Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Graduate School Warning Signs?

Today, while reading See Jane Compute's book meme, she mentioned that she liked the book Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia. Seeing as I wish to be a women in academia, I promptly went to Amazon to look at it. While reading the excerpt (which happens to be part of the chapter about graduate school) I ran across this passage:

If, as sometimes happens, graduate students:

  • Cannot bring themselves to do one more reading assignment - or
  • Cannot get out of bed to go to the library - or
  • Get nauseous from the small of the lab or thought of a rat - or
  • Spend hours or days or weeks in useless household chores, such as folding sheets or curtains, while avoiding academic work - or
  • Fuss and dither for months while never finding a dissertation topic that really grabs them ...

Those are all danger signs. Academia might not be for them, and dropping out can be the smartest thing to do. It is never a sign of failure.

This frightens me... This summer I have certainly had a hard time motivating myself to do real work. Certainly the first one applies to me... and probably the second (since most days its watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my friend that gets me out of bed, usually at early hours...)

Should I be thinking about quitting? And if not, how can I get my pre-qual motivation back and actually finish earning a PhD?

The concept of quitting my PhD scares me... I have no idea what I would do with my life if not become a professor. I joke with my boyfriend sometimes about quitting and going back to Intel and making the big bucks. Its not that I would hate it, but I dunno, it just feels wrong. But the pressure of academia scares me...


At 7:31 AM, Blogger Jane said...

I think it's completely normal to have periods during grad school where you absolutely hate what you're doing. I came really close to leaving in Year 3, for many of the reasons that Ms. Mentor listed (plus my advisor at the time and I did *not* get along at all). Taking some time off, away from the lab, and thinking hard about what I *really* wanted to do and *why* I was in grad school in the first place helped me gain perspective and for me, the decision was clear to stick it out (and change advisors ASAP). I think you have to worry if months go by and you still absolutely *hate* school.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Jane said...

I meant to say, "I think you _only_ have to worry if months go by and you still absolutely *hate* school". My brain works faster than my fingers!

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Meteorsky said...

you know, i googled "quitting graduate school" and stumbled upon this blog. I am in graduate school myself (bioengineering), and starting to question the value of my work. And i am debating whether I should quit or not, because not even my professor seems to be interested in the project anymore.

Anyways, nice blog. I think more graduate students should blog about their lives (or maybe the lack of).


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