Med school? Grad school? Or should I be like William Carlos Williams?
April 29, 2007 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Should I go to medical school? Or go to grad school in English? Help!

For a dear friend. I'll also post replies from her, if she has any.

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I am a senior in college who will graduate in two weeks. I presently attend a prestigious institution and have the opportunity to go to NYU medical school. My father is disappointed that I was not accepted by higher ranked schools, which has in turn made me incredibly depressed and disappointed in myself.

However, just a few days ago I realized that I might not want to go to medical school at all, that my commitment to becoming a doctor has always oscillated significantly, and that what I really want to do is study English literature in a serious manner. I am a Biology major and an English minor, which means that I will receive both a BA in Biology and English when I graduate. If I choose to study English, then I intend to take an extra semester so that I can finish the requirements for a major (about 2 more classes, but I plan to take 3 or 4) and also write a thesis. Afterwards, I hope to take my GREs, intern, and apply to MA programs; eventually my goal would be to receive a PhD.

I already have a lot of experience in terms of literary extracurricular activities, perhaps more so than "pre-med" ones, because reading and writing is what I love. I have been the editor-in-chief of literary magazines, taught English to high-school students, et cetera.

My parents would —to put it lightly—be strongly against this decision and would most likely not pay for the extra semester which would cost around $4,000. My parents do not have a lot of money, and as a result, I understand that they will want me to choose the most financially sound option. I do have a great part-time job at a non-profit institution (writing articles), and the staff at the institution really like me. I'm afraid because I'm not sure what a degree in English would mean in terms of career options, and if I'm going to be able to survive financially in the future.

As a graduating senior, I also need to decide soon. What should I do?

You can contact me at medschoolgradschoolwoes@gmail.com. Thank you, AskMe!
posted by suedehead to Education (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Slip the NYU adcom a few hundred or whatever it takes to get a deferral, save some cash by graduating now with the English minor, and take a year off while you get your head straight. From what you've written, I'd surmise that you're not even close to ready to make this decision.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:48 PM on April 29, 2007


I'm afraid because I'm not sure what a degree in English would mean in terms of career options,

Not much, really. If you get a PhD you can work as a professor, but I don't think even an English professor would make as much as even the lowest-end doctors.

Now obviously people can make a lot of money writing, but thats Dependant entirely on how good you are as a writer, not your education level. Unlike medicine people can evaluate your writing just by looking at it, and that's what they'll go by when deciding to publish your work. Look at Michael Crichton, he's made tons of money wright and he has an M.D. (of course, his writing his terrible).

And think about it, wouldn't getting an M.D. and working as a doctor give you a lot more to write about then sitting around in an academic setting listening to earnest freshman poetry and so on? You can always continue reading great literature on your own (if you have the time).

And think about yourself 20 years from now. If you don't like being a doctor, you can always enter an English program later. It would be harder, I think, to get into medicine later.
posted by delmoi at 9:49 PM on April 29, 2007


I second the idea of taking some time off to work, perhaps, and figure out what you really want to do. Think, do your research, talk to people . . . you've got time and there's no reason to rush into anything right now.

If you choose the grad school route, make sure you are absolutely, stubbornly committed to it. It's not something to take on just because you kinda like literature. The job market for English PhDs is awful awful awful and doesn't look like it's going to get better soon. I'm not saying it's impossible to get a job as a professor at the end of it all, but it's very hard. I know more than a few super qualified people with English degrees from Ivy League institutions who are jobless after finishing.

If you DO want to go to grad school, you probably don't need an English major, so no need to worry about that extra course and the money it costs.

Good luck! I know how fraught with anxiety that period right after graduation is, but you sound like you'll come out just fine.
posted by agent99 at 9:57 PM on April 29, 2007


Your father's on crack. NYU is one of the great med schools. One year being a med student in Bellevue Hospital is like ten years anywhere else (with the possible exceptions of L.A. County and Cook County in Chicago.) If you can't learn to be a great doctor - in any field - at NYU, you're not cut out for the profession.

I also notice that nowhere in your question do you mention wanting to take care of sick people. I don't know about you, but the May before I started med school, I was thinking about taking care of sick people every day. Why aren't you thinking about this? You should be. I'm talking about nasty, purulent, hacking-cough, bleeding, puking-on-your-shoes sick people. If the thought of helping these people out doesn't charge your battery, you should not go to medical school.

