Datepalm

PhD: Bad Idea, Terrible Idea or the Very Worst of All Ideas?

190 posts in this topic

Well, for my part I can agree that this process is inscrutable and crazy and exhausting, but today is Decision Day and I have finally made mine! I ended up getting offers from three programs (Chicago, MIT, Hawaii) and after some insane back and forthing (I seriously changed my mind a dozen times in the past couple days, flipping between Chicago and MIT), I pulled the trigger on Chicago. I cannot believe that something I have daydreamed about for years as a passing fancy that would never work with my life is actually going to happen! I've given my notice at my current job and I will be spending the summer traveling and studying and moving.

I honestly had no idea if my applications were competitive. I shot pretty high with my applications and it worked out, so that was a relief. Also surprised at which programs I got into and which ones I didn't. People say that admissions can be a crapshoot and that is certainly true to my experience. I didn't speak with any faculty at any of the schools, didn't have much research experience, and didn't blow the PGRE out of the water, but here I am anyway! (Impostor syndrome definitely kicked in!)

Also one of my potential advisers is I think 2 years older than me. :lol:

On 4/12/2017 at 5:13 AM, Datepalm said:

Well, this has all been weird. I can just about summarize the whole experience now, (barring some unlikely last minute waitlist luck) and its by far the oddest and most disconcerting thing I've ever tried to do. Results being - I was accepted to Portland, who only let me know today what funding, projects, etc they have. (and Oxford, who still haven't) It sounded technically promising but way off what I actually want to be doing (and long term career goals.) So I tentatively brought up the possibility of deferring by a year with Potential-Supervisor-Person, who, to my surprise, immediately said it was a great idea, lets keep in touch, best, see ya in six months. So that was a decision I expected to spend weeks agonizing over suddenly made in passing in a last minute skype call. :dunno: The next 6-8 months until the next round of applications are due is already looking fairly busy (with relevant academic-y stuff...plus my actual thesis is a ways from being done) so it doesn't feel like a loss so much as just a natural dragging out of the proccess, but I still can't figure out if I'm relieved or disappointed.

On the other hand, yay, I can sleep now!

Congrats! That's awesome! I think it is pretty common for people to defer, glad that it worked out so smoothly for you. :commie:

On 4/13/2017 at 8:50 PM, Simon Steele said:

Is it okay if I post in this thread that I just got accepted into a PhD program? I hope it is not distracting from anyone else. But I just found out, and I'm kind of scared. Now that I've been accepted, I have a clinical faculty position waiting for me which pays better than what I made before, and everyone is so excited to have me. Like...no one has ever been excited to have me around before. To think, just a couple of years ago I was thinking I had jumped in over my head in grad school and would never be able to graduate. Hell, to think just a few years ago I was a middle school teacher in a rural, conservative community and figured I'd die in that building.

Woohoo!!!!!! Congrats! :cheers:

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Congrats! I'm totally thrilled for you. (And perversely glad you turned down MIT, because then I'd be more disappointed with the inevitable rejection they've not yet been punctual enough to send me.;))

And we'll see, I suppose I could end up at Portland after all, but the rational decision might be to stay here if nothing else works out next year either - Technion or even Hebrew U is probably a better place to do what I want to do than Portland (I applied because of a specific faculty member who might or might not be working on my-stuff-of-interest anymore - the department at large is less my thing.)

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Congratulations all around. Read Ph.D. comics every day, that’s about all the advice I have.

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3 hours ago, Datepalm said:

Congrats! I'm totally thrilled for you. (And perversely glad you turned down MIT, because then I'd be more disappointed with the inevitable rejection they've not yet been punctual enough to send me.;))

And we'll see, I suppose I could end up at Portland after all, but the rational decision might be to stay here if nothing else works out next year either - Technion or even Hebrew U is probably a better place to do what I want to do than Portland (I applied because of a specific faculty member who might or might not be working on my-stuff-of-interest anymore - the department at large is less my thing.)

Thanks! I know the feeling, I just got a rejection from one program late on Thursday night! I was like thanks, good thing I wasn't holding out for that. 

Rational shmational ;)

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Well, at this point I'm kinda holding out for that, but I also had the weirdest (not at all in a good way) interaction/interview/random encounter with faculty there, including their program director, (who happens to be Israeli, which I did not know before meeting him), so I have this irrational sense those guys are trolling me. :dunno:

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@Starkess Congratulations! Looking forward to welcoming you to Chicago! You will soon be living near one of my favorite bookstores.

@Datepalm You could come to Chicago too.  University of Illinois at Chicago has an Urban Planning school :) 

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11 hours ago, Starkess said:

Well, for my part I can agree that this process is inscrutable and crazy and exhausting, but today is Decision Day and I have finally made mine! I ended up getting offers from three programs (Chicago, MIT, Hawaii) and after some insane back and forthing (I seriously changed my mind a dozen times in the past couple days, flipping between Chicago and MIT), I pulled the trigger on Chicago. I cannot believe that something I have daydreamed about for years as a passing fancy that would never work with my life is actually going to happen! I've given my notice at my current job and I will be spending the summer traveling and studying and moving.

