One of our master’s students wants to go to doc school, so she’s preparing to take the GRE - and despairing at her chances of success.
She’s given up on the math section altogether, and is worried about the verbal parts too. Some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar to her, and her mind is becoming so frantic that she’s having a hard time focusing, reasoning things out. This is where the “awfulizing” begins - I’m going to fail the exam, I’m never going to get into grad school … maybe I’m just stupid.
So we talked, both about logistics and emotion. Logistically, GRE scores matter - to a point. While some schools have a minimum threshold score, most consider it as part of the entire application package. We talked about strategies for optimizing her score on the exam, and how she can cancel her scores or repeat the test if she thinks it’s necessary.
The emotional stuff is much tougher. There are many times in our lives when we feel like we’re in an all-or-nothing, make-it-or-break-it situation, and it’s hard to remember that our self-worth doesn’t have to depend on the outcome. A GRE score - or a brilliant dissertation - has little to do with our value as a human being.
Her GRE score won’t be engraved on her tombstone. Neither will my dissertation defense date. These things are hard to remember when we’re under pressure, when we’re feeling frantic, when we want to be at our best. It’s hard to be both confident, and realistic, about our abilities.
The challenge is to keep all of our successes and failures in perspective.