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So my first post didn't fare too well with this crowd. Let me try again.

Because I did not get into any of the schools I actually wanted to attend, I lost my drive to continue getting good grades and subsequently very negatively impacted my GPA. My current GPA does not reflect my ability. When I was applying to schools for undergrad, I had the desire to go to graduate school since I liked solving new problems. I now feel that since I did not get into one of the schools that would have been a better fit for me with respect to ability and the facts that I let my grades slip and that I've been out of school for effectively two years now for medical reasons, it will be much harder for me to get into a good graduate program. I've got one year's worth of classes to finish off my undergraduate degree, but even acing those two semesters wouldn't increase my GPA to what I deem acceptable.

I've also come to realize that I don't like school per se (the exams, the coursework, etc.), but I do love learning and working on new problems. Unfortunately, it's hard, if not impossible, to do things that require having learned things without going to school to get a degree that says you have learned said things.

My questions:

  1. How do I recapture my drive to do the work so that I do not totally hose any future I may have? I seriously doubt that attempting to transfer to one of the schools that have previously denied me would work.

  2. How do I secure a position in a good graduate program with a pretty terrible GPA, having no real research experience, and coming from a less-than-stellar school? REUs rejected me, I suspect, on the grounds of my GPA.

  3. Is there any path that would allow me to get into a decent research position without the bother of degrees?

If you can think of any other options that would lead to a research position, I'd love to hear them.

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    To be clear, this was not a question about the health aspect of my situation. I realize that the health aspect should be asked to a professional. This question was about the school situation and the options I may have to achieve my goals and desires in academia in general, for which this forum seems to be a suitable place to ask. – user3142682 Aug 1 '14 at 16:11
  • @user3142682 would you mind listing the options that you have in mind? what cards do you have in hand, that would help much more to us in providing an advice. Also your condition does not seem as a burnout from too much working, it looks as pure give up. Reconsider editing your question by taking off the health-related stuff and putting in the academy-related options and thoughts you have in mind about what could be done – Kristof Tak Aug 1 '14 at 16:33
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    It may be particularly useful for you to deal with your rejection from your "dream schools," and understand that rejection in academia happens to everyone. For example, a Google search for "how to cope with rejection in academia" returns several interesting reads. – Mad Jack Aug 1 '14 at 16:49
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First of all, I gotta say congrats for editing the question in a way which will make it more interesting to us.

Regarding the parts of the question that you have removed: You know, bad things happen, and they will happen in the future as well, it is your reaction that matters the most. Kudos in that regards as well, since you have decided to look around for a solution for your problem. That is a nice start nevertheless.

You can refer to this post regarding you question about getting into graduate school. However, are you sure that you really like research, have you had any experience in the past? If not, how do you know you like it? Or you just like the Phd title? Bear in mind that the graduate school and later academic career is full of rejections: paper-, grant-, acceptance-. It is obvious that you will have to change the way how you react to rejection, based on how you have reacted to rejection for the colleges that you have applied.

You should have kept you motivation high and work as much as possible to show that committees that did not accept you they have done wrong. But that is past already, you say you have 1 year left to finish your undergrad studies. Try to do you best in the courses that are left.

After all coursework is not the main factor in showing your research capabilities. When you will apply to other institutions later on for research/phd position you will have to convince them that you are capable of doing research. That's the main thing.

It would be great if you could stick around some research projects taking place at your current institution. Maybe some papers come out from there, even you can impress the professors, which might want to write strong recommendation letter for you later on. Strong recommendation letters are important as well.

Finally, do not be that obsessed with the colleges that you have targeted before. There are good colleges doing great stuff over there. Also, you can consider switching continents, in that case your GPA would matter less, as you will have to undergo two extra years of Master studies (in Europe) in order to get a Phd.

To answer your questions precisely:

  1. You have clearly stated that you don't want to screw up any future you might have. So, remind this to yourself daily, try to focus on this. Try some self-motivation stuff!
  2. The link I provided above should be helpful. Got no research experience? Then, simple... get some!
  3. Do a Masters, in US or abroad before getting to Phd; Perform well in the Masters, most recent GPA matters the most.
  • It's been about a month and it seems that this question has run its course. Seeing as you were the only one to submit an answer, and your answer contained useful information, I'm going to award the best answer to you. I would like to point out that I also found the advice to look into dealing with rejection in academia helpful, given by Mad Jack in a comment to my question. I've also been wondering if I could just throw away my three year's worth of work and start from scratch--it would be costly, sure, but potentially worth it. – user3142682 Sep 3 '14 at 22:00
  • Thanks! If you are around your mid-twenties its not a big deal if you throw away the 3 years you have done so far. But, on top of those three years you perform good in solid Masters programme, the latest GPA will matter the most. However, I hope you get what you want in the end. Just keep yourself focused and work hard. I can tell you are on the right path already – Kristof Tak Sep 3 '14 at 22:18

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