As far as finances go, it's extremely expensive to go to medical school. $4000 is a drop in the bucket - I'd estimate my parents contributed well over a hundred thousand dollars to my medical education - well over, not a couple thousand dollars over - and that's above and beyond the tuition they helped me pay. And it doesn't count the five-figure educational debt I was fortunate to be left with, either. Today, eight years after graduating medical school - nearly 13 years after where you are now - I am barely supporting myself financially, even with a great job at a top research institution. My net worth just crossed zero last year for the first time. And I'm doing better than some, though not all of my colleagues.

It's quite possible to incur all those expenses and debts and then decide that you don't want to be a doc, or crack up and fail to become a doc - and have nothing to show for it all. If that's the decision you're thinking about making, make it before you start; let someone else have the dream job you're about to take away from them.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:04 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


And I should add that if you're considering English grad school, don't even think about going into an MA program--you will have to pay for it, with loans, it sounds like, because there is little to no funding for MA-only students. Instead, look at PhD programs, get into one of the top ones, and only go if they offer you full funding. Under no circumstances should you consider paying for it yourself; even if you do get a good job at the end, it will be impossible to pay back the loans you'd incur. (Starting salaries for professors in the humanities are in the $50-60,000 range).
posted by agent99 at 10:07 PM on April 29, 2007


Here are some dark thoughts about academia, from an academic:
Many bright, motivated students who have enjoyed college graduate, and then aren't sure what to do with themselves. They begin to think, "I've always enjoyed English, I'm a good writer, have done well in writing courses, and I love literature. I know I could succeed in grad school, and academia is a familiar world." So they go to grad school, and it's a mistake for them. They drop out a few years later with an MA, or they stay in until they're 30 and still not done, or they get a degree and the only job they can get is at East Podunk State, far from their family and friends -- and even their spouses. I'm talking about bright students at top schools, here. This was the hardest thing for me to understand when I was entering grad school -- "I've always been at the top of the heap before, so even though the job market is bad, it won't affect me with my prestigious degrees" -- please don't think that way. Your best job prospects are likely to be at schools you have never heard of, in an area of the country you would not choose to live. Think about whether you love English enough for that to be ok.

Getting a PhD in a humanities field is something to do ONLY if it's honestly the only thing you can see doing. The job prospects in academia suck - suck - suck (English especially), the jobs pay very badly for how much time you have to invest in the degree. (Your friends who get jobs now will be buying their first houses when they are in their late 20s, and you will be just finishing grad school and struggling to make your car payments.) And real scholarship is nothing like the fun, intellectually open and exploratory stuff you have probably done and enjoyed in college - it's much more narrow, you alone in a library for 9 hours a day reading about the influences on obscure author X.

If you want to pursue writing, try doing that for a few years without going to grad school. Most real-world writing jobs do not even require an MA in English. If you want to be a writer or editor, you should move to NYC or another city with a big publishing industry, and try to get a entry-level copywriter or editorial assistant job. Be prepared to "pay dues" for a few years, but you'll be building a resume and the contacts to get much better jobs by your later 20s. If you have a great science background, try being a technical or science writer.

I don't know a lot about med school. It's insanely hard. It's best to do when you're young and still have stamina, and before you have a family life. It's another job where you won't be an "adult" in the field until you're 30 or so, and where you don't have a lot of choice about where you live in the intermediate phases (eg internship and residency). An MD will open a lot more doors for you than a PhD in English will -- even doors that have to do with writing.

All that said, you have a wide world of choices ahead of you right now. I agree that getting a "real world" job for a year or two might be a good choice, so that you can get some perspective and narrow down what YOU really want, not just what seems like a natural next step after a lifetime of meeting high-achiever goals (get good grades in high school, get into good college, get good grades there, etc). This is the hardest thing about post-college life, but potentially the most rewarding. Good luck; remember that whatever you decide it will be interesting, and you can always change course in a few years.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:23 PM on April 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


First, a question: If you (person considering this) had been accepted to what you think of as a great medical school, would you still be asking this?

(By the way, from everything I know, and as said above, NYU is a great medical school.)

If yes, then go talk to some of your English professors and ask what they think. And tell them what you think, and ask them if it makes sense. Talk to as many as will talk to you, and as long, until you feel like you know for yourself.
posted by mattpfeff at 10:25 PM on April 29, 2007


For English/med combos, Atul Gawande is a great medical writer who is also a doctor.

