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#1 jobare07

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Posted 21 July 2013 - 09:10 PM

So I'm finishing up my Bachelor's of Science in Environmental science this coming December. And I really want to go to grad school,  I don't have the best GPA or transcripts. I recently got diagnosed with Narcolepsy with Cataplexy March 2013. I know it has affected me much longer than that, probably for 5 or 6 years more ( I went to a Tech school and didn't do the best). I know that Narcolepsy is what has caused my transcripts to be so bad, because I didn't know for the longest time and my family thought it was exaggerated from the stress of school for the longest time and so they moved me to my nearer state university.

 

I don't know how to go about explaining that in a grad school application or anything like that, or if I should even mention it. My grades have improved greatly since my diagnosis, but I only have one semester of grades to show for it that are decent, but I can prove that I know what I'm doing. The school I want to apply to is the top school in the country for my area, and I really think I could do incredibly well... I just don't know if anyone will give me that chance if they see my transcripts without an explanation. 



#2 jpsmith8488

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Posted 22 July 2013 - 08:33 AM

A couple of questions come to mind: how willing are you to disclose your medical condition to a university guidance officer or counselor, and do you have the funds to attend an extra year to bring up your grades in areas relevant to your intended graduate degree?

 

You have a recognized disability and you are overcomng it; this is admirable and speaks to your ability to be successful in graduate school. With a letter from your sleep medicine physician to substantiate your disease and your response to therapy, and to offer the opinion that you should now be able to be successful in graduate school, you could meet with an advisor in the graduate school of your intended study and discuss how this can be a consideration when the graduate admissions committee reviews your application.

 

You could also consider offering to attend an additional quarter or two to bring up your grades in those areas of study material to success in graduate school. This would reinforce your claim that you can now do the work and would show your committment to getting in to the graduate school. I earned my M.D. before I developed narcolepsy and cataplexy, so I do not have experience to compare to yours at that stage of life, but I am now working on my Master's degree and could not do that and work if it were not for adequate treatment.

 

I have every belief that you should be successful in your admission to and successful completion of graduate school. Best of luck.

 



#3 tjunderw

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 11:16 PM

I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school and definitely understand your worry. My GPA is nothing to scoff at but low for my competitive field and I worried that would be a deal breaker too. I was diagnosed after college so in hindsight I'm very proud of my accomplishments, and if you see a strong improvement in your academic achievements then use that to your advantage. I was fortunate to meet with a few program heads from my top schools and they were very encouraging about my condition. I was nervous that I would be seen as "using" my condition as a means to counter less competitive grades but I discussed my extensive work experience, my drive to succeed, then explained that unfortunately I dealt with this medical issue during my college years but am proud of my accomplishments and now with treatment am confident I'll be a well prepared graduate student. My advice is don't feel bad about your diagnosis, I used to feel like narcolepsy was an excuse to justify grades I wish were better but dealing with my diagnosis I understand narcolepsy is just my reality. Don't feel bad because you are not to blame, you have an issue and you're dealing with it, so express your acceptance for what is, lightly explain why you struggled to achieve your degree, and focus on the strengths you would bring to their program and your chosen field. Graduate schools often want to see students who have overcome struggles because those are students they are confident will be successful in school, so be honest-sparingly to not be assumingly out for a pity party, and present your strengths so they have no choice but to find you a wonderful applicant. Good luck, be confident, and don't stop going after what you want! 



#4 macrophage

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Posted 28 July 2013 - 10:07 AM

I finished my Ph.D. in epidemiology earlier this year from the University of California, Davis.  Was diagnosed with narcolepsy in my second year of grad school, but had symptoms since junior high.  

 

General grad school advice: it is a very good thing to be passionate about what you study.  It might be difficult going through years of studying and low pay if you don't have a passion.

GPA is only one component, and most (if not all graduate programs) have a GPA minimum.  It is great that your last semester has improved, but I don't know how much that compares to the rest of your transcript.  I would speak with someone at your school or the schools you want to apply to (e.g. a graduate advisor or graduate program admissions).

Since your GPA is not the best, I suggest applying to more than one school, especially since you mentioned where you want to apply is the top in the country.

 

I was not diagnosed at the time when I applied for the my first Ph.D. program in immunology, so I did not bring that up in my personal statement.  When my onset REM and sleep paralysis made it too dangerous for me to work in the lab (spilled one too many chemicals), I decided to finish with a MS and applied for the Ph.D. program in epidemiology at the same school.  At that point, my transcript, research and CV were great, so I did disclose my narcolepsy in my personal statement and interview.  It helped me to explain why I was making the switch and that it provided additional motivation for continue my education and research in the area of human health.

 

Good luck the application process.



#5 Samwise

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Posted 11 August 2013 - 09:37 PM

I was also diagnosed during grad school. I have my Master's of Science for genetic counseling and I'm not going to lie, it was a tough thing to do. I think it's especially hard when you're trying to develop a treatment plan and the whole grad school thing is already affecting your sleep more so than usual. :) I would recommend being honest about it but not going into everything with a mindset of "I'm the narcoleptic grad student" but more "I'm a grad student and I happen to have narcolepsy." I happened to get very lucky seeing as my program director's husband has IH so she understood exactly where I was coming from. She also suspected it considering I had such a problem staying awake in class!

