leave graduate school?

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leave graduate school?

Postby Jennifer » Mon Jan 10, 2005 9:11 am

I am in my first year of graduate school and am having serious doubts. I did research as a technician for two years prior to starting school, so I am sure I enjoy doing research. My problem is that I am not very happy in the location and I am starting to rethink my goals in life. I feel that I might be happier in a career that would leave me more free time for my family, and where I could get started before I am 30 yrs old. I am not yet ready to leave my program, but I am wondering about other options. Can anyone offer any advice to me?

leave graduate school?

Postby Ken » Mon Jan 10, 2005 9:50 am

While I think everyone has that "I want to leave graduate school" moment(s), having it in your first year might not be a good thing.

In terms of free time, I think you get as much free time as you take. If you learn to work quickly and efficiently (you have a ten minute incubation, isn't there something that you can set up in that time?) you can get your work done. If someone is pressuring you to work longer hours, and you're getting your work done, then don't worry about it. I think science provides more free time than, say, medicine, law or business, if you are willing to take it.

Though, it doesn't pay as well initially.

If it helps, I had SERIOUS doubts as to whether I was doing the right thing in grad school. I toughed it out (literally, as I had a PI who was abusive), and about six months out of grad school, I'm finally glad that I did it. Of course, I'm also glad that I NEVER have to do it again.

The question is, do you want to be a scientist? If not, don't waste your time in grad school. If so, you will suffer some, but you can get through it.
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leave graduate school?

Postby Keith » Tue Jan 11, 2005 1:01 pm

I echo Ken's sentiment that most people have moments of doubt concerning graduate school. I disagree that having doubts in your first year is necessarily a bad thing. I grew up in a big city in the South and chose to attend graduate school in a college town in the Midwest. Culture and climate conspired with stress about developing a dissertation project to make the second semester of my first year the worst of graduate school. I am now in the second semester of my fifth year and preparing to defend. Hang in there, things will likely improve. If things do not improve, there is no shame in leaving graduate school for other opportunities.

Good luck,

leave graduate school?

Postby Doug » Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:57 pm

Pretty much everyone I know has had at least some doubts about grad school, for different reasons. Some left; some left and returned. If you want to leave because of some vague "I'm not happy" reason, I'd suggest that's not really a great reason. If you want to leave because of a specific unhappiness, that's a better reason, but still maybe not sufficient. If you want to leave because of an immediately available better opportunity, that's a more than adequate reason. Don't be afraid to talk to people about why you're unhappy: peers, advisors if you're comfortable, career center staff. Peers will often express similar unhappiness, but only after the ice is broken (particularly in the first year). Many career center staffers are a LOT more helpful than you might think. As for adequate family time, that's largely a matter of organization, although I'd suggest that if you DO plan on staying in academia, you're going to have a lot more obligations and will need to be a lot more organized about such things than if you go into industry. But it is possible to be satisified on both ends. And as for "starting a career" before 30: that's honestly the LEAST important consideration. Many of my peers didn't even start grad school until they were 30, sometimes older.

leave graduate school?

Postby Chris » Tue Jan 11, 2005 10:55 pm

Jennifer, if you are in your first year, you are probably in the middle of taking classes and doing rotations right now. When I started grad school I felt the same way. I thought the town I moved to was boring and all my friends from undergrad were partying it up in the city. I was also much more poor that them. And the nature of doing rotations is that you are rarely the 'master' of your project and therefore getting alot of satisfaction out of your labwork isn't that easy either. I spent alot of time planning to escape with a masters after my second year and either get a job or go to law school. But I ended up joining a lab with a project I really liked and in the end it was all worth it. Now I'm a postdoc and thats a whole other story!
Hang in there.

leave graduate school?

Postby Nels » Tue Jan 11, 2005 11:24 pm

Hi, I wanted to leave the first year and I did because I ran out of money and my stipend was not enough to live off of. I came back nine months later after a round of consulting work in Alaska and another in SE Asia. When I returned I took a few courses and met a really great professor that I respected and understood. He gave me a piece of advice that was correct for me at the time and that I think changed my life and my mind about graduate school. His advice was that I would not be satisfied until I had completed the task of getting my PhD. He was right. My advice to you is take a break if you must but go back and complete the task. You can then decide what you want to do with the PhD and how hard you want to work/spend time with family. You will always be better off with a PhD. My best, Nels

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