airport floor, I awoke on Friday morning and flew to Indianapolis. I left messages with Ball State throughout the morning providing updates on my progress getting to them.

By the time I landed in Indy, got my rental car, drove to Muncie, checked into the hotel on campus, showered, shaved, and dressed, I arrived at my 8am interview at 3:20pm. When I got to the department, the hallways were barren. There was not another motherfucker to be found anywhere. After standing there like a statue, only dumber, for a few minutes, people started to empty out into the hallway and a professor came up to me saying, "You must be Jerry Novack." I replied, "Unfortunately, I must be..." "Here," he said, "go in here," and put me in a room with three other applicants, two faculty members and a current graduate student.

The faculty members asked us to discuss our experiences with diverse populations. One of the other applicants gave a response that I will call forgettable because I cannot remember what the fuck he said. The second applicant to respond was a young lady who was dressed conservatively in a skirt down to her ankles, sleeves to her wrists, and strait, brown hair falling down her back. She began emoting about a mission trip she took to South America or Africa, or some other place, and laying it on thick. "Oh, these poor people," she said almost weeping, "their lives are so embittered and they need our help so desperately..." She instantly turned into Sally fucking Struthers and I could swear I heard Sarah McLachlan start playing in the background. I'm certain this girl was moments away from telling me that for just pennies a day, I, too could sponsor a child.

There I was, seven hours late for an interview in which ten students would be selected from 125 applicants, and all I could think to myself was, "Holy shit, I hope one of us does not get in because I CANNOT spend the next four years listening to this bitch."

By some miracle, I was one of the ten admitted to the program (mercifully, Sally Struthers did not make the cut) and my charlie foxtrot of an interview became the stuff of legend. The professor who found me in the hallway would joke that missing the first seven hours of my interview was best thing to happen to me because I might not gotten in if I was there the entire day. Ironically, this is probably true.

A few weeks before this interview, I had an interview for a similar program at a University in New York. At this point in my education, I did not really understand research and had a poor appreciation for it's value. This stupid motherfucker sat before a VERY well-know, widely-published research psychologist at the interview and explained to her how I preferred the days before psychology was so research-based and was guided more by philosophy. Needless to say, the rejection email was waiting in my email inbox by the time I got home from New York. There is no question that I would have said something equally ridiculous at the Ball State interview, especially after learning that the morning portion of the interview included and exercise in which I would be asked to design a research project.

Ultimately, I was admitted into the Ball State doctoral program for three primary reasons: 1) one of my professors from my master's program used to teach at Ball State and he called his former colleagues to recommend me, 2) I had a letter of recommendation from Arnold Lazarus, a famous psychologist who also happened to be a personal friend, and 3) because of the snow storm the day before the interview, there were 43 applicants from out of state who had their flights cancelled. I was the only the who still showed up (for whatever reason, turning back and going home never even crossed my mind as an option).

I'm not exactly sure what I am supposed to learn from this situation. There is certainly an element of "perseverance pays off." There is also the undeniable fact that I was saved my inability to run my fucking yap. So, be judicious with my words, I suppose... I ponder this fiasco often. I opened this post by saying that I should probably not be a doctor, and based on this story, that's probably true. If it weren't for me missing 98% of the interview, I probably would have talked myself out of admission and not ever earned a PhD. I don't know. What do you think? Leave a comment...and please subscribe and share.

Thank you so much for reading.

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