Failed to get a PhD, now what?
July 4, 2009 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I just failed my PhD quals for the second time and they're going to kick me out of the program. Now what?

To make a long story as short as I can, I work in an engineering field (aerospace) only vaguely related to my undergraduate and master's degrees. That said, I'm really good at it. To achieve a long-term career goal I need a Ph.D. In fact, virtually every every action I've taken for the past 15 years has been with that goal in mind. Those actions would include the city I live in, my current job, job assignments, hobbies and outside skills learned, and so on. So, several years ago, I applied to and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in aerospace engineering. I've taken over a year of unpaid leave from work, living off savings, to attend classes and do work associated with getting the degree. It has been a mighty struggle, not the lease of which is that I came into a field without the formal training (in this particularly subject) of my fellow engineering students. I even spent less time with my dying father than I could have in order to prepare for exams. Despite all that, I did well in my classes and made almost exclusively straight A's.

Well, I just found out that I failed the qualifying exams for the second time and they're not going to let me continue in the program. As you can imagine I'm pretty gutted. It's hard not to feel enraged at a system in which a person who aces his coursework is, statistically, very likely to fail exams where the only passing criteria appears to be "You pass if we think you passed." So yes, on one hand I'm clearly some sort of idiot unable to pass these exams, but on the other hand I'm convinced that the system is set up to screw over the maximum number of people possible. Last year, I happen to know, only one person passed out of a half a dozen or so people taking the exams in my specialization. And, it's hard to come to terms with having wasted years of my life and enough opportunity cost to buy a small house. And, while I always knew it was a possibility, I'm now about to turn 40 year old with the career goals I've spent every waking moment trying to achieve for the past 15 years having now gone virtually out of reach. There are secondary reasons for getting the degree, but the big one is now probably out of reach.

At this point, I think I may have the following options. I could try to salvage an MS but that may be impossible since I've now returned to work, the university is in a different city, and I'd probably have to take more classes to meet the minimum coursework hours requirement. Or, there is a very small chance I could to a different department, such as mechanical engineering, that is a little bit less crazy. I know of at least one student in my situation who has done that. Or, I could try to get into a different university, one where I live, and start a new Ph.D. program. Or, of course, I could just say "screw it" and walk away.

Making this more painful is the realization, with the recent death of my father, that life is indeed short. There's a lot of stuff I'm interested in doing that have nothing to do with that Ph.D. or my current career and I've been sacrificing all of it with my higher goal in mind. I've been a student, of one sort or another, for basically my entire life and every time go out to socialize in the evenings ("Sorry, I've got to study."), or have fun on the weekends ("Sorry, I've got to study."), or even talk about sitting on the couch and watching television ("Sorry, I've got to student.") it just kills me. I feel like I'm 40 years old with no life because I've been struggling so hard on this one goal for so long. So it's tempting, while I've still got some time and youthful energy, to just change course and career and do something else that might enable me to "have a life," as they say. So, at least at the moment, you can imagine that the idea of spending ANOTHER four or five years in a different Ph.D. program is just really painful.

Oh, did I mention that (against all logic) I feel as if I've let down my (deceased) father, who really believed in me?

Some advice or personal stories from anybody who's been in a similar situation would be really appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Education (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Naively, I would suggest to staying in the program until you get the master's if you need a brand-name on your resume or think it would help you score a job that fulfilled your deepest desires. I find it hard to believe it isn't structured in as a consolation prize.
posted by gensubuser at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2009

Is there some way you can ask to appeal the decision or see the rubric?
posted by LSK at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who found themself in a similar situation; failed the qualifying exam, to be kicked out of the program, and suddenly having to figure out exactly what they should do, having spent the previous four years working towards this goal.

What they did was arranged a meeting with the graduate advisor and the head of the department to discuss options. In the end, after two meetings and time to think, it was mutually agreed that they would leave with a clean record and good references, just no degree. Basically, they left the program instead of being kicked out of the program.

So talk to your department. I don't know what their culture is like, I don't know how large it is, or anything about your exam, but try talking to them. Odds are they want this about as little as you do, but it's one of those things that happens.

In this case, there was also some... difficulties between the supervisory committee and the student, which was a bargaining chip on their side, which I'm not sure if you have.

