How often can I expect to be on campus for my Ph.D. work?
December 6, 2007 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering pursuing my doctoral degree in English, yet my university of choice is a two-hour drive from my home. I know it depends on the program, but on average, how often can I expect to be on campus? Twice a week? Once a week? Once a month?
posted by jackypaper to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you already have an MA, or would you start by getting one of those?
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2007

Response by poster: I hold a master's degree in English.
posted by jackypaper at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2007

Best answer: This would depend on what country you are in, the university, what teaching expectations would be placed on you, how many classes you need to take, etc. In other words, I don't think we can answer this with any precision, whereas a phone call or email to the program coordinator or any doctoral student in that department could get you a definitive answer.

If you don't have to teach, and you don't have to take any classes, you may not need to be on campus more than once every few months to meet with your adviser. But in the US, that sort of independence does not usually come early in a doctoral program. In the US a common pattern is two years of taking classes (during which you will often teach as well), followed by a year of exams/proposal writing/etc (during which you will also probably be teaching), followed by the actual research and writing of the dissertation (during which you may or may not be teaching, depending on your funding options, where you are in residence, etc).

But within that, there is actually a lot of room for making individual arrangements -- I have known students who worked out deals kind of like oilfield workers -- two weeks in residence, two weeks away, etc. And plenty of people are around say Tues-Wed-Thurs and away the rest of the time -- these kinds of arrangements are common for older students who have families and all the other complications of having a "real life."

Also be aware some programs will have hard-and-fast (albeit unwritten) expectations of attendance at weekly seminars or visiting lectures (often inconveniently timed for Friday afternoons or even weekend evenings), at which your absence will be pointedly noted. These kinds of expectations will not be printed in any official handbook, but aren't really optional, either.
posted by Forktine at 2:47 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Forktine's dead on. The major variables that determine how often you'll be on campus are what classes (if any) you need to take, what classes you're teaching/assisting with (if any) and how much slack your advisor gives you.

If you come in with full funding from an NSF grant and you've already got a relationship established with an advisor, provided you're making good progress, you probably won't need to be on campus that often. There's no guarantee of this actually being the case however.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:56 PM on December 6, 2007

If you come in with full funding from an NSF grant

Does the NSF give grants to English Ph.D. students?

But, yeah, I agree. It depends on how many classes you are taking and if you are supported by your department through teaching assistantships, fellowships, or other.

It also depends on what kind of advisor you have. I don't take any classes anymore, nor do I have to teach. However, my advisor likes to meet at least once a week, if not more. He also just likes me to be around in case he has some bright idea he wants us to talk about. Our offices are right down the hall from each other, so he often just wanders in to see how I'm doing.
posted by bluefly at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2007

Does the NSF give grants to English Ph.D. students?

Haha, well played sir. That's my own myopia being a CS grad student and I breezed right over the department.

So, change that to "full funding from (whatever funding agency provides grants to English doctoral students)" instead.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2007

And of course, I meant "ma'am" instead of sir.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:59 PM on December 6, 2007

I am at school 7am - 8pm M-F and 10am-6pm weekends.
posted by k8t at 6:39 PM on December 6, 2007

When I was in grad school in English, when not teaching I took 3-4 seminars per semester. Each usually met once/week for 4 hours. I often took one afternoon and one evening seminar on the same day, so for classes I was there 2x/week. My department did internal seminars, where faculty and grad students presented work, usually in a series of 3/semester, and might also have 1-2 visiting scholars during a semester, so there were certainly weeks when it was best to be on campus for those, but it wasn't every week, and they didn't expect everyone to come or they wouldn't have scheduled them in that one medium-sized conference room. I think it would have been bad never to show up, but hitting some reasonable percentage was fine.

When teaching, I usually taught one class 2x/week and had two seminars. That can mean 2 days on campus, 3, or even--God forbid--4, but I certainly had some control over that. After two departmentally-required classes in the first semester, I had a lot of leeway in what I chose and there were always more classes of interest and relevant than I could take.

I worked as many hours as k8t, but was rarely on campus unless I had something scheduled or was doing library research. I did all my out-of-class stuff at home.
posted by not that girl at 7:01 PM on December 6, 2007

Lots of good advice above. I'd like to add (from a philosophy dept perspective) that unless you are extremely disciplined, the more time you can manage to be on campus the better. If you can get to campus a couple of times a week even when you don't need to be there, you will be much more "in the groove" of your program, people will think of you when they see announcements for conferences you might be interested in, you will be better able to mentally stay on task, etc. YMMV, but be honest with yourself about how much good hard work you will put in at home (where there's always the bathroom to clean, the dog to walk, the phone, etc, and other demands of your outside of school life). If you need special work space, or special work time, be sure that you make it a priority to get them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:10 PM on December 6, 2007

I wasn't going to comment on this thread, because I think there's plenty of great advice already, but I want to pick up on and reiterate LobsterMitten's comment.

When I was an Honours student, I tended to only come in for classes at uni. I (tried) to do all my research at home. However, I found it very distracting and didn't get much done (of course, I was also 20 at the time.....), and I honestly believe it affected my final product.

So, for my PhD, I decided to make a schedule of coming in. As LM says, it puts you "in the groove" of things. While you can still waste the day surfing MeFi at uni, it at least makes you feel guilty if you do! Also, all the resources are there, so it's much easier to pop on down and see someone, or walk across campus to the library for a book, or whatever....
posted by ranglin at 8:19 PM on December 6, 2007

Also note that some schools have residency requirements-- you would need to be sure that living two hours away does not violate those.
posted by synecdoche at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2007

OTOH I've been bumming around my dept (part of a commerce faculty for some reason, don't ask) for a few years now. I find that working at home is way more productive than going in, mainly because I see people at the office, and they distract me (and frequently offer me more paid work if I'm not careful). But then I'm weird in other ways as well, for example having done postdoc-type activities first and then doing the phd afterwards ...

posted by singingfish at 12:43 AM on December 7, 2007

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