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What is one lie that you wish to dismiss about graduate school and the grad student experience?

I recently earned my bachelor's and will be starting a doctoral program in August. I've been hearing rumors left and right about grad school in general. They range from dissertations being a mandatory 200 pages, how you have to say goodbye to your social life, how grad students have the same employability rate as undergraduate students, and many more. I'm just curious as to what lies you were told about grad school, and if you could dismiss them for the general public.

#college #collegerumors #grad #gradlife #gradlies #gradschool #gradschoolrumors #gradstudent #gradstudentrumrs #july20 #lies #school #schoolrumors


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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Esther,

I never went to grad school, but my ex-wife did, and I can tell you a little bit about her experience.

She didn't really want to go to grad school, but she had set herself a goal to get a PhD, so she signed up for a expedited 1 year masters program at her university. Given such a small commitment for a masters, it was a no-brainer. Her experience was horrible. Not because of the school, but because all her friends left to pursue jobs, and so she was really lonely. I visited her every weekend, but even with that, she was just really lonely. It was during this year that she decided not to do a PhD, but to get into the work force. Also, her thesis was 30 pages, which is the shortest paper that I've ever heard of, but it is possible.

Anyways, even if you really enjoyed your time in undergrad, remember to make new friends in graduate school. :)

Good luck, Esther!
--
Dexter

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Lacee’s Answer

Hi Esther,
My experience with graduate school (earned my MBA and graduated June 2020) was a stressful but rewarding one. While I definitely had to make sacrifices, in my opinion, it was worth it. I had a goal to earn my MBA for years. I was able to accomplish this with two children (9 and 4). I have a wonderful and supportive husband who helped me to attain this goal.

Before starting, I would take an inventory of how you can accomplish this goal. Additionally, I would take an inventory of your support system. I feel that a true support system would support your goals and not make you have to say goodbye to them socially.

I will also add that I do not have a desire to go for my PhD because how challenging the MBA program was. It is also worth researching multiple schools/programs to see what works best for you, your needs, and your life.

Lacee recommends the following next steps:

Take an inventory of your support system
Research the best school to fit your needs
Research jobs that will be worth the time and energy put into your PhD to evaluate for hire-ability, and monetary compensation

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Amanda’s Answer

I feel like your question is looking for people to refute unpleasant stereotypes about graduate programs and degrees, but I'm afraid the ones you mentioned are largely true. Granted, I'm not speaking from my personal experience as I stopped at a bachelor's degree, but many of my peers and closest family members have master's degrees (husband, brother, and sister-in-law), and I know a couple of PhDs.

One major lie is that a higher-level degree will lead to a good job, either in terms of income or position. If you really want to be in a particular career that requires or at least respects a master's degree, then go for it. But still do the cost/benefit analysis because those fields don't necessarily pay better because of the degree, and often practical work experience in the field pays off more than an additional degree.

PhD programs are an even bigger investment financially, mentally, and socially, so you should only really only go that route if you are very confident the inherent experience and intellectual challenge will be worth it to you, and you're ok sacrificing other aspects of your life. While you're chained to a school program for years and years, your peers are building their resumes with practical experience worth more on the job market. They're paying off debt, taking vacations, buying homes, getting married, having children, saving for retirement, moving to new cities, etc., all while you're still in poor grad student mode. You can certainly make friends within your program, but that circle is very small and limited. The experience can indeed by very isolating and depressing, and this is all before graduating and having to address your likely very high debt load. Then there are often more PhDs than job openings requiring that high level of degree. With a surplus of people in those fields like academia and research, your options and pay aren't very good. If you go after a job that doesn't require a higher degree, they will likely assume you're overqualified and not a good fit. Unfortunately, I've known many people who end up removing their higher degrees to help them change careers or just get a better paying job.

There's a lot of videos on YouTube of people talking honestly about their PhD program experience- I recommend checking them out for the pros and cons.

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John’s Answer

After my B.S. in physics and pre-engineering I completed my Masters in Engineering. I took a Teacher and research assistant position which helped pay for most of it plus other expenses. The higher level degree in this field will help you advance to management positions later on once you have some experience working. This only took a year and a half to complete. Best to finish it while you're still used to taking classes and still know all the math and theories. Thesis was about 120 pages. I kept pretty busy. I started the Phd program, finished the coursework but my professor that I was under was fighting with the department head. So I wasn't sure my Dissertation would be adequate plus the concern of finding a job in Industry. Teaching was available but economy was poor so I decided to be safe and find a job.

Didn't really have time for friends or lots of outside activities. My goal was to get the degrees done fast and less cost.

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