Thursday, February 21, 2008

Graduate grumblings

Something crazy is happening.

Meg isn’t getting exactly what she wants, exactly when she wants it.

My sister is phenomenally lucky and talented and bordering on perfect. She’s that kid who graduated at the top of her class and was a star athlete in multiple sports (pretty much any one she tried her hand at, in fact) and had a great personality and a ton of friends. She excels at everything that she tries – from knitting to sharpening skates to crazy-intense science stuff that I can neither pronounce nor spell. She is very driven and very smart. If I weren’t so proud of her, I would probably hate her.

Meg graduates in April. For the past few months, she has been busy taking the GRE and filling out applications to PT school. She’s wanted to be a physical therapist for some time (even though my mom insists that she would thrive in medical school), so I think that she’s been kind of excited about the prospect of starting the next phase of her education.

The applications to physical therapy school seem to heavily favor potential students who have been out of school for a while. It seems that they’re really looking for someone who has worked, not just volunteered, in the field. Maybe they get a lot of students who enroll and then realize that physical therapy isn’t their thing? I’m not sure. But, whatever the reason, the deck has not been stacked in Meggie’s favor.

And, in this isolated incident, Meg is finding that not everything works out the first time.

She got denied at one school, deferred at another and is waiting to hear back from two or three more. Meg was pretty upset when she didn’t even land an interview before being denied at the one school (the same university I’m in grad school at) – the reason she didn’t get an interview is that, to be considered, because you have to have had a B or higher in all of your core classes…and she got a B- in one.

I feel awful for her. It has always been a bit of a solace that, even though I’m a loser, my sister had everything going for her.

So she might not get into graduate school. And she might have to work a year and reapply. It isn’t a fatal setback. But I sure wish I could fix this for her.


s said...

you not fixing this for her may be the best thing that ever happened to her.. i have a really long story about a similar situation and it's probably too long to leave as a comment, but what the hell. my closest and most favorite cousin is alot like your sister. pretty near perfect,shes tiny and pretty, has a perfect husband, she's run the nyc marathon 4 times, graduated as valedictorian of her high school class, went to an ivy league school, got into every medical school she applied to and graduated with honors from one of the top med schools in the country. when she applied for fellowships in reproductive endocrinology(read: really hard right now because the money is awesome unlike other fields of medicine where the money is disappearing.) she assumed it would go the same way as everything else would, she'd apply she'd get it and all will be well. well, it didn't happen that way. she didn't get in on her first shot. at lunch one day she was talking about how hard it was and i said point blank, welcome to the real world at 26 you just had your first real rejection. i think that she finally learned the lesson that all good things come with time and they are so much sweeter when you have to work a little harder.

i know you know this, but your sister will be fine. she'll be great at whatever she does and partly because you are there being her biggest supporter.

Paul Michael Peters said...

Why We Learn From Our Mistakes

ScienceDaily (Jul. 3, 2007) — Psychologists from the University of Exeter have identified an 'early warning signal' in the brain that helps us avoid repeating previous mistakes. Published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, their research identifies, for the first time, a mechanism in the brain that reacts in just 0.1 seconds to things that have resulted in us making errors in the past.

Previous research has shown that we learn more about things for which we initially make incorrect predictions than for things for which our initial predictions are correct. The element of surprise in discovering we are wrong is conducive to learning, but this research is the first to show how amazingly rapid our brain's response can be. This discovery was made possible through the use of electrophysiological recordings, which allow researchers to detect processes in the brain at the instant they occur.

'It's a bit of a cliché to say that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes,' said psychologist Professor Andy Wills of the University of Exeter, 'but for the first time we've established just how quickly the brain works to help us avoid repeating errors. By monitoring activity in the brain as it occurs, we were able to identify the moment at which this mechanism kicks in.'

For this study, a group of volunteers took part in a computerised task, which involved them making predictions based on information they were given. New information was then introduced, which made many of their predictions incorrect, so they needed to learn from this in order to avoid repeating the error. While they did this, their brain activity was recorded via 58 electrodes placed on their scalp. The researchers identified activity in the lower temporal region of the brain, the area closest to the temples. This occurred almost immediately after the person was presented with the visual object that had previously made them make an error, and before there was time for conscious consideration.

Most previous research in this field has focused on the frontal lobes of the brain, which are the areas associated with sophisticated human thought processes such as planning, analysis and conscious decision-making. The lower temporal region of the brain, which was the focus for this activity, is responsible for the recognition of visual objects.

'This brain signal could help us in many different kinds of situations,' said Professor Wills. 'For example, when driving abroad the rules of the road sometimes differ. We may make a mistake the first time we misinterpret a situation, for example not realising that in the States cars can turn right on a red light. The next time we're driving out there and see a red light, this early warning signal will immediately alert us to our previous mistake to prevent us from repeating it.'

This research was funded by the BBSRC.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Exeter.

...mine was longer

Stace said...

Geez! :)
All I wanted to say. . maybe it's good for her. . . but I understand your pain, frustration or whatever it is you feel. It's a sisterly thing.

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