Life after dropping out of grad school?
February 12, 2009 7:46 PM Subscribe
So I finally did it - I dropped out of my PhD. What now?
posted by anonymous to education (14 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
So I’ve had therapy, I’ve had medical leave, I’ve had personal leave, I’ve changed topics, I’ve sought advice from careers counsellors, study aids, academics… and I’ve finally admitted to myself that this is just not for me. I have little interest left in my field right now, let alone my topic. I don’t want a PhD, I hate the isolation of research and the pomposity of academia – I’ve only held out this long because I’ve been too afraid to admit I’m heading in the wrong direction, and have wanted to postpone the decision of what to do with my life for as long as possible. I don’t really have a clear idea of what else I’d like to do; work, obviously; travel, ideally; start acquiring some skills in a different area, hopefully. Get involved and make a social contribution somehow, I guess; the contribution and practical engagement I feel was so lacking in my research life. (I have a decent part-time job at the moment, and am actively applying / having interviews etc for others… but have no definite career map or goals whatsoever, really.)
I’m now in the exciting but scary position of having the “freedom” that I’ve been dreaming of all through my miserable grad school existence… and not knowing what to do with it. Leaving an institution where I’ve spent the better part of eight years, where I have a place, a position, a community, and a relative amount of status and privileges (well, relative to being unemployed I suppose), to launch alone into “the real world” – where all my academic skills and networking seem almost completely irrelevant and I’m competing for entry-level positions with fresh undergraduates who seem to still have their self-esteem at least partially intact. I seem to have finally burnt my bridges with my advisor, who appears disappointed (understandably) and even hostile after all the time and resources he's given to me... after depending on his approval for so long, I now feel alone and abandoned.
So has anyone got a story about walking away from their PhD and managing to “de-program” from the academic cult that tells me I’ve totally failed and my life will be filled with regret?
What I would like from the Hive Mind is some recommendations on how to smooth this transition, and to look forward to it with excitement and courage, rather than regret and fear. How do I get over the feeling that college is everything, that I’ve wasted years, and that life will be empty without those ever-present intellectual deadlines to keep me going? How do I start making the kind of step-by-step career decisions I should have made years ago, before I ever started grad school? Do I essentially pretend the last 8 years never happened & start over again?
Sorry for the vagueness of my questions but any input or advice is totally appreciated. I feel lost. Posted anonymously because I feel like a self-indulgent whiner.
Oh, and one more thing – my college has a new degree called a Master of Studies. The academic advisor has agreed to give me credit for my research work so far, such that I would only have do 6 months of further coursework in order to receive the Master of Studies. But is it logical to get a Masters, for no other reason than just to have “something to show” for the past few years? Or am I just repeating myself by getting a qualification I don’t necessarily need, just for the status of it? Am I falling into the same trap by feeling more education is “The Answer”? Should I just get the hell away from grad school & never look back?
Thanks in advance for your wisdom...