Post Academic

Tips for Getting Through the PhD Process Alive

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on March 4, 2010
Tags: , ,

If you’re here, you’re probably familiar with the article by Thomas H. Benton titled “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go.” It’s a bummer, and it’s an even bigger bummer for those who are in the middle of a grad program and feeling stuck.

But you don’t have to bogged down in the grad-school process. You could leave, or you could stay, finish, and treat grad school like any other job experience. Matt Feeney at The American Scene offers a list of tips. The following is just a summary of his points:

* View the PhD as an end in itself

* Try not to take too long

* Take an occasional moment to note that your “job” for the time being is to read books, some of them “great,” and talk about them (Best part of grad school, in my opinion, so love it!)

* Take up a dissertation topic might get you sent to cool places for research, language-learning

* Socialize outside of your department

* Socialize outside of the grad school

* Don’t turn up your nose at the undergraduates (To which I add a caveat: You’re not supposed to be their friends—really, do not be their friends because it is better for everyone involved—but don’t look at them as enemies. After all, students are the reason teachers exist.)

This list isn’t perfect, but it’s more constructive than what the MLA is offering at the moment. The point is, you have to make grad school worth it for you beyond the end result of getting an academic job. Face it: You might not get an academic job. Given the current conditions, you probably won’t get an academic job, or at least a job in a happening place to live. If getting a tenure-track job in a sweet place was the end-all, be-all of this process, then you might want to consider a career shift.

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go [Chronicle of Higher Ed]

Is the PhD Trap a Trap?
[The American Scene]

2 Responses to 'Tips for Getting Through the PhD Process Alive'

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  1. Patricia Pierson said,

    This is such an important point. I can’t tell you how many undergraduates I talk to who are considering Humanities Ph.D.’s, and I feel bad laying these issues out for them, but also feel like they need to see the whole picture before making a decision. One thing I do say if if they want a Ph.D. because they really, really want to do that work and aren’t necessarily planning on it for a career or employment, and they can do it without going into debt or using up crucial years of their youth, then they should go for it. But I have dissuaded some students who were really hoping to get a Ph.D. and then go into the profession. I hate to be so negative, but I also don’t want to hide the facts from them. I feel like simply reproducing the system we were brought up in academically is, at this point, irresponsible.

  2. Caroline Roberts said,

    You’re doing the right thing. Students need to be informed of all their options, and the PhD track has changed drastically in just the past decade. I used to be an idealist and think I could live anywhere as long as I could be an English professor … but then I decided in grad school that I really liked living in fun places and couldn’t give it up. That’s also a good point about using up years of their youth because they’ll be behind in earning potential versus their peers once they get out. (PS–great photos!)

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