Either way, you're not likely to be invited back and honestly, you probably shouldn't go back to that department even if you could. You still might be able to leave with some things though.

Good luck though.
posted by vernondalhart at 9:02 AM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Coursework in graduate school is graded differently than coursework in college. In grad school, you fail if you get below a B, so grades are hugely inflated. It is entirely possible to get straight A's in your courses and then fail your qualifiers.

I don't know what your quals consisted of - there are many different formats at many different universities. From what you've written, I'm guessing that it is a paper-based exam graded by a handful of faculty members or an oral qualification exam, again, graded by a handful of faculty members.

If so few people are passing these exams, there has to be a reason. You should be able to find out what this reason is from your advisor. It could be funding based. But the point should be made to the quals committee and the admissions committee that accepting such a high percentage of students who are bound to fail is unacceptable. They're wasting your time and their time.

If your advisor believes that you are competent, he or she should be able to go to bat for you with the people who assess the quals. You should find out if there are "conditional" passes - these are fairly standard and are used to deal with candidates who are weak in one or more areas. A good friend had a conditional pass where he was asked to write a review paper because the committee felt that his writing skills were poor; someone I worked with had to extensively rewrite two parts of his proposal (this was a research proposal based qual) because it was clear during his oral defense that he didn't understand it in enough detail. Another friend who cleanly failed the first time had to start anew and develop a new research proposal. Unfortunately, he failed the second time as well. He's now completely out of the field and much happier as it turns out.

You're in a crappy situation. It makes me want to go out and thwack some faculty upside the head. Don't give up without talking seriously and honestly about this with your advisor or the head of your program.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:21 AM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Is your long-term career goal "becoming a tenured professor at a University"? I finally finished my Ph.D. last year, so I'm not trying to dismiss the value of the degree, but for most other careers (including the aerospace industry - my bachelor's degree was MechE and I'd once planned on going Aero in grad school) you'd be better off with an MS and more work experience. Having the Master's in an "only vaguely related" field might hurt, but it depends on your definition of vaguely. If you've got a Mech or Elec degree I'd say just be happy with that; if you've got a Psychology degree then it's probably worth it to finish up an Aero MS.
posted by roystgnr at 9:39 AM on July 4, 2009

I agree with sciencegeek. There's something wrong with a doctoral program that lets so many people get all the way to qualifying exams only to dump them. The profs have a professional/ethical obligation to let people know that they are unlikely to make it through that hurdle if they continue the way they're going. There's something really screwy going on here. They've taken your money, told you you were doing great, and then failed you.

Are you in contact with the others who have been kicked in recent years? I think you should organize, demand your degrees or your money back! Write a letter to the president of the university, write an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I got my doctorate at an Ivy university, and I never heard of anything like that happening there. People dropped out or were asked to leave long before they made it to that point. I rarely heard of anyone having to try twice.

Good luck, and if you do decide to confront these people somehow and need moral support feel free to get in touch.
posted by mareli at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2009

To the people who are outraged at this qualifying exam scenario: This is very typical in engineering and science PhD programs (where, incidentally, they're not taking your money, they're typically paying you a stipend and waiving tuition). It essentially means that the faculty committee couldn't quite visualize this candidate as a colleague. It could be bad luck, but since the person had two chances, it likely means that they need more development or that they set the bar too high.

To the poster: You didn't fail out of every PhD program, just one. (Your question makes it seem like you're confusing the two.) You need to visualize two scenarios: a PhD at age 45-50 (with all the work that will entail) or no PhD at all. Because if the pass rate is that low, you were surely at a prestigious program, which means you're aiming high, as you should be. Unfortunately, it was too high. If it means that much to you, keep trying at another department or another university. It sounds important enough that on the day you graduate, you'll be thrilled rather than regretful about the opportunity cost. Finally, if there's even a small chance to continue at the same university in another department, this seems more in the classification of "setback" vs. "great failure."

(35-year-old PhD student in materials science who failed out of undergrad engineering at 21.)
posted by Mapes at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think anonymous is trying to get into the space program. That's the only thing that would motivate me to give up so much.

anon, I think your dad would be disappointed for you, not in you.
posted by lysdexic at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is very typical in engineering and science PhD programs (where, incidentally, they're not taking your money, they're typically paying you a stipend and waiving tuition).

