There Is No Cat

Hollering into the void since 2002

Saturday, August 3, 2002

Grad school nightmares

Laura finished grad school yesterday. (Yay!) In light of that, it seems like a good time to point to Dorothea Salo's Straight Talk about Graduate School, a somewhat bitter but not terribly off-base look at the subject. Laura's experience was absolutely nothing like this, I hasten to add. But I've known quite a few gradual students over the years, and lot of this sounds awfully familiar. All of those other students, though, toiled in Liberal Arts fields and attended school traditionally, that is to say, on campus and in person. Laura's grad school experience was in a technical field, and she attended virtually, viewing the classes on videotape a week or so after they had taken place in Dallas, and she interacted with professors via e-mail. But I suspect my sister, who is getting her Master's degree in Psychology, would find a lot to vibrate to in Dorothea's tale. I wonder if the difference in Laura's experience was that she was in a technical field, that she was attending virtually, or that because she was a returning professional and not a poverty-stricken graduate assistant, she avoided the most likely flash points that made Dorothea's experience so terrible. I suspect that latter bit is the most likely.

Posted at 6:03 AM

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Congratulations to Laura! I'm always pleased to hear when someone finishes Grad school of any type.

I can guarantee though that technical fields are no less stressful than Humanities. They are just as prone to abuses and obnoxious jackasses making your life a living hell. Dorothea's advice was right on. You have to decide how much you are willing to give up for an advanced degree. Getting a doctorate is a war of attrition for many. For some people, it is simply the right thing to do and not hard at all. These people are extremely internally driven. For others, they flip out and turn into evil, resentful, hateful, lazy, lying, cheating, demons that retreat into fantasy in order not to face the hell of Academia head on. (No names mentioned here.)

I'm eternally glad that I bailed on my Ph.D early on. Especially after seeing up close what Fraternity-like hazing goes on for no good reason other than "I had to do it too."

Posted by FMF at 10:36 AM, August 3, 2002 [Link]

Congratulations to Laura! :)

Yeah, there is a lot in there that I resonate to. The expectation that you are not to have anything to do in your life other than grad school even though that is what keeps you sane throughout it, mostly. They tell you that it does, and then they pile up the expectations. My school hasn't been quite as bad as some stories, but there are echoes.

I think one of the reasons Laura's went so well does have a lot to do with the returning professional non-grad assistant style. There's much more outside support with a situation like that. And there's a push, especially in Humanities, to go for the PhD immediately, which I am convinced is about the worst thing you can do (yeah, I like I did even if it's an M.Ed.). So that might also account for the difference in humanities vs tech. Maybe.

I try not to let the system get to me, but it's a struggle and some days are more successful than others. But this is exactly why you won't see me going for a PhD. Ever. If I start getting those starry eyed looks and considering it, thwap me over the head with a plank. It's unnatural.

Posted by tara at 10:46 AM, August 3, 2002 [Link]

This is a message I just sent to Dorothea SALO who has the right to be pissed off and who has shown that grad school success has NOTHING to do with meritocracy---Helas........

I wanted to say thank you for the insightful details you have given about grad school-- HOw I wish I had spoken to you first before getting involved with the 'Monster'---Very famous, over-rated West coast grad school--I feel so naive now after having left the crap department I was in--but I must admit I fell victim to prestige and reputation when I saw the danger signs lurking in the back ground...Who's to blame? I feel stupid for falling for the sound bites/the hard-sell/ the rep/ the publicity et al....... My own caveat to anyone considering grad school is to talk to those who dropped out and find out why-- Thanks again-Keep up the goodwork and well done for making the most intelligent choice for your health and your future!!!!!

Posted by Chiri at 1:43 PM, July 23, 2004 [Link]

Absolutely: technical studies are just as horrifying... right now i'm in a lab (doing my MSc. in experimental medicine) where the post doc looks at my data and tells me what a good job i'm doing and yes i'm interpreting the data correctly, then when the lab meetings come around she completely trashes everything i've done, points out huge mistakes i made, and says i "should know" these things... She also watches me struggle with an experiment for weeks on end, knowing the mistake i'm making, and won't tell me. my prof is no better, he's made it quite clear he's looking for an "expert" in the field :O I'm sorry, i thought i was a masters student! In the mean-time, there are other students running around stealing equipment. I am terrified I turn into one of these people; hateful and blind to all the other things that exist in the world outside of their project. Anyway, Chiri: don't feel bad about falling for the prestige and all that dung - i think 9/10 grad students get there for that same reason. I'm _very_ pleased to hear Laura successfully completed her degree without completely losing it :) And I agree with Tara; returning to grad school as a professional seems like a much better situation with many more resources and support, not to mention respect from your colleagues. Congratulations!

Posted by Sarah at 1:03 PM, May 2, 2007 [Link]

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