If you decide to give up on med school and instead decide to become an English professor, you should be aware that the nature of teaching at the post-secondary level is totally changing. There won't be as many tenure positions in the future, especially for English PhDs.

Not a terrible situation, unless you like to teach. But the world will always need good PR people who can write, and if you're self employed or the head of a department you can make good money, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 PM on April 29, 2007


Also: you should make an appointment in the next 2 weeks to meet with the English professor whose judgment you most trust. Ask him or her about what grad school is like, how it would help you with your goals, what kinds of personal qualities someone should have to do well there, etc. This person will be able to tell you a lot more about your own situation than we can, since we know very little about you/your work.

The upshot of what I said above is meant to be this:
Don't be afraid to leave school. You are graduating and entering the adult world - it's a good thing, not something to shrink from. Only go back for more school if you have a very clear goal that the school helps you with. Talk with your profs now, and when you're debating about this in the future you can email them to discuss, about whether med school or grad school would be a good choice for you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:35 PM on April 29, 2007


Your question leaves me with the impression that you feel you "must" get some sort of degree beyond a bachelors. If you really want to teach english to high school students, you don't need to do that.

Don't go to med school for your parents sake, but do go if it is what you want to do with your life. There is no reason you can't read, write, and be an MD.
posted by yohko at 10:39 PM on April 29, 2007


ikkyu2 and LobsterMitten are right on here. As an academic who has not yet paid off the student loan (6 yrs post PhD grad and employed), this is a consideration.

Perhaps I wouldn't be quite so cynical as LobsterMitten about the job market. There are jobs out there and these are opening more as retirements are increasing. They are, of course more likely to be in places you've never heard of. (you could also consider coming to Canada- and no, I'm not suggesting you've never heard of Canada).

I took an academic job in one of those places and love it. I always had good financial support from my folks, I worked hard, and I never had a lot of money. And yes, grad school is a lot about hoop jumps (phd even more than MA). But it also is a good life. I have 3 kids and was able to give time to my pregnancy, my kids, my spouse and my fieldwork and dissertation. Academic life can be a really good family life. Don't think that it's because I married rich, either. I am the primary income earner.
posted by kch at 10:57 PM on April 29, 2007


You know, there are some programs that allow you to do both, if NYU isn't your only option.
posted by washburn at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2007


I graduated with a BA in English, then went to med school. My advice to anyone looking to go into medicine is to do something other than medicine for at least some chunk of your life, because there won't be time for it again for a long, long while. I sometimes kick myself for not taking a couple of years off after undergrad to pursue an MFA. Not because I think MFA programs are great, but because it would've been awesome to do nothing but write (or maybe simply to do nothing but something other than medicine).

Wavering for a few days shouldn't be enough to deter you from any major life decision. You say that you want to study English lit seriously: I say, do it! I've had classmates who've decided that medicine wasn't for them. I've also had classmates who chose to go into the field in the later stages of life. If anything, their experience added to their personalities, and bolstered their humanity.

I've had the opportunity to see the admissions process from the other side, and let me tell you: there are a lot of boring, cookie-cutter applicants who've all done very well in school, and very well on the MCATs. The ones that stood out were the ones who were swell people.

You could always do medicine later. You won't always be able to pursue literature: once you're in training to become an MD, you will find it difficult to find the time to pursue other areas of study. Take the time to enrich your life the way you see fit. Do something for yourself, and hope that it'll allow you to do more for others in the future.

You don't need post-BA degree. I imagine you're driven to excel, but there are many ways to be a successful student of literature. Have you considered taking an extra year of undergrad to take coursework in the English department?


And Ikkyu2's right on: NYU is a great school, and you'll learn some incredible medicine in NYC, or any big city for that matter.

Bottom line: I say do it. Read tons, write tons. Do medicine later, if you really want to. Then write more. And one final piece of advice: don't go into medicine unless you really, really want to. The rewards are fantastic, but it's a long, tiresome, and in many ways a dehumanizing path.
posted by herrdoktor at 11:13 PM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


My father is disappointed that I was not accepted by higher ranked schools, which has in turn made me incredibly depressed and disappointed in myself.

Your father is crazy. NYU is great.

I'm in med school right now.