Agreed. Mathematics, as well.
posted by elfgirl at 10:07 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I guess I don't quite understand the system so much. What are these exams supposed to measure? Are they supposed to tell the examiners whether you have gotten a real, functional knowledge of the material presented in the classes? (Like a final exam, but for the whole degree?) Then it stands to reason that there were things in the test you either did not retain from the classes, or that the test is somehow flawed. That the test has things in it that just weren't in the instruction.

(Like law school, but the opposite sort of- it boggles my mind that someone can spend three years in law school, get a degree, but then have trouble with the bar exam. How can the schools claim that these people have competant knowledge of the subject, but they are unprepared to take a licensing exam?)

Or, as others have suggested, are these exams more subjective? You may well have the knowledge and education, but not the "spirit" of the program? If that's true, you should have been told that from the beginning. That the program isn't just "pass a bunch of tests and you're in", but that it has a subjective portion. If you did know that, I guess you took the gamble and lost. I'm sure there are other programs.

But I do empathize with you- I had a similar experience in engineering undergrad. I was capable of the work, but not capable of the "spirit" of it. Luckily, they had an "introduction to an engineering career" course that was required, and it sucked the life right out of me. I quit and moved on to other things.

I guess my only advice would have to be that this is just one of those life lesson kinds of things. You have to decide what you need to overcome this obstacle, and whether your goal is worth it.
posted by gjc at 10:09 AM on July 4, 2009

Because if the pass rate is that low, you were surely at a prestigious program

Obviously I don't know where anon went to school, but as a matter of central tendency it would be more the reverse. A prestigious department is going to winnow people out at the acceptance stage, have an incoming cohort that's almost uniformly very smart and well-prepared and that goes on to pass comps with very few fails. A high failure rate on comps usually means a department that doesn't get enough really good applicants to make an incoming cohort, so they take chances on marginal applicants and many of them end up failing at the comp stage.

It's hard not to feel enraged at a system in which a person who aces his coursework is, statistically, very likely to fail exams where the only passing criteria appears to be "You pass if we think you passed."

In most areas I'm aware of -- which admittedly are pretty far from aero -- the big reason this happens is that comps are tests of the entire field, not of coursework, and it's not that uncommon for someone to do very well over their coursework but not have done anything beyond it. Which isn't to say that anonymous did that, only that the pattern -- aceing coursework but failing comps -- isn't as weird as (s)he thinks it is.

In order of what to do:

(1) Talk to your advisor. If at this point you're being ejected from the program, there's no reason he or she shouldn't be extremely frank with you. And of course they really should have been straighter-up with you for a while now, especially after you failed comps the first time.

(2) Contact someone in the same field in a PhD-granting department at another university; maybe whatever one is in your town. Ideally someone you know already, but somebody you don't know well or even at all is better than nobody. Describe your courses and fails, and the reasons you were given for your comp failures. They'll be in a better position than you to know whether your department was normal in a harsh field or was a dysfunctional mess of internal squabbling where people fail each other's students just to be dicks or whatever, and will have a better sense than random people here of what your next step should be.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2009 [6 favorites]

Is what you've done to date transferable to another institution? If so, can you find out what "gaps" you'd need to fill so that you'd have a realistic shot at a different university?

And - you're not going to like this - is your career goal realistic? In some professions, how you got your required knowledge doesn't matter as long as you're competent (called competency-based assessment here) - in others, having that foundational knowledge (and I would have expected engineering to be one of them) is absolutely critical.
posted by Lolie at 10:18 AM on July 4, 2009

Are you sure that you need a PhD to do whatever it is you want to do? My husband got a masters in aerospace, and his decision was motivated in large part because all the jobs he wanted he could get with a masters alone. He felt a PhD would be a waste of time and energy. He works at NASA right now and loves it.
posted by Nattie at 10:19 AM on July 4, 2009

I guess I don't quite understand the system so much. What are these exams supposed to measure? Are they supposed to tell the examiners whether you have gotten a real, functional knowledge of the material presented in the classes?

