I opened the university’s website and carefully considered and reviewed each professor’s bio. I felt like I was on a mission to find “the one.” After considering each professor’s background, I emailed the one I felt was a good match. It felt awkward. As if I were trying to hook up with someone through some obscure online dating site. “Hey. My name is Jen. My background is in communication and I’d like to do sociolinguistics research. I think we’d make a good pair!” Ugh. So I contacted the first professor. That ended up being a bust. I didn’t necessarily crash and burn, but she recommended another professor might be better suited for me. Plenty of fish in the sea, huh? So I kept fishing. I contacted the next professor. This e-mail felt just as awkward as the first one. This time it was like, “Hey, my #1 choice turned me down, but I think we’d make a pretty good match also. You like sloppy seconds?” To my surprise, this one agreed to a “first date” in the form of reviewing my rough draft. Woohoo!
I sent her my paper and anxiously awaited her response. She reviewed it and sent it back to me. I was so impatient to see her comments, I immediately opened the document and poured through the paper. Not a good move. I should have read the e-mail first. The professor had systematically sliced and diced my proposal up. I have to admit, I was a bit shocked. I felt as if I were back in Ms. Clark’s 9th grade English class where even my best work was covered in red ink. Boy, did she have a lot of questions and critical comments. My heart sank. So I closed the document and read through her e-mail. Here’s what she said, “I’m mindful that most of what I’ve marked up are critical comments/questions. Please don’t be too disheartened by this – they are meant as constructive. I wouldn’t spend time marking up the proposal if I was not seriously interested in your work as a potential PhD project I could supervise.”
Wait. What???!!! My heart began to flutter. She’s interested! She’s actually interested in my work! And she’s not just interested! She’s “seriously” interested! With renewed energy, I immediately re-opened the document and went to work on it. We continued to e-mail back and forth over the next couple of months discussing my research interests and the methodologies I could use. She eventually recommended we meet over Skype. Whoa. Hold the phone. Talk about taking it to the next level. We agreed on a day and time. The morning of our Skype meeting, I woke up to butterflies in my stomach. I made sure to do my hair and make-up and wore a cute outfit. We were going to have a live face-to-face conversation for the first time and I wanted to look good.
She was fashionably late due to a previous meeting, which gave me a few more minutes to keep rehearsing what I was going to say to her. After a lovely conversation which lasted almost an hour, I was enamored. This professor is the one for me. She was helpful, had thoughtful questions that pushed my thinking and concrete recommendations that would keep me moving in the right direction. The last thing she told me was to submit the proposal to the admissions committee. She felt it was good enough for a review and she would agree to be my supervisor if admitted to the program. Score!
Now let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the admissions committee feels the same way.
To be continued…