Ds Scholarship

Advice for surviving the challenges of grad school (opinion)

Graduate school could destroy you. This is the most important thing I want to tell my pre-doc. If you can.

In my field, philosophy, incoming cohorts of students are usually around five. By my estimation, four of those finished the degree. Maybe two get stable employment at the academy. In other words, the odds are against you getting a job. (Don’t worry about the odds of getting into a program that funds you well.)

Even worse, few people leave graduate school in better shape than they enter it. Grad school often leads to poor mental health. Graduate students are exploited because universities know that graduate students are transient and cannot organize easily. After all, management maintains funding lines, visas, and standards for performance reviews. Hair loss, chest pain, mental breakdowns, the end of long-term relationships, the beginnings of chronic health problems – I’ve seen it all in many graduate students across disciplines. They are more pronounced in first-generation, disabled, gay, non-white, or non-wealthy students.

But I know pre-PhD. Self. It will not take these warnings as reasons to avoid logging. And perhaps for the best, I was one of only 6.5 percent of Ph.D. holders of Hispanic origin. 2019 Philosophy Laureates. Sometimes we make decisions with our minds, other times with our hearts. And advice to the heart should be aimed at mitigating the potential harm, because it cannot change anyone’s mind. So here’s my advice to my ex and anyone who goes to graduate school.

Consider who is giving you advice. If you seek the advice of professors at doctoral awarding institutions, you will find a survival bias. You are talking to someone who made it. This is unusual today. Try to track down the people who teach at community colleges, who have left the academy after their Ph.D. Or who failed the software. Other than that, you’ll only get selective advice, largely from people of lineage and luck on their side.

Even worse, many of the great professors do not understand the pressures of today’s saturated job market. In philosophy, it was okay to stay in graduate school for a decade, learn multiple languages ​​and exit the program when advisors saw you were “ready.” Now, decade-long financing lines don’t exist, and part-time jobs can’t pay the rent. Plus, in this post-or-doom world, it’s a given that you’ll have a few posts while you’re in the market for the first time, whether you’re “ready” or not.

Know that the Academy is not a merit-based organization. The lineage professors have connections with the lineage professors. If you do not have this luxury, then everything will be much more difficult.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up. If you know that success is not about who you are but who you know, get to know other people. At a minimum, you can hang out with the people in your program, and look for opportunities with the graduate student governments scattered across campus and interdisciplinary. When the drama in your department amplifies — and it will be — you will have sanctuary elsewhere.

In addition, go to conferences. Many philosophers have horrific habits of just reading their papers in their presentations and dealing with questions and answers. So going for intellectual stimulation shouldn’t be your priority. Instead, it should be communication. Attend talks given by the best people in your field, and try to find friends. This will lead you beyond valid arguments and obscure research.

While communicating, observe the culture. People initially judge you based on soft skills — walk and talk like an academic or do things like see who’s posting what scholarship patterns are, put up your research in 60 seconds and ask questions that help the presenter instead of turning into personal shouts. Each major conducts business in a certain way, and conferences can help you learn that. Even if you choose to reverse directions, you will do so on your terms – not because you don’t understand conventions.

Plans to get out. Finish your first year, no matter what. It will take at least that long to understand the game. But after you see what the academy looks like, you probably won’t be sure if you want to continue or even if you can. You may feel trapped – all the momentum of your life is pushing you forward to finish your degree, but the academic system is pushing you towards a brick wall.

One way to feel better is to find a way out. Consider training in related industries that can help you transition into other career paths. Or build skills and earn certifications that will connect you to opportunities in the private industry. You will likely have a summer during which you have relatively little work to do. Instead of worrying, use a little time to invest in yourself elsewhere. For example, I pursued my teaching license, and knew other graduate students who learned programming or consulting.

Don’t neglect your free time. Taste it. The flexibility you have as a graduate student is unmatched, but the anxiety of completing the program, applying for jobs, and interacting with others can stifle the fun. If you are tired, rest and don’t feel guilty. But don’t be afraid of fruitful procrastination that can enrich other aspects of your life.

Be a complete person. It is not always the best that ends; Sometimes achievers are just survivors. So take care of your body and your relationships, not just your mind. As you age and into your twenties, annual checkups with your doctor will help you monitor your health, and dental cleanings will help prevent emergencies. Find ways to keep up, and manage your health through healthy eating, consistent sleep, and getting some exercise. Don’t ignore the body, or it will wither and break.

Likewise, relationships and connections with your community are critical. Most of the people I met in graduate school joined recreational sports leagues or volunteered with church groups. For the people who thrived, the academy was only one aspect of their lives. This made crises less devastating, because even if these students’ academic careers fail, they know they can still be good friends, productive volunteers, and efficient human beings.

life will happen. Several of my graduate school friends and I have faced the death of loved ones. Many of us are separated from our long term partners. So staying healthy and rooted in the community can help when life’s storms are blowing and howling. If you let graduate school cut your roots, you’ll fall even more.

I know you will be fine. My words are unpolished, but you can’t prepare for what not to expect. So I hope that sharing these lessons will help you prepare and thus be able to relax. See, nobody knows the world feels good these days. And graduate school experiences are really experiences of growing up on a dying planet with a polarized political atmosphere. Added to this is the escalation of crises in higher education.

But whether you enroll in a program, finish a degree, or get a job, everything will be fine. Not everyone is up to the pros, but at least you played the game. Whatever it is, you will find life wherever you are. And the world – which is in dire need of smart and considerate people – can always use your skills.

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