They're intended to assess whether the student has mastered the relevant field -- not the material presented in classes, the entire field as a whole -- to such an extent that they can do research that will get done, get done successfully, not be riddled with methodological errors, and make meaningful contributions to the body of knowledge contained in the field.

They ask the question "Is this student in a position to begin work on a dissertation and be likely to successfully complete one in a reasonable timeframe?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Qualifying or admissions to candidacy exams in United States science PhD programs typically assess the ability of the candidate to find interesting problems in his or her domain, and then to propose and design a coherent and original research plan to elucidate the chosn problem.

Grade inflation notwithstanding, performance in classwork, which (even at the graduate level) can be a series of problem sets and written exams, would therefore not be predictive of a person's ability to design and propose (and eventually perform!) original research -- which is, after all, the whole point of a PhD program.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 10:25 AM on July 4, 2009

I think you need to grieve. I hope you have (or can get) some time and space to grieve for the loss of your father and the tremendous disappointment you feel about your career path hopes. It would be great if you don't have to make any decisions at this moment, but can take a some time to reflect on your path, your losses and your hopes and renew yourself.

I think your idea to find someone who has been in a similar situation is a wish to talk to who'll understand, as there's nothing as good as feeling understood. It may also be that you could find someone like a therapist or a friend or someone who can sit with you and help process these awful experiences. Once you've taken the time to absorb your losses, you may be in a better position to think about the future.
posted by jasper411 at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Your Father believed in you for good reason. You are to be congratulated on doing your best. He wouldn't want you to spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself. A little wound-licking time is appropriate..just don't become depressed over this. There are many others in the same boat. Attitude is everything. You gave it your best shot--maybe it is time to "surrender" and let the universe open a new door for you. If your Dad were here he'd tell you that: "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."
posted by naplesyellow at 10:30 AM on July 4, 2009

Where the hell is your advisor in all this? They should be relatively upfront with you about why you failed and what your options are.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

FWIW my advice would be to change course. It is easy to become so focused on one education + career path that you lose focus of how big the world really is.

I had a similar situation when I was much younger; my father was a Ph.D. physicist and instructor at a local university, and I was the child prodigy who considered it unthinkable to get a C in any course, and was considered quite lazy if I should get a B. I grew up in my father's lab, went to one of the best high schools in town, got a full scholarship to a local university and entered the engineering curriculum with 30 hours of tested out courses at the age of 17.

Three years later with 96 hours in, I had a huge row with my parents (I had the temerity to meet a GIRL, and OMFG she was more important to me than THEY were, can you imagine), and in the middle of that personal shitstorm I ran into an instructor who was the only one offering E&M 2, who graded his open book exams on a curve, and whose beer blast buddies just happened to get clued in to which books contained the answers to the questions. I ended up losing my full scholarship by a hundredth of a grade point just as I was getting kicked out of my parents' house.

I took a long, cold look at the system that I'd devoted my life to, a series of cinder block rooms where I dealt in things that were always abstractions, and the unreasonableness of a system that had no flexibility whatsoever for that 3.49 GPA, and I walked away from it. I discovered that I had a lot of skills which were very useful to people I hadn't even known existed, that working with things that are real and functional is much more satisfying than getting an A on a test, and that people and institutions that truly value you will help you and forgive your mistakes. Life is too short to spend in situations that don't and won't.

I also discovered that the thing I'd always thought was my dream, to succeed at college and achieve white collar success, wasn't really my dream at all; it was my father's dream. Child of a poor family himself, to him making yourself a cog in a large hierarchal organization was the epitome of success, and he wanted me to have what he had "achieved." But having lived my entire youth in such a world I now know I would have been truly miserable (and probably only slightly better paid) had I completed his vision. Instead I work in a solidly blue collar field, I do a lot of driving around, I take a lot of phone calls from people who wouldn't know a capacitor from a hot dog if their life depended on it, I climb on racks and into pits and run wires and work with high voltages and have my own kit of PPE and very often I get the satisfaction of watching something I created crank up and perform useful work for people who appreciate it.

Of course YMMV, etc. But I'm just sayin' that sometimes a change of direction is the best thing.
posted by localroger at 11:06 AM on July 4, 2009 [9 favorites]

The first thing I was told when I got into grad school is 'classes are irrelevant; focus on research.' I think you need to figure out why you failed your quals by talking to your committee. Two possible reasons are

a) insufficient knowledge of the field
b) lack of research potential (ie, you may know all the correct equations, but the committee believes you won't be fruitful in original research).