On a side note, for studying I found that using lots of colored pens made a difference in me being able to stay awake. Not sure why, but those were by far one of the most useful study tools.

Good luck!

#6 kyethra

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 09:20 PM

I was diagnosed the year between grad and undergrad. I had a 3.0 undergrad, but my GRE scores were good. In that year off I took a couple of classes, got an A in each and a letter of recommendation. I also started on xyrem. I ended up going to the number one ranked school in the country in my field... And have not been able to find a related job. So I we

#7 kyethra

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Posted 25 August 2013 - 09:23 PM

I was diagnosed the year between grad and undergrad. I had a 3.0 undergrad, but my GRE scores were good. In that year off I took a couple of classes, got an A in each and a letter of recommendation. I also started on xyrem. I ended up going to the number one ranked school in the country in my field... And have not been able to find a related job. So I went back to school and am now completing fieldwork in a different area and hope to take professional boards in a little over a year. But grad school is expensive and hard. Oh and my brain stops when pregnant or breastfeeding.

#8 Livi

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 08:14 AM

Kind of a sore spot for me. I was in a Ph.D program in microbiology straight from a bachelor's degree, halfway across the country with no emotional support. I didn't know I had narcolepsy, and I didn't know that my emotional issues were PTSD. I can't believe that I made it through 4 semesters before I couldn't handle life anymore. They wouldn't allow me to work for a masters since it was a Ph.D program only. I couldn't keep going the way I was and I didn't know why all I could do was sleep and sob and stare into space.
I was diagnosed with N 6 years later. I could have made it through if I had treated narcolepsy, if I didn't have untreated PTSD, and if I stayed close to home with the support of family.

#9 ironhands

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Posted 31 August 2013 - 09:53 AM

I was "too lazy" to get the grades I needed in high-school.  Dropped out in my final year, to take care of my youngest sister, 4 years old, as my mother was dying of cancer and father worked.  Only need a few credits.  If I wanted to complete it I'd have to start from scratch.

 

 I could likely pass a GED whenever, but not much point.  I'm self taught, and highly skilled in computer science - I make video games as a hobby and have even done some basic robotics projects.  There's not much I can't learn very very quickly if I choose to, but I can't perform well in a school environment.  I test reasonably well, but I can't handle long term projects, or essays without guidance; I just lose focus.  

 

After the experience I had at my first sleep study I seriously reconsidered going back to school to become a RPSGT, seeing as it's not nearly as intensive a program as I had expected.  Now though, I'm not sure if it's possible.



#10 NetiNeti

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 12:06 PM

I was diagnosed right after I finished my MS. My classes were at night, which is when I am "naturally" more awake, so that helped. But I use to nap during my internships and often fell asleep on clients. That is what prompted me to get tested.

 

My grades did suffer a lot in undergrad. I was suprised I got into Graduate school. Now I am a functional working adult. :) Ha, would rather be back in Grad school sometimes.



#11 AnnieJoy

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 05:45 PM

I've got to say I have been really worried about this. I have been self studying Environmental Science for so long that my resume is 10fold better than my transcript. I skipped my senior year to go to college early this year. I plan on transfering from my current local college to a selective school for the fall... but I am worried that my academics are so far gone thanks to the N that I won't be able to do well in college. 
My plan had been to focus on water quality research... but now that my cataplexy is so bad, well I even have dreams now about falling during field work, slowing down my team, getting hurt on a data run. I just don't want any of that to become reality. My plan included switching to a school with a 3/2 program with Duke. Do 2 years of hardcore science classes and then go to Duke. 
Have any of you been able to finish your Masters early? or do ANYTHING accelerated despite your Narcolepsy? It encourages me to see so many of you with similar goals. 



#12 jobare07

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 02:26 AM

I had fallen off the boat with this post. It is very encouraging to hear all of you that have been successful. Especially now that I am having a hard time with finishing school.

As soon as I thought I had gotten on with my life, I had one of those rare rash"reactions" to the modafinil/provigil meds. My GP took me off of it immediately and have been waiting to see a new sleep doctor (the old one never seemed to think much of my concern and did not seem concerned). And that is where I am today. Waiting to see another doctor. I lost all of my funding for school during my last semester, and now I can't afford school either.

It is hard to find a way to stay positive about this, but honestly reading the rest of the posts above really did a lot for my confidence level just now. 

Thank you for that. 



#13 Corka

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 09:30 PM

I got through a Masters degree with untreated narcolepsy, it took a *lot* of naps. The literature review was the toughest bit, all those technical readings made me sleepy!
I started a PHD, but a year in I had to put it on hold. The naps just weren't doing it. I want to resume once I find a working solution medication wise.



