Post Academic

How to Quit Graduate School

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on September 13, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWell, somebody’s been coming to Post Academic by looking for this phrase, and we’re here to help. I quit grad school a long time ago, and I’ll be happy to share some tips with you. This advice may also help you should you decide to quit a Hamster World job in the future.

Deliver an Up Yours only if you are serious you won’t need anyone’s help later. I’m not against a good up-yours, Half Baked job departure, but chances are you like at least a few people in school, and you don’t want to alienate them.

Stay in touch with old friends and advisors. A good advisor, particularly one who understands how hard it is to get a job in the academy, will serve as a reference for you no matter what. In fact, they may be thrilled you’re becoming a Hamster because all they’ll have to do is field a reference phone call or two instead of writing lengthy recommendation letters. Less work for them, more sanity for you. Win-win.

Finish your work before you go. The temptation to let other people clean up your mess will be strong. You won’t be around next semester, so what? Well, if you want those friends and advisors to remember you fondly, tie up as many loose ends as possible or at least spend some time training people to handle your work.

More after the jump! Comic book cover image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Smile and nod at guilt trips. Academics are experts at guilt-tripping each other. With all the competition, you’d think there would be rejoicing at your departure, but a few people–maybe even your advisors–will try to pull interventions as if there is something wrong with you. The truth is, justifying staying in academia to you helps them justify it to themselves. Those who are secure in their decisions will congratulate you and wish you well.

Fight back against the “quitter” talk. The cretins in your cohort will call you a quitter. As for them, feel free to unleash all your Up Yours feelings. They probably weren’t your friends, anyway, and they could probably stand to learn a lesson that there is a life and jobs beyond the ivory tower.

4 Responses to 'How to Quit Graduate School'

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  1. OMG, the “quitter” thing is the worst, and it keeps working all the way up the food chain. I just smiled and talked about how happy I felt now that I’d made the decision, and how excited I was to be moving back to a city I loved, and how many job opportunities there were there. It’s the sort of thing that people can’t disagree with unless they want to look like total jerks. Passive aggressive, sure, but kind of fun.

  2. Michael said,

    This was good, but it could have been so much more.

    I would have added:

    1) A ceremonial book burning to seal the deal.
    2) A gathering of fellow grad students in which you celebrate escaping.
    3) Maybe a vacation, since you would never take one with in grad school.

    I’m sure there are more. I’ll have to think about it.

  3. WoPro–reminding the quitter talkers that you are now free to live wherever you want is more than enough justification for leaving. Then you can hint that they’re stuck there as long as the university still exists …

    Michael–you are quite right. It could have been much more. I shared what I did, which was admittedly subtle, but I know I would have taken a long, pampering vacation if I’d had the cash!

  4. Lauren said,

    I am posting quite a bit about my grad school quitting experience — if anyone is finding this old post and looking for more info, check it out. click on Life After Grad School.

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