This can be compounded by a lack of funding that prevents them from continuing to fund all but the most stellar candidates. The cause is important because it has an affect on your path -- a) is a lot easier than b) to fix for the purposes of the PhD, but b) is much less important in the real world.

Your post was vague enough about your career goals that I can't assess whether the PhD is truly necessary; however, I'd imagine that a MS in aerospace would be quite useful as well. Talk to your department to see how easy it is to salvage a Masters; even if you theoretically need more coursework, they may let you petition to apply some classes in unconventional ways to get some degree. If you're considering transferring to a different university, I think you will have a hard time getting accepted at a decent program (when I was a grad student member of an admissions committee, the faculty was very hesitant to accept any transfers because of the 'someone who didn't work out at one place is less likely to work out here' stigma), but as you may know, recommendations are key, so talking to some faculty in your department could again be useful.

Don't think harshly of yourself for this setback. Getting a PhD requires a very specific set of skills, motivations and circumstances and on average, most people in my program who left before getting their degree are just as smart as most of the rest of the PhD candidates.
posted by bsdfish at 11:13 AM on July 4, 2009

There's a lot of good advice here from people who know how the system works. .

Take a deep breath and get the answers to the questions that you need in order for that counseling to be productive. Why did you fail? How does your school's fail rate that compare to other schools in your tier? Can you transfer to MechE? What does your advisor recommend? Are you sure you really there are job opportunities in aerospace engineering in the next 10-20 years? Even in the academy?

Once you're ready, you really need to ask these hard questions about your field and your ambitions.

If you are not ready to ask those questions, that's ok. Take some time. I bet in a week or two you'll be ready.

See a counselor now if you wish, but the more information you have, the more the counselor can help you decide what you want to do. Still, you've got to gather information eventually.

In the most delicate way I would like to ask whether you were you aware of the general odds of passing the exams in your department? Were you close to your cohort? Were you generally around the same hours as everyone else? Were you surprised after you failed the first time? Why did they say you failed the first time? If you could follow up with answers to these questions, especially about the first exam, you'd get better advice about how to proceed.

There's a lot here that leaves me wondering how aware you were of the way the grad school worked, and I don't mean to be rude.

My guess is that you've been rather distanced from the program, (justifiably so), and your advisor decided he'd prefer to give your place to someone around more or more reliable.

Professors in the sciences usually pay PhD stipends out of their own research funds, so he wanted to hold on to your money. Maybe it's a reason as petty as his hating your shirts. Who knows? Talk to him.

The ideal scenario is to leave with a MS. I also get the sense you're in a big state or private school because Ivies usually give you the MS if you fail the comps.

Graduate school sucks. I am a tenure-track professor and I would not do it again. Seriously, it is not worth your time. Do anything else.
posted by vincele at 11:25 AM on July 4, 2009

You said that 1 person in 6 passed last year. Go find the other 5 and see what they did after they failed the exams. You can probably get a few ideas that you might have missed.

How long do you have to make a decision about the MS? Unless you need to decide RIGHT NOW THIS SECOND, I'm going to suggest you take a few weeks to really consider your options. You need time to adjust to the loss of your father and time to adjust to the loss of this goal. You're reacting from a panic/anger mode right now. That's rarely the best mindset to make decisions.

Another thing to consider is having a goal (even the wrong one) can be very comfortable. The goal lets you know where you're going. Now you're going to have to find a new direction for yourself. If this is the first time you've really considered the whole range of options available to you, then it can be frustrating and frightening. It can also be wonderful. Explore your options before you make a decision. Don't settle on a new goal immediately simply because you're afraid to exist without a specific target in mind.
posted by 26.2 at 12:36 PM on July 4, 2009

You already know your options. I suspect that you also have a preferred option, which seems to be to transfer to another Dept. if possible and if not, to get the MS. Getting the MS will at least give you a qualification, which could be used to get into another PhD program, or to drive a career change. Not transferring or getting the MS is just punishing yourself for having wasted the last few years.

