Yesterday the NSF announced the recipients of their Graduate Research Fellowships. I was trying hard not to get my hopes up, especially since my application was pretty much thrown together a couple of days before the deadline and my adviser didn't seem to think my research proposal was specific and innovative enough. He suggested I treat the process as a learning experience and try to make good use of the released comments from the reviewers to prepare a stronger application next year.
Last week I started working on budgets based on the $20,000 annual stipend my favorite graduate program offered me. Fortunately, that's for a program in a college town in the Midwest where you can get a decent apartment for $500 and buses will take you anywhere you want to go. All of the current students I've talked to said it is quite possible to have a comfortable life and either still save a bit or (the option I'd go for) pay for an expensive vice like occasionally seeing your fiance who lives 550 miles away in person. I was doing my best to gear my expectations to a lean but pleasant few years.
Nonetheless, as March came and went and an announcement from the NSF loomed ever closer, it was hard not to get sucked into visiting the NSF website a couple of times a day and checking my email a bit more frequently, hoping they'd would hurry up and put me out of my misery. I wanted to find out I hadn't gotten the award, mope for a bit, and move on with my life, and that's impossible to do when there's even a faint glimmer of hope that the moping won't be necessary.
Based on the email sent at 2:13 Tuesday morning no moping was necessary. One of my friends/Physics GRE study buddies found out I got the fellowship before I did, after he checked his email at 2:30 a.m., learned he was a fellow, and went to the NSF site to look at the list of who else had won. However, he decided against calling me and waking me up so I found out ten minutes before I had to head out the door to class.
I think I'm equal parts excited and terrified. It's very, very nice to get into a great graduate program and be offered such a nice fellowship, don't get me wrong, but it is definitely exacerbating a wicked case of impostor syndrome as this widens the gap between the high achiever my resume describes and the real me who often struggles with my condensed matter homework, bombed the Physics GRE despite months of study, and wonders if she'll survive graduate school.
On the plus side, I get to redo my budget based on an annual stipend of $30,000 and figure how to divvy up the money I'll be able to put in savings.