STUDENT A: Is being courted aggressively by half the top-10 programs in ergonomics. The large impersonal programs are e-mailing me daily, imploring that I advise him to attend. The smaller ones are phoning him directly. He's stayed with faculty on those visits.
Meanwhile his senior paper is growing into something publishable. Other faculty tell he what a joy he is in class. He's remained charming and graceful in the midst of all the attention, although he's stopped smoking, gotten a decent haircut, and is standing up a little straighter. I've seen younger ergo majors listening in awe as he declaims. I watch wistfully, remembering my own moment in the sun.
Remember how so many people in the humanities used to say that strong students should be discouraged from going to graduate school, that the odds were too high against them? Ergonomics doesn't have that sort of crunch, but still I know that he's got bad black moments ahead of him, wherever he goes. Grad school is hard (and you can't even go shopping, at least not very often).
But I think he'll make it through. Thrive, eventually. And several prominent institutions appear to agree.
STUDENT B: Has been rejected from all the top-10, and nearly all of the top-50, programs she's applied to. I'd noticed her growing tension at our weekly meetings; today she finally told me how bleak the admissions picture really is.
Her project is still scattered and unclear. No real writing is done, and we're still hashing out even the sparsest of outlines. Interlibrary loan lets her down three times a week. She cancels meetings at the last minute. There's a new haircolor every week, but not in a fun way.
We've talked about her options for next year. She thinks she can make it in this field; so do I actually, and I think there are solid reasons her application file would look very different next year.
Guess which student's parents will be coming to see me next week.