I honestly had no idea if my applications were competitive. I shot pretty high with my applications and it worked out, so that was a relief. Also surprised at which programs I got into and which ones I didn't. People say that admissions can be a crapshoot and that is certainly true to my experience. I didn't speak with any faculty at any of the schools, didn't have much research experience, and didn't blow the PGRE out of the water, but here I am anyway! (Impostor syndrome definitely kicked in!)

Also one of my potential advisers is I think 2 years older than me. :lol:

Congrats! That's awesome! I think it is pretty common for people to defer, glad that it worked out so smoothly for you. :commie:

Woohoo!!!!!! Congrats! :cheers:

 

Thanks--and our experiences are similar. Well, one of my potential advisors might actually be a couple years young than me, ha ha. But yeah, the process was awful.

Congratulations to you. And Datepalm--one of my mentors just deferred, and it saved her from losing it, I think.

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Bringing this thread back from the dead because I need to vent and gather my thoughts about this. I am facing the decision whether to apply for a PhD this year or not and, like with all important life decisions these days, I change my mind every half an hour.

Pros: I really want to work at university at some point, and obviously that education would help me with that goal. My would-be mentor has already agreed and said she would be happy to have me as a student. I have good chances of being accepted with my MA grades and the prize.

Cons: It costs two things: money and energy that I would rather spend on other things in my life - my priority right now is moving out because I am (still/again, depends on how you look at it) living with my parents and think it is time to have my own household (they say I can stay as long as I want etc., the problem is mine). Being in an ex-socialist fairyland, I am also used to education being free and tuitition fee on the program is, well, high for me (the situation is not helped by the fact that even the university does not know how the financial side will look in the end because the ministry that finances it does not give them information in time before the application deadline, yay). Also, why tie myself down here in Slovenia if I am both able and relatively willing to move to other countries for jobs and/or education. The standard here is that you do all your studies in the same department of the same university - apart from the few foreign professors, all the employees at the department are its own graduates. My potential PhD mentor would be the same person who mentored my MA and taught me a few classes at both BA and MA. It is the easiest way logistically, obviously, but with some more research and energy I could just as well apply somewhere else a few years down the road and get more experience in educating myself in different environments.

Also, if I apply I go through with it (and if I start something, I do go through with it), it might end up with me being less employable in all the other areas but university. And the chances there are not that good.

So that is why I am sitting here procrastinating reading the board instead of writing my thesis proposal and I am also not that sure whether the topic is even worth it and if I actually want to explore it etc. ...

I am pretty sure most people in this thread have gone through similar situations. I would be happy to read any answer, but really I just wanted to get this out there.

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Noooo! Don't do it, unless 1) you are independently wealthy and don't need a job, or 2) its a field that easily transfers outside of academia. And I mean really easily, like Chemistry or Engineering or something.

 Being in academia, I highly recommend NOT getting a PhD.

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On 7/3/2017 at 6:16 AM, Buckwheat said:

Pros: I really want to work at university at some point, and obviously that education would help me with that goal. My would-be mentor has already agreed and said she would be happy to have me as a student. I have good chances of being accepted with my MA grades and the prize.

Work at university in what capacity and for how long? Different countries have different standards on this. For example, in the US, the only scholars whose positions are permanent are the tenured professors and equally high-ranking equivalents which is why the competition for tenure-track positions is insane. France has what amounts to a permanent research scientist (aka senior postdoc) position and perhaps some others so your odds of getting a career in academia are somewhat higher (though still not very good).

Basically, unless you are brilliant at your intended field or your intended country of permanent residence has an increasing number of senior professor positions and few candidates, don't count on a permanent career in academia. Some people are that good and some others are really lucky, but in general, it is not likely that a random person with a PhD will get a permanent and highly ranked (and thus at least somewhat high-paying) academic position in a Western country.

On 7/3/2017 at 6:16 AM, Buckwheat said:

Also, if I apply I go through with it (and if I start something, I do go through with it), it might end up with me being less employable in all the other areas but university.

Out of curiosity, what is your intended field of study and why do you think it will make you less employable? Most of the STEM and economic fields offer a reasonable amount of training for a set of fairly decent jobs outside of academia (e.g. in pharmaceuticals, programming, engineering, finance, etc.). They are not the most efficient way to get such training so there is still an opportunity cost, but they'll get you there. The humanities are a bit trickier, but there are likewise various jobs which you may be qualified for depending on your topic (e.g. natural language processing, museums, non-profits, etc.).

A PhD generally doesn't make you less employable. It's just that if you don't continue in academia, you will have invested a lot of time and effort into areas which will probably not be useful to you in the future and you will enter lower on the non-academic career ladder than somebody of the same age and ability who dedicated themselves solely to this career while you were doing your PhD.

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