Quals tend to reflect the values and knowledge of a specific Department, rather than reflecting an objective state of knowledge in the field. You have not succeeded in that Department, so obviously you are not such a good fit with that Department. Some Universities do weed students out in this way (and like sciencegeek, this sort of behavior makes me want to ding the faculty around the head). Don't see this as your failure, but as an opportunity to find a better fit. As for the age thing, I have two family-members who earned their PhD in their mid/late-40s and both have very successful and fulfilling academic careers. You have an advantage: it is a lot easier to get a tenure-track academic appointment (if that is what you are after) with extensive professional experience, particularly in engineering-related fields, as you have some actual experience in the subjects that you are teaching ... :-)

Success in academia is more related to your social network than most academics will admit. You need to leverage your own social network now. Think about whom you know from other Departments, or who you have met at conferences from other Universities. Sound them out about opportunities in their Department. Come to the conversation prepared with a list of your selling points: expertise, original research ideas, and professional experience. Especially in engineering fields, potential RAs with professional experience are like gold-dust, because they tend to require a lot less supervision and actually tend to do some work. If you are prepared to live on a funded student stipend for the next 4 years, you can easily retrieve the situation.
posted by Susurration at 1:53 PM on July 4, 2009

You should certainly talk to your advisor and committee members. Not only to figure out what went wrong and what sorts of options they see for you as you move forward, but also to figure out who among them is a good prospect for a future letter of recommendation. Your university almost certainly has a Career Placement office. I'd go there as well and try to get some time with a career counselor to see what sorts of options you have.

Checking out the mental health or student counseling options at your school is also not a bad idea. I had a good friend in your precise situation who did that and it worked wonders for him. He'd found that his student persona was so structured around trying to fill out a role that didn't fit him that he'd lost touch with himself in the process. His academic life had become a series of taboos and shell games and it took a few months for him to try to sort out where he was in the midst of all the coping mechanisms he'd developed while in grad school.

Mainly, though, you should take some time off. Can you save up a little money and take a hiking trip? Or call up a buddy who lives far away and crash with him for a few weeks? Anything you can do to change your scenery and clear your head is bound to help. Your life where you're at has been completely structured around academic success, making it a terrible place from which to plot your next move.

The essential part of you is the passion and excitement that brought you to your field in the first place. Even if this course of study isn't going to end the way you'd hoped, that passion and drive are still there. It's just a matter of finding a way to harness them in the service of your own satisfaction. The silver lining in failing your exams is that you are no longer wasting your time.

I promise you, when you look back at this moment from ten years hence, this will seem a logical waypoint on the path to a happier future. I wish you lots of luck in getting there.
posted by felix betachat at 11:49 PM on July 4, 2009

If you'd feel comfortable, it would be helpful to see why they told you you failed each time.

I respectfully disagree with Sursurration on two points. Now is not the time to approach other departments. From the new department's perspective, without knowing anything about you, they'll be wary to take you as a transfer. So, they'll ask your current department about you. Your advisor, etc. might reveal to new dept. things that you don't even know about their appraisal of your performance.

From your current department's perspective, approaching new dept. will make you look as if you are not committed to your current program. You don't want those conversations to occur, even if you do want out.

So it's essential to hold off on exploring the transfer option for later. Otherwise you risk poisoning all of your options in your present school.

Second, I'd disagree that social networking is vital to an academic career during graduate school. Getting along with people, especially those who have power over you, is what counts. They are the ones who will write letters for you, pass on job postings to you before it's public, support you if you hit a bumpy patch later on, and so forth. Going to mixers or laterally branching out can be fun but it will not affect your chances of passing exams and getting jobs. Lateral connections are more important in business school, I'd wage. Having seen the hiring process from both sides, you won't get points for having networked with someone considering to hire you.

Talk to people now: career center and counseling services and don't wait for conversations with your advisor, Director of Graduate Studies, and maybe even the department Chair to find out what went wrong.

However you feel about your department and graduate school, this is not the moment to burn bridges. Your own department might help you transfer smoothly into a program you'd prefer, or be willing to help with job placement.
posted by vincele at 8:25 PM on July 8, 2009

You know these days, professors are trying to prevent their students to go to graduate school. Especially if it is humanities-related.
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