Choosing the right defense committee can potentially be the difference between a smooth transition of receiving your doctoral degree or dodging bullets in an all-out civil war. Hyperbole aside, I’ve been particularly lucky with picking my defense committee members. However, I’ve had colleagues who have struggled, so it’s easy to be on either side of this tough choice. As a new blogger to this site,…

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Looking back on my time in grad school is a bittersweet feeling. I had a lot of difficulties but I still treasure the hard work and tears (maybe that’s the cognitive dissonance speaking). I thought I’d share with you some wisdom from my time in grad school: the things I wish I would’ve known. If you understand and take seriously some of these things, then maybe you can avoid some…

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Before deciding to embark on another 5-10 years of education, know the facts about getting a PhD (see my previous blog on myths of getting a PhD). If you’re still confident a PhD is the right path for you, ask yourself the following: 1. Can I afford it? If you are considering student loans, mean graduate debt was $14,479 according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (…

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Should you get a master’s degree or should you go on to get your PhD? If you’re considering getting even more education, be aware of some of these misguided assumptions surrounding the elusive PhD. MYTH #1: Getting a PhD guarantees a job. It is true that people with doctorate degrees have lower unemployment rates on average compared to people with less education ( Bureau…

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I have gotten mixed feedback about whether I should go straight into grad school or work in the field for a few years before starting. When I think about my long term goals, I am more concerned about future employers and career opportunities, rather than the short term goals of having more money now. Do you think it would be best to push through and get my Master’s now, or would the experience in the field be helpful? –More School or Work Now? Dear More School or Work Now, This is a great question, and can often depend on the opportunities that are available to you after you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. If you have an opportunity to start your career when you complete your undergraduate degree, it can be hard to pass on that type of offer.

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I am in my third year of a five year PhD program, and the further I get into my field of study, the more I realize that this is not the field/career choice for me. I have invested so much time, money, and effort on this degree so far, but I really do not see myself being happy if this is what I do the rest of my life. I am seriously considering dropping out of the program, but I don’t want the whole experience to be a waste. What do I do? –Changing Fields Dear Changing Fields, This may be the most commonly asked question of all graduate students. In fact, I don’t know a single student who has survived graduate school without asking this of themselves.

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I have noticed that the relationship that I have with my professors seems somewhat more personal than teachers in high school, especially when working on research teams and other projects when we spend more time working collaboratively outside of the class room. Is it appropriate to add my professor to my FaceBook, etc? –Walking the Line Dear Walking the Line, This is a personal decision that will depend on multiple factors. First, are other students “friends” with this professor on Facebook? It is often wise to take a cue from senior students, as they may have specific insights into this quandary.

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I’m sitting at a crossroads with my dissertation right now. I’m struggling to decide whether or not the best possible decision for me is to try and quickly finish my dissertation project or to stay here a 5th year. If I stay for the 5th year, one of my colleagues will be on the job market before me and I worry that may ruin my chances for an academic position. What is the best option? –Early Bird Gets the Job? Dear Early Bird, Although it is true that the search for an academic position can be competitive, I do not believe it would be a problem to have two similar candidates in the job market around the same time.

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I have been working on my dissertation very diligently, and I have turned in several drafts to my advisor. She has had multiple drafts for many weeks now, and I have yet to see any comments and she is not responding to my emails. What do I do? –Silent Service Dear Silent Service, Before you start to stress out about not receiving a draft, remember that advisors have a lot going on, including managing a lab (sometimes with multiple graduate students), teaching multiple classes (sometimes with hundreds of students), and performing administrative duties (which can often be more time-consuming than any other task).

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I am sensing some tension between my advisor and I, now that I am in the last year and finishing my dissertation. Communication seems to take forever and short almost ambiguous feedback. We used to talk frequently, but lately things seem strained. What can I do to repair the relationship? –Worried Dear Worried, Thank you for asking this question because communication with your advisor is one of the most important elements of a successful graduate career, but it’s also one of the most ignored. In this time of your graduate career, a major thing you’ll have to remember is the amount of stress that you and your advisor are experiencing.

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