Do what you love is the simplest and most accurate advice. I love medicine, love figuring it all out, love the challenge, love the patients. It's awesome. For me. (But the memorization is not.) It is definitely not for everyone. Do not, repeat, do NOT do anything like medical school because your parents want you to. They may pay your way (mine aren't, and I'm building up huge debt because of it), but the classmates that I know that are doing it for the wrong reasons are not, in general, happy folks.

Take time off if you're not sure--if you can defer, great. Some people give this advice to budding surgeons, but I think it applies in general to medical school: If there's anything else you can see yourself doing in the world besides becoming a doctor, do it, or at least try it. Probably half of my class took at least a year off before starting med school--myself included--and I was definitely happy I did it. Became a grown up, had my first relationship, had my first job. Was definitely worth it.

Medical school has plenty of downsides--don't get to start making money in your 20s like your friends, you live a student life for a long time, you sacrifice weekend fun for studying or seeing patients, it takes a toll on your relationships, friends, family. It can be very lonely and frustrating. But, as you'll learn in med school (if you go), everything in life is cost benefit analysis.

Self-link of my advice to pre-meds. Feel free to email if you have more questions.
posted by gramcracker at 11:54 PM on April 29, 2007


In case it didn't come through clearly enough in the responses above, I will emphasize that even if you (she) decides not to go to med school, and instead to pursue a phd in lit, there is no need to pay for another semester of undergrad, assuming she will graduate with the minor in English. Pretty much, a BA is a BA, if you can demonstrate ability in a field. People will understand if you say, I started out with a focus on X, developed an interest in Y, and have a degree in Z -- that's totally normal.

It is also worth emphasizing two things. One is that the academic job market in English and affiliated fields is really brutal. Some time browsing the Chronicle might be well-spent -- there have been lots and lots of articles over the last few years about the scandal of how lit programs have been accepting far more students than there are, realistically, jobs for, and what the consequences of that have been.

But the second is that the job situation is not uniformly brutal. On the one hand there are the looming retirements that were alluded to -- sooner or later, there will be more positions needing to be filled. On the other hand, "literature" is a big field, and if right now things are really tough for the countless newly-minted Shakespeare specialists, things aren't nearly so tough for people who specialize in some "ethnic" literatures, or who can also teach badly needed courses like medical or business Spanish, or basic Arabic, for example. These things are faddish and hard to predict, and you need to follow your heart, but the point here is that not all lit phds are having an equally tough time.

Giving yourself a year to think about things isn't the worst idea in the world, and the perspective may help give clarity. But things may be just as tricky in a year, because either way you are choosing something in which you may or may not succeed, and in which you will be investing a lot of time and money and effort without knowing for sure if you will be happy later. Even better than a "year off," with the assumption that it is not "real" and is instead a time to goof off and reflect, might be a year or two doing something substantive. I'm thinking of course of programs like Teach for America, or the Peace Corps, but also of just doing something cool on your own -- traveling to another country, and finding a way to work or volunteer while there, or go on a mission trip for your church, or whatever will give you a broadening experience and force you to confront the wider world in a way that staying in school does not.
posted by Forktine at 3:15 AM on April 30, 2007


From what you've written, I'd say it sounds like you are just getting cold feet. I remember that most people really don't like to graduate college, and spending an extra semester to change majors and add on a thesis ... well didn't you ever consider this before, and if you did, why didn't you do it when it was more practical? If you really didn't like where you were going with your life, that should have hit 1-2 years ago. Hitting doubts at graduation is more likely to be fear of the choice you already made.

Choosing grad school as a means of avoiding something else is a bad reason for grad school. It's a bad reason for any field, but it's especially bad for humanities. It's a ton of work for less than you think, and I have doubt that you will stick with it for 7 or 8 years considering that this plan is kind of new.
posted by cotterpin at 4:44 AM on April 30, 2007


you should make an appointment in the next 2 weeks to meet with the English professor whose judgment you most trust. Ask him or her about what grad school is like

This should probably be amended to "professor whose judgment you trust and who got his or her PhD in the last 10 or 15 years." Older profs can have some amazingly wrong ideas about grad schools and job markets since they haven't gotten a degree or looked for a job since Johnson was President.

As others have noted, the job market for English PhDs is one of the most ruthless and brutal on the planet. It is not to be entered lightly. If you decide to go to grad school, do not apply for MA programs. Apply only to the top 15 or so PhD programs. If you do not get in to a truly superior program with a free ride, do something else -- the jobs will be taken by the people who did get into superior programs, and who are better supported in those superior programs.