#14 jpsmith8488

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 11:04 PM

I too have found that a daily nap around 1pm is essential to maintaing my alertness on the job and complements my optimized drug regimen. I arranged the daily nap with the confidential help from the employee assistance program and my sleep physician. I certainly hope that you find a good combination of medicines that allow you to have increased daytime alertness.



#15 Fawkes

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 12:49 AM

AnnieJoy - Good luck in your studies!  It sounds like you have a workable plan.

 

To answer your question about accelerated achievement:

 

I earned an MA and a Ph.D. in environmental history with a 4.0 GPA in what my advisors called "record time."  I worked my body to its limit every semester and gave it everything I had.  I attended grad school as a mother to a toddler and had a new baby along the way. 

 

Despite declining job opportunitites in my field, I got a job (not my dream job, but what can you do? :) ) and despite a lack of funding and support for research at my new institution, my perseverence (and lack of sleep) led to the publication of my dissertation into a book this last spring.  I have earned teaching awards and excellent evaluations at both of my jobs (I have two of them).   I think I did all of these things because I believed that I could.  I did not know about the narcolepsy yet, so I never said to myself that I couldn't do certain things.  I had parents who taught me to believe that anything is possible if you are willing to sacrifice for it.

 

While I completed these things, my family and I would often chalk up my exhaustion to "overachievement."  Only recently have I been diagnosed with narcolepsy, though in hindsight I have had symptoms since I was a child.

 

One of my current physicians suggested that my achievements were "remarkable considering you have narcolepsy."  While I don't necessarily agree with that, I do think that it is about knowing what you can do, and then setting yourself up for success.  Anyone can do these things; you just have to be willing to make the choices and lifestyle changes necessary to do it. :)

 

Best of luck to all of you!



#16 Heads Up Display

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:02 AM

thanks!  ditto.



#17 Chemist

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Posted 20 February 2014 - 12:31 PM

AnnieJoy - Good luck in your studies!  It sounds like you have a workable plan.

 

To answer your question about accelerated achievement:

 

I earned an MA and a Ph.D. in environmental history with a 4.0 GPA in what my advisors called "record time."  I worked my body to its limit every semester and gave it everything I had.  I attended grad school as a mother to a toddler and had a new baby along the way. 

 

Despite declining job opportunitites in my field, I got a job (not my dream job, but what can you do? :) ) and despite a lack of funding and support for research at my new institution, my perseverence (and lack of sleep) led to the publication of my dissertation into a book this last spring.  I have earned teaching awards and excellent evaluations at both of my jobs (I have two of them).   I think I did all of these things because I believed that I could.  I did not know about the narcolepsy yet, so I never said to myself that I couldn't do certain things.  I had parents who taught me to believe that anything is possible if you are willing to sacrifice for it.

 

While I completed these things, my family and I would often chalk up my exhaustion to "overachievement."  Only recently have I been diagnosed with narcolepsy, though in hindsight I have had symptoms since I was a child.

 

One of my current physicians suggested that my achievements were "remarkable considering you have narcolepsy."  While I don't necessarily agree with that, I do think that it is about knowing what you can do, and then setting yourself up for success.  Anyone can do these things; you just have to be willing to make the choices and lifestyle changes necessary to do it. :)

 

Best of luck to all of you!

 

This kind of attitude/strategy is what drives me as well. The biggest difference between me and my healthy peers is that when they feel ill, unmotivated, bored, etc. they stop going -- I don't. Perseverance is definitely the key. When every single day you don't feel like doing just about anything you have to learn to uncouple how you feel from your ability to push on and complete tasks. I'm already decent at this and intend to become better at it. I've had people close to me tell me they're concerned about how much I push myself and that I go through so many medications and continue taking those that work even with the side effects. My response to them, and how I feel about it, is that I'm willing to risk my life to achieve what I want in life because if I can't at least approximate a normal healthy human being and lead a moderately successful life, what's the point in living anyway? I realize other people feel differently, but I'm an individual who is practically incapable of enjoying life without productivity and success.

 

As contradictory as it may seem, despite feeling terrible just about all day every day, I'm usually in a good mood. I do stress a bit over deadlines, not being productive enough, not having much of a social life, etc. but at the end of the day I feel pretty darn good about being successful in an area that's challenging to very healthy and intelligent individuals, let alone those with disabilities.

 

I might also like to do some teaching at some point, because I look around and see these young bright healthy kids with little to no aspirations or motivation. And I say kids but these are young adults in college who should be past their teenage apathy stage already. I'd like to help nudge these people towards unlocking their full potential if I can. I'm certainly getting tired of hearing freshmen/sophomores giving up on science because "I just can't understand this -- I'm not a science person." Words cannot express how much hearing that sets me on fire, haha.

 

But it's true, there's no reason narcolepsy should preclude success, you just have set your goals and see them through regardless of how you feel while you're working towards them. There is one small silver lining to feeling tired/exhausted from narcolepsy all the time: There's not that big of a difference in how drained you feel after a day full of mundane errands versus a day full of work others would consider "challenging." Doing pretty much anything, or nothing, leaves you tired and drained. Recognizing that makes the choice to be productive a bit easier to swallow.







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