Obviously, I’m specifically asking about me: what if I chase my dreams?
I mean, my real dream, the one that seems ludicrous and unlikely to pay off.
By that, of course, I’m talking about my real dream: going to grad school for sociology and aiming to teach it. That was my dream the whole time I was in undergrad. I fell in love with the study of sociology and wanted to keep learning about it. I innately grasped it because I saw the world through a sociologist’s lens.
I had already decided I might do just that, and found some online programs that didn’t require the GRE. I was super intimidated by the graduate-level statistics and advanced research methods courses, even though I got a B and an A- in them in undergrad, respectively.
For a person who apparently has a significant math disability per the neuropsychologist who recently examined me, those grades weren’t bad at all. (I’m still not sure I buy the “math disability” thing, for whatever it’s worth.)
However, I really shouldn’t get myself psyched about my grades in grad school: in all 168 credits of undergrad, I only had two Bs and two Cs and all the rest were As. That said, one of those Bs and one C were both in math classes, so maybe there’s something to that math disability.
Anyway, if I were to really shoot for the moon, I’d not only go back for sociology, but even apply for one of the local schools so I could take my classes in person. The reason that’s shooting for the moon: all the local schools require the GRE.
The last time I took a practice test for the GRE was about 10 years ago and they had a vastly different scoring method. What matters is that at the time, I had a 95th percentile verbal score and 10th percentile math score.
I was so disappointed in myself for that math score on the practice GRE that I threw away my hopes of trying seriously to pursue grad school right after college.
At one point, I was initially considering trying to get into Michigan State and even University of Michigan for grad school and just commute a couple hours each way. But for as much as I felt like I was riding high because of my undergrad GPA and great verbal scores on the practice GRE, I just gave up when I saw the math score.
What if I tried to pursue some local state school for grad school even with my crappy math GRE now? I’d have to hustle to take the GRE and try to get admitted by fall, but commuter state schools are looser about deadlines and admissions criteria.
This time I wouldn’t be aiming for schools with names you’ve heard of. And if necessary, I’m pretty sure the neuropsychologist would write something about my potential in spite of the math disability. (In fact, he said he would.)
There are all sorts of reasons to try to go to grad school in person. It would help me meet people, which I desperately need. It would give me more opportunities for help if I do run into trouble with those graduate-level stats classes.
But most importantly, it would get my name known. I might even get chances to be a teaching assistant, which would in turn make it easier to get jobs later.
I mean, I originally wanted a PhD in sociology and to teach. If I’m honest with myself, that’s still what I want.
I’ve talked myself out of it because so many people in my family made fun of sociology as a “worthless” major, a “blow-off” that was easier than “real” college. The fact that I found it so hard to get a job with a BA in sociology just seemed like further confirmation, to me and them.
Then I read lots and lots about the state of employment in academia and that too many people had PhDs and they were working as adjuncts who qualified for food stamps.
It was my passion; it still is. But I talked myself out of it because it seemed like an impossible dream. I let other people’s negative opinions of my major and my doubt about my own abilities talk me out of even trying.
Never mind the fact that the one person that I know of whom I went to high school with who got a PhD is indeed a professor (not adjunct.) And so is the mom friend from my online moms group. And so is the friend I met when Adam was a baby. All of them have PhDs, and all of them are working in academia, not as adjuncts.
It’s not a sure bet. I could lose big. But I like to take long shots and bet on myself when the odds are against me–just look at me moving down here and getting my husband and kids here. Hell, look at the fact that I started undergrad with three kids under age five and raging postpartum depression–and I still graduated with honors.
I think maybe it’s time to shoot for doing things the hard way and see if I can get into a program with crappy quantitative GRE scores. The worst that can happen is that I’ll have to do an online program.