Two downsides to being a prof that others haven't mentioned. First, you have very little control over where you live, and a very limited ability to move. This can be deeply frustrating, especially since many of the jobs are in places where you wouldn't choose to live otherwise.

Second, it's easy to have romantic delusions about what is, when push comes to shove, a job. On the one hand, most students are not like you, and most colleges are not selective. Your average undergraduate at your average college is not particularly curious, and is not on a voyage of discovery. If you're teaching a required service course like introductory composition, intro lit, or in my case introductory American politics, your average student at your average school views your course not as an opportunity for expanding their mind and knowledge but rather as a square that needs to be filled, and ideally to be filled with minimum effort. Add to this that your average undergrad at your average school just isn't anywhere near as smart or motivated as your average PhD from your average superior PhD program, and dealing with consistently very low levels of performance and effort can be frustrating.

Another way of thinking of this is that you won't spend your time having fascinating chats with bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young people and having EUREKA! moments in your research. You'll spend time trying and failing to cajole people into doing their homework so they don't fail their course again or lose their student visa. You'll spend endless hours in committee meetings doing nothing very useful. And you'll spend lots of hours in boring, lonely research, because no matter how deeply you're interesting in what you study, research is still very much work and is usually a slow slog.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:54 AM on April 30, 2007


Take a year and do something else. Join AmeriCorps or Teach for America. Get an office, lab, or funky retail job, in a big city you've never lived in. Go work on an organic farm. Volunteer at a nursing home. Be a Big Sister. Just get out in the world and take some time off from school. You have the rest of your life to go to grad/medical school, and living a little more will make it a lot more clear to you if you want more school and what it should be.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:57 AM on April 30, 2007


Go back and read lobstermitten's post again. When you're done, read it a third time.

I have a humanities PhD and work in a medical school, so I can see both sides of the coin. Getting a humanities PhD is a long, hard, expensive undertaking. The only reason for getting one is if you are absolutely sure that you want to be an English professor, and cannot envision youself as happy in any other profession. Unless you are extremely lucky or exceptionally good, you will: incur a large debt that will take years to pay off; have little choice in where you live; and earn far less than most of your peers, which may sound unimportant or even romantic now, but will start to weigh very heavily on you as you enter your thirties and start thinking about supporting a family, gathering retirement savings, or even just affording a nice vacation every year.

Getting an MD is similarly difficult, time-intensive, and debt-incurring. However, it gives you a lot more options when its done. An English PhD provides little value-added for anythign except jobs as an English professor; an MD at least opens doors for a number of other (health-related) professions.

Do not jump into either of these tracks simply because you feel you have to "do something." Waiting a year before entering med school or a PhD program will not hurt you in any way.
posted by googly at 6:36 AM on April 30, 2007


Getting a humanities PhD is a long, hard, expensive undertaking.

Getting a humanities PhD should not be expensive except in opportunity cost. If you do not get into a program that has pays your way and pay you an austere but liveable stipend*, don't go. Going into debt to get a humanities PhD is not a good idea, because the jobs are going to go to better students in better programs who don't have to pay tuition and who don't have to work 50 hours a week to earn living money.

*or has some good excuse for why they can't, and makes up for it somehow. Some state programs are in this boat -- legislative requirements can preclude tuition waivers and/or stipends. Even then, they should make up for it somehow.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 AM on April 30, 2007


I don’t think you should get an MA. If you or your family had money to spare, I would say go for it. But an MA costs big bucks, and isn’t really worth all that much unless you really want to teach. If you want to spend time with books and writers, consider library school or publishing internships. If you want to become a professor in English, go for your PhD, make sure you’re fully funded and get into a top-notch program at a very good school. You have many years of hard scrabble existence ahead of you as you compete for a pool of ever-decreasing jobs with similarly talented, driven people with excellent credentials.

At your current level of indecision, I’m not sure if getting an MD is right for you either. Keep in mind what doctors do: they take care of sick people. Do you like to take care of sick people? Do you like making them better? Does spending the remainder of your precious youth memorizing medical information and caring for sick people sound like a valuable, enjoyable use of your time? If you answered with anything other than a resounding, annoyingly-perky ‘YES’ to any of these questions, then medicine isn’t the right field for you.

So what should you do? Tell NYU that you’ll come back in a year. In that year, spend half your time volunteering at hospitals and getting as much exposure to sick people and the process of making them better as possible. Spend the other half of your time doing other things you enjoy and investigating potential professions that deal with the things you enjoy. An excellent choice would be working part time at an independent bookstore and continuing the literary activities that you are already engaged in.

You will be working for the rest of your life. Doesn’t it make sense to take some time now to figure out what that will be, while you don’t have a mortgage and car payments and home repairs and credit card bills and hospital bills and little hungry mouths to feed and a spouse demanding a vacation and a 401k?
posted by sid at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2007


I also get some sense that this crisis of indecision you’re having is, to some degree, caused by your father’s disappointment in your admission to NYU. Your father is being very unfair and slightly crazy. Getting into NYU med school is a huge accomplishment. Ignore your dad. I know it’s hard. Forget about what your parents want. You can’t spend the rest of your life trying to appease the old man, just as you can’t spend your whole life trying to piss him off. What do you want to do?
posted by sid at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2007


NYU is a fantastic med school. Defer, defer, defer! They'd rather have you when you are ready than when you're not sure you want to do med. And if you don't want to do it, first year is going to be terrible.

Try Teach for America or some other 1 year teaching thing. But deferring shouldn't be too difficult.
posted by ruwan at 10:20 AM on April 30, 2007


Another vote for deferring med school. This is what I did and I had a great time. I wasn't sure I would truly go back to school until the last possible minute and in the end it was the right decision.

There were several people in my med school and residency classes who went on to do non-medical things after completing their training. Hard to believe but it's true! 2 actual novelists from my residency class, computer programmers, web designers, stay-at-home parents.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned above -- don't be put off by the difficulty of med school. For one thing, it's not as bad as it used to be, with work hour restrictions, etc. Med school in most places has become a very supportive environment where the admin and your instructors will do everything they can to get you through once you've made the cut and have been accepted. You will meet some fantastic lifelong friends and you'll be doing things that will blow your mind. I hate studying, I hate sleeplessness, I hated the location of my med school, and I hate being broke but all in all I have fond memories of those four years.

The really huge down side to med school is that this is a terrible time to actually practice medicine in the United States. You cannot count on a high salary, reasonable work hours, and appreciative patients any more. But if you have a way to pay for med school and you can get out without the six figure debt to system, you have the freedom to do whatever you want when you get out. Don't like insurance forms? Work for a pittance at a free clinic! Don't like seeing patients? Take time off and write the great american novel!

So if the question is med school vs. grad school, go to med school, it's a blast! If the question is should I be a doctor vs. an English professor, that's a much more difficult question to answer but I am not sure that's the question you have to answer or even can answer right now.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2007


Just to fall in with everybody else: don't get too caught up in the romance of a humanities degree and the idea of being a professor. Should you complete your degree and overcome the long, long odds against getting a job as an English professor, you'll very likely be in a situation that you may not like. Consider that as a graduate of a prestigious institution, your professors are very likely either screaming white-hot young scholars working on sought after topics (which you yourself may not find interesting), or they are old guard professors who got hired in the 70s when the job market was very, very different. Either way, the life they are leading is not in line with what most English professors are facing for at least the first 10-15 years of their career: low pay, unfavorable location, and tremendous workloads of entry-level courses like Comp 101. Don't base your understanding of academic life on how they live.

I agree you should seek out the advice of a professor you trust, but again, take that advice with some salt as well. Many professors know no other job experience than academia, and will tell you that you couldn't possibly be happy doing something other than being an academic. It may be true for them, but it may not be true for you.

I did a PhD in Comparative Literature, spent a few low paid years in the trenches, and eventually won the lottery: a tenure track position in an English department at a well respected European university. I left after a year, fed up with bad pay, disinterested students, and a generally miserable and defeatist attitude among my colleagues. I now make videogames and couldn't be happier.

The advice I always gave my students is this: only go into academia if you can't see yourself being happy doing anything else. After a few years trying to make it work, I realize I could see myself being happy doing something else and took my own advice. I have a few friends who stayed in academia and are happy; I have many more friends who left academia and are happy, too.
posted by ga$money at 11:11 AM on April 30, 2007


Everybody, thank you very much for your answers. My friend says that these replies helped her gain a perspective on things. I'll update again if I know what she decided.

Again, thanks, AskMe!
posted by suedehead at 10:37 AM on May 1, 2007


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