Posted by: thediygeochemist | January 8, 2009

Mission: Impossible?

Some people apply to grad school during the last year of their undergraduate studies.  Some work for a year or two–maybe even more–in their chosen field before applying.

Me?  I  had to be difficult different.

I know, I know, there are plenty of women who go back to work, even back to school, after having kids.  But most of them aren’t trying to enter the world of chemistry (or other hard-core sciences) fifteen years after getting an undergraduate degree.

When I first decided to go back to graduate school, I searched the web (of course) for advice for people in my situation.  There was very little.  I’ve tried to follow what little advice I have, and am learning from experience.  This blog exists because I’m hoping others can learn from my example.

Why do I consider myself an unlikely grad student?

First, I pretty much failed out of college after my freshman and sophomore years.  This happens to a lot of people, but they generally make up for it later with outstanding achievements.

After transferring to another school and changing majors, I did very well in school for a year, then got pregnant.  Yes, I was married.  Yes, we wanted a baby (although we hadn’t planned one so soon).  Yes, I kept the baby.  However, I was a chemistry major.  I had to drop my arranged research project and stay out of labs until after I gave birth.  And even then, school was a struggle.  

I managed to squeak out with a BA Chemistry and considered myself lucky.

Here’s why I consider myself unlikely:

(1) Not-so-terrific GPA.  I got a 3.8 or so my junior year, which is good, and closer to a 3.2 my senior year (after my son was born), which was acceptable.  Don’t even ask about my sophomore year–let’s just say it was under 2.0.

(2) No undergraduate research experience.  Practically a must for chemistry grad students nowadays.

(3) No work experience in my field, despite all my years away.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t regret a single one of my 15 years away. I have four great kids and I’ve been very involved in their lives from day one.  (They’re all homeschooled.)  

But that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve made my life difficult.  I’m working my butt off to get into grad school.  I’ll share my experiences in later posts.


  1. Wow. BRAVO to you for doing this!! I wish you well. My gut feeling is that you will be successful…

  2. I am glad that there’s somebody else going back to school after a 15 yr break and blogging about. Well I am planning to do a full time Phd and I completed my Masters some 13 years ago… I have one kid and live in “alien soil” and hope I get this right.. Well it is so nice to meet you/ come accross your blog!

  3. […] The very first thing I wrote about my blog was how life events made it hard for me to do well as an undergrad. There’s more to the story than I wrote in that post, […]

  4. Hi unlikelygrad, I just found you blog through gradcafe which I joined today. I am very interested in reading through your blog as I am 42 and out of college for 15 years and trying to figure out how to get into grad school. I don’t have any academic work that I saved (nor did I create much at the time) or contact with my professors. I’m taking some classes through ASU Online in hopes of rectifying the situation. We’ll see if it works. 🙂

    • I haven’t blogged at GradCafe for years! In fact, I haven’t visited for at least a year…there goes the moderator job…

      But yeah, it sounds like we are following roughly parallel tracks. I’m not sure how well online coursework would help in getting letters of recommendation because I’ve never taken an online course. My stellar LoR came from a prof whose class I was taking; but I went into office hours several times, and after he answered my questions we would talk for a while. So he knew me pretty well as a person (not just a student) before he wrote the letter. Can you do that with online classes?

  5. Unfortunately since I live out in the middle of nowhere, my only choice is was online classes. In person contact isn’t an option, so I’ll have to make the best of it and hope for the best. Hopefully I can make some decent contacts via email.

Leave a Reply to Sabine Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: