What Brought You Here

100 Reasons is intended to serve as a resource for the thousands of people who, every year, contemplate going to graduate school but have not yet taken the fateful plunge into a graduate program. It exists for their sake. But nearly 3,500 comments (as of Reason 86) have made it obvious that a substantial share of the readers of this blog are themselves current or former graduate students. Their comments have helped fulfill the purpose of the blog by providing a great deal of insight into the nature of graduate school and (sometimes unwittingly) the nature of graduate students.

What readers do not see are the search queries that drive much of the traffic to the blog. These, too, are revealing of the experiences and struggles that characterize graduate school. If you are a current graduate student experiencing loneliness, stress, or depression, then you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. James Mulvey discovered that someone had found his helpful website using the search query "Ph.D. in English useless destroyed my life." Some of the queries that have brought Internet users to 100 Reasons are just as despairing.

What follows is a tiny sample (about 250 examples) of the tens of thousands of search-engine queries that have brought readers to the blog over the course of its life. When considered as a whole, a number of themes emerge from these individual glimpses of graduate-student and academic life. The most common query in each broad category below is marked with an asterisk (*).

One of the most striking themes is loneliness (see Reason 69):

bad social life in grad school
feeling alone in grad school
feeling lonely in grad school
grad school loneliness
grad school is lonely
grad school lonely
grad student lonely
"graduate school" loneliness
graduate school is lonely
graduate school lonely
graduate school misery isolation loneliness
how to deal with the loneliness of academia
i am very socially isolated, and just finished a phd. what should i do?
i can't handle the social isolation of grad school
i'm a lonely graduate student
lack of social life grad school
loneliness in graduate school
loneliness phd
lonely and sad in grad school
lonely and depressed grad school
lonely at grad school
lonely depression grad school
lonely grad school
lonely grad student*
lonely graduate school
lonely graduate student
lonely graduate students
lonely in grad school
lonely in graduate school
lonely phd student
no friends in grad school
no social life grad school
phd loneliness
sad phd program isolated
social alientaion in grad school
social interaction decline while in grad school
why is grad school such a lonely and isolating experience

Another common theme is money. Graduate students tend to have very little income (see Reason 12), and because of the nature of the academic job market (see Reason 55), money problems can persist for people long after they have completed PhDs.

The words poor and poverty come up especially frequently:

academic poverty grad school
adjunct+salary+poverty
are all grad students poor
dating a poor grad student
decided do not want to be poor phd student
going to graduate school poor and with a family
grad school poor all of the time
how to be a poor graduate student
husband a poor phd
i will be so poor after grad school
life of poor grad student
poor grad school student
poor grad student
poor graduate student*
poor graduate student blog
poor with a masters degree blogs
sad grad student poor
the hard life of poor grad students

Other searches involving money reveal a variety of concerns:

academia no money
am i crazy to get my masters with no money?
being a professor for the money
can a graduate teaching assistant get food stamps
can i go to grad school with no money and job
can i work as an english professor and make good money
dating as a grad student money
do high school or college teachers make more money
do people with phds make more money [many variations of this question]
do universities take your money for phd and fail you in quals
do you lose money if you drop out of graduate school
dropping out of master program money
fear of graduate school beacause i need money now
full time graduate student money married children
grad student not enough money pay rent
graduate student money problems
how can a college professor earn more money
how much money should you put into graduate school at age 43
i know money shouldn't matter, but should i do a phd
no money in academia
phd slave quit no funding
phds who actually make money
quitting grad school while owing money
what else can adjuncts do for money
why do some professors make so much and some make so little
why is there no money in academia
why smart people go to graduate school and make so little money

Not surprisingly, stress is an extremely common theme (see Reason 68):

constantly stressed in grad school
deliberate stress of grad school
grad school incredibly stressed
grad school is stressful
grad school is too stressful
grad school stress
grad school stress blog
grad school stressful
grad school stress unhealthy
graduate school is stressful
graduate school is too stressful
graduate school preparation is stressful
graduate school stress*
graduate student stress
is academic life less stressful after grad school
phd fail stressful
phd stressful
social anxiety dropout phd
stress from graduate school
stress grad school
stress in graduate school
stressed about graduate school
stressful taship
why is graduate school so stressful

And then there are unhappiness, misery, and depression (see Reason 50):

i'm a grad student and i'm completely unhappy
grad school unhappy
graduate student unhappy worthless
phd unhappy
unhappy doctoral student
unhappy grad student
unhappy graduate student
unhappy in graduate school
unhappy in phd program
unhappy phd
unhappy phd student*
why are graduate students unhappy
all but dissertation miserable should i finish
doing a phd is miserable
grad school miserable
grad school misery
graduate school miserable
miserable in grad school
miserable phd program
phd life humanities misery
phd miserable
phd misery
phd program supposed to be miserable

all but dissertation depressed
depressed adjunct academic career going nowhere
depressed grad school can't focus
depression graduate school never finish
grad school depressed
grad school giving me depression
help grad school depression loneliness
lonely bored depressed grad school
phd unemployment loneliness depression
undergrad to grad school depression
what should parents do when their graduate student has been diagnosed with depression

Search queries also reveal some very low opinions of graduate students and academics (see Reason 43), many of which appear to be expressed by graduate students and academics themselves.

People seem especially unimpressed by their social skills (see Reason 77):

academic socially inept
academics no social skills
academics ugly socially inept
are phd students weird people
don't hire graduate students socially inadequate
grad students are weird*
graduate school for weird people
graduate students nothing to offer social
lack of social skills phd students
ph.d+socially inept
phd students lose social skills
"weird people" "grad school"
what grad school does to people
what makes phd students weird
when did grad school make me antisocial
why are academics socially awkward
why are graduate students the worst people
why do weird people go into academia
why educated people with phd are weird
why graduate student friendships are so weird
why graduate students are weird
why do mit grads have such poor social skills

The above category could include many queries featuring the word hate:

does anyone else hate grad school?
got tenure, but hate the people
got tenure, hate colleagues
grad school has made me hate academia
grad school made me hate literature
grad students when you hate your employed friends
how to keep going in grad school when you hate it
how to work with graduate student colleagues you hate
i hate being around undergrads
i hate being in grad school
i hate everyone in grad school
i hate grad school*
i hate grad school classmates
i hate graduate school what do i do?
i hate my ma and can't face the dissertation
i just started grad school and i hate it
i started grad school and i hate it
if i quit a phd program will everyone hate me

Grad students particularly hate being teaching assistants (see Reason 53):

abuse of graduate teaching assistants
bad experience as a graduate teaching assistant
being a teaching assistant is difficult
being a teaching assistant is hard
being a teaching assistant is hard work
being a teaching assistant is s**t
being a teaching assistant s**ks
bratty students teaching assistant
graduate school teaching assistantships abusive
graduate teaching assistant stress
graduate teaching assistant stress frustration anxiety evaluations pressure
hate being a graduate teaching assistant
hate being a teaching assistant*
hate being a university teaching assistant
im a teaching assistant i want to be beyond this
i hate being a teaching assistant
i hate being a ta
i hate my assistantship
i hate my ta job
i hate teaching undergrads
i hated being the teaching assistant
i ta for an a*****e professor
sick of being teaching assistant
started a job as a teaching assistant and i hate it
teacher assistants treated poorly
teaching assistant graduate worst job
40-hour week taship

And teaching assistants seem to be strongly disliked:

bad graduate teaching assistant
bad teaching assistant
hate my university teaching assistant
hate teaching assistants
horrible graduate ta's
i despise teaching assistants
i hate teaching assistants*
i hate grad student teachers
i hate university graduate students ta's teaching class
i hate when graduate assistants grade papers
my teaching assistant is a jerk
teaching assistant annoying
teaching assistants jerks

There is also much hatred for grading (see Reason 56):

grading papers makes me depressed
hate correcting papers
hate grading essays
hate grading papers
hate reading grad student papers
how to not hate marking papers
i am a professor and i hate correcting papers
i hate grading essays
i hate grading papers*
i hate grading papers!
i hate grading papers so much
i hate grading so much
i hate reading papers grad school
jobs for professors who hate grading
ta "hate grading"
teaching assistant hate grading
teaching assistant hate grading papers
things i hate about grading papers

Sadness, anger, and bitterness are evident in hundreds of search queries, sometimes in connection with concrete disappointments such as failing comprehensive exams (see Reason 81) or being denied tenure. The consequences of the latter can be particularly grievous (see Reason 71):

"academic job market" blackballed failure
anyone else get screwed over by going to grad school?
"denied tenure" "career death"
denied tenure no job
denied tenure now what
failed academic career tenure
failing comps
failed qualifying exam
"grad school" or "graduate school", feel cheated
grad school s**ks *
graduate school s**ks
how to say goodbye to a colleague denied tenure
i am a useless grad student
i failed my comprehensive exam
met all requirements denied tenure
my stupid decision to go to grad school
phd tenure track failure change career
those who failed phd qualifiers and still become successful in life
why grad school s**ks

Most troubling are the queries concerning suicide:

failure "academic job market" depression suicide
grad student burnout suicide
grad student lonely suicide

In a comment, a reader pointed out that there is a 24-hour National Graduate Student Crisis Line (1-800-GRAD-HLP or 1-800-472-3457), provided by a non-profit organization, that is available to graduate students in the United States.

If you're a graduate student or academic, and you find yourself in the depths of despair, try to remember that the world is much bigger than academe. The intense and often absurd pressures of academic life are made worse by losing sight of all that lies beyond it. There is more to life than grad school and the tenure-track, but (as you can see) the concomitant frustrations and disappointments weigh heavily on a great many people. You should know that before you go to graduate school.


64 comments:

  1. I can't remember the search terms I used to find this blog, but I found myself nodding at many of the search terms listed above. I'm really glad that this entry is here as a compassionate warning to any potential grad students. This blog provides a much needed service.

    I feel for people who are thinking about going to grad school. It's easy to forget how enamored I was with academia and my subject as an undergrad and how much I just wanted to continue studying what I loved, money be damned. Many of us enter grad school as energetic, eager, and wide eyed young people, and these traits make us prime targets for the exploitation that is rife in grad school.

    Once the penny drops and you realize how disposable you are (see search terms listed above), you have two options. One, you try to find a way to manage your depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts if you are set on staying in the system and becoming an academic. Or two, you get out. I got out.

    Recognizing when things are becoming too much is something only the individual can do, but the list above is certainly a great example of what to consider as red flags. I hope everyone reading the blog who's having issues can come to a decision about academia that works for them, and that places their health and wellbeing front and center.

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  2. I'm an engineering undergrad, and I can relate to all the above! I haven't hung out with anyone in decades, I am always stressed, and I have no social intelligence. I have a 3.9 GPA, but haven't had my first kiss, and only hung out with a girl once before, since she copied my homework all the time and wanted to make up for it. The girls in my classes only like the guys that skip class since they have better stories to tell.

    I am a teaching assistant for the math department also. The professor that I work for made the last test excruciatingly hard so it would be easier to grade by handing out zeros (thats what he told me!) The class is online and the site is always crashing, so I'm getting 100 emails a day about it.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. 1) Most women only want a free ticket (homework, food, shelter, money). Relationships with women are usually overrated relative to the costs - which usually include greater stress.

      2) The professor this guy is working for is obviously a lousy teacher and probably a terrible boss ("easier to grade by handing out zeros (sic)" sounds suspiciously like code for "I have something else for you to do and I'm making your job easy at others' expense to facilitate that"). He should try to find someone else to work for - it will probably alleviate some of that stress to which the poster refers.

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    2. I married an engineer who didn't have much social aptitude, and we've been very happy together. I wish you the best. Of course, I'm a science grad student so we had a lot in common. Maybe try dating scientists? Male engineers marrying female scientists is almost a trope at this point.

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    3. "1) Most women only want a free ticket (homework, food, shelter, money)." That is, in addition to all the other things they will accuse you of not providing for them. And later that shit will hold up in divorce court.

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    4. A delayed response, but still necessary:

      By all means, go ahead and characterize the entire female sex by the social encounters (I'm feeling these encounters have been quite limited) you have had in your life. Seems reasonable and certainly very logical.

      No wonder you aren't in a successful relationship.

      Sincerely,
      The girl who probably makes more money than you and thus has no need of your "food, shelter, and money" and also isn't interested in your homework - she was the top of her class, so why would she need your shit :p

      P.S. I've been happily married for years now. Good luck.

      Delete
  3. I finished my MS about two years ago (Dec 2010) and am seriously considering going back for my PhD. I LOVED grad school. Looks like I'm the only one in the world. :)

    But seriously, if you already live in the place you intend to go to grad school (so you won't have those feeling of isolation because you still have your family and friends as a support group), if you read "academic" books in your spare time anyway, if researching and writing your undergrad senior thesis was actually enjoyable, if you can handle listening to dumb people talk in seminars while patiently waiting your turn to tell them how wrong they are, and if you work better in chaos than in calm, you will LOVE grad school. I have every quality listed in that above sentence AND I even liked being a TA.

    What I agree about is that grad degrees don't help you find a job and do cause mass student loans. I am making less money now than when I was still in school earning my MS and I still have about $30,000 to pay off.

    So, if you think grad school will easily land you a job or make you rich, think again. Don't go if those are your reasons for going. If, however, you want to go to grad school because you are (an apparently rare) breed of nerds who love academia, I say go for it. If you just want to read and write all day every day, there is no better place than grad school.

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    Replies
    1. You know I loved reading as a child and I don't like college. I guess chaos is the factor that turns me off.

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    2. I live in a place where I have my husband, and his family, and a very rich social life, and I still felt socially isolated in my Neuroscience PhD program. Why? Because they really do make you feel guilty if every waking moment of your life is not spent researching your topic with a fervor. A PhD is nothing like a master's, and nothing like undergrad. It's a vetting process where everything you do sucks. Your ideas are brilliant, you are clearly gifted, or you wouldn't have been accepted, but everything you do is Just not quite good enough.

      I defended my prospectus 3 times, every time I defended they made me change everything, then after making all those changes my committee made me change it all over again. After the third time my committee did this to me I was done with it, and am walking away with a Master's instead. I guess they do this to everyone! The 6th time is the charm in this program, I guess. But the process has left me cold. I now despise something I once loved. I used to be excited to dig up research papers and integrate ideas, and discover new methods. Now I just want to flip burgers and never have to use my brain ever again! It's NOT just reading and writing, it is politics, funding, power games, and narcissism.

      I have pristine self confidence, and am driven like the snow, but I quickly realized that academia is more than I bargained for. I loved undergrad! I love learning. I hate being told: "your work is great, inspired, now change all of it, all 30 pages, by next week, then we'll meet and shred you to pieces again"

      No thanks.

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    3. I love reading academic and fiction books. I love my subject. I love learning.

      I did very little of any of these in my M.S. program. Most of my classes rehashed what I'd already learned as an undergrad. As a T.A., I was just a work horse for a poorly designed class no one cared about but me. And the research I ended up doing? It wasn't even related to anything I'm interested in (it was just what was available).

      I'm finishing that research and my degree this summer, and it is literally making me hate my life. If my family didn't expect me to finish or if I had more than this summer left, I probably would quit.

      Graduate school has made me hate school (which I have loved since I was 4). I know I am wasting my time, my life, and my summer. I can't wait to be out of this awful situation.

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  4. Graduate students are so hard on themselves. Fear, anxiety, sorrow, insecurity are ubiquitous. Isn't that so? These people are so intelligent, so bright, but at the same time they rarely take the time to (seriously) investigate inwardly and see, by themselves, what is actually happening.

    I created a new, single-post blog called The Indoctrinated Human: indoctrinatedhuman dot wordpress dot com.

    The blog might be useful to graduate students out there who are in pain. If you are serious about it, you might learn how to find out, by yourself, what is true and what is not.

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  5. Wow. That's all I can say having found this site - having lived with the culture of fear, the competition, the politics, the mumbojumbo, the isolation and the outrageous workload for two years, I am about to leave academia after my Fellowship - a prestigious post-doctoral one at that. I no longer feel guilty for not continuing, although that's clearly what my funding body expect. It's not my fault that the institution of academia is hell! I had my first ever period signed off with stress recently, and finally had the wake-up call. Doing your best is just not good enough! Despite monograph, a huge list of funding, admin jobs and great teaching scores, I'm still unlikely to get a permanent post - and to be honest, I don't want one.

    For me, the biggest concern has been that high-level humanities research has literally messed with my head - upturned all that I once thought. This might be a good thing of course, it's supposed to open your mind, except I went back to university in my late 20s and already had a family/marriage. I very nearly let it destroy my marriage by becoming lofty, elitist and frustrated with everyone for not thinking intellectually. Now I realise that they are infinitely more intelligent and inspiring. And they have social skills. Thankfully, I still have those too and did other jobs before this. Thank God I have a wonderful husband who waited patiently. I'm now ready to re-enter the normal world, where people communicate properly - where I'm not frightened to be myself and say how I feel (and where I won't feel guilty if I have the occasional Sunday off). I feel proud of my achievements, but a top UK university very nearly lost me my sanity. Thanks for this site - at least I don't feel alone any more.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your story. What UK university were you at? I'm currently considering doing a PhD in the UK because it's shorter. i definitely sympathise with the "path to the middle class" point.

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  6. "Most troubling are the queries concerning suicide:"

    That's what brought me here. I wish I could say this website has changed my mind.

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    Replies
    1. I hope you're ok. Things can be better than this.

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    2. Please open up a little more about what you're feeling and do take some time to call the help line listed above. There is value to grad school but there is absolutely no value to going through grad school ALONE. No reason to punish or isolate yourself as that doesn't make you come out any better as a scholar. Please open up some more, we are all here to help!

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  7. I think this blog covers a lot of the problems concerning bioscience phd students. A while ago I was googling "switching labs" and now I wished I had just considered quitting. Although my environment has substantially improved by finding a different mentor, the experience of moving labs has left me permanently jaded. In addition, serving on the admissions committe has given me a behind the scenes look about how the faculty feels about prospective students. When I entered I thought that the faculty wanted me to come to their school because I was a talented, gifted individual. And, that my academic growth would be something that would be of personal interest and dare I say pride to the faculty. What a load of crap. After I served on the admissions committee I can sincerely tell you that the faculty doesn't care! You are cheap labor. The brighter you are the less mentoring you will need and the less time/money you will waste. One faculty who headed up the one of the training grants (NIH money to cover graduate stipends) was obsessed with getting more minority, economically disadvatage, and disabled students so that the training grant would be re-funded in the future. I have no problem with promoting diversity but it did unfortunately show that intelligence is second to a student who is free. My current mentor, who I consider myself lucky to have, makes derisive comments about her last graduate student. It makes me paranoid about my personality and if I will get a good letter of recommendation. I often wonder why I am still doing this when I could be making a real contribution to my career elsewhere. Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy because I am constantly disagreeing with the faculty's points of view, professional conduct, etc... I keep my opinions to myself but if I went to a dinner party with similar people I would most likely comment on how weird and awkward they were. I can't imagine having some of these people as colleagues.

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    Replies
    1. Regarding " One faculty who headed up the one of the training grants ... was obsessed with getting more minority, economically disadvatage, and disabled students so that the training grant would be re-funded in the future. ...it did unfortunately show that intelligence is second to a student who is free. "

      Having been on the other (faculty) side of this, I can point out that many of us do this because that's where the incentives are. We try desperately to keep our graduate programs funded. Being able to fill in a box showing the existence of minority students counts for a lot more, in the eyes of funding agencies, than describing the qualities of one's graduate program or the qualities of one's graduate students. It's sad for everyone, especially bright minority students, for whom it leads to the stigma of tokenism.

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    2. This is why, with a GRE score in the 99th/83rd percentile, and an IQ of over 150, I can:
      1) work at Wal-Mart
      2) wait tables
      3) clean toilets
      4) shovel manure
      5) somehow open my own business.

      America - where intelligence and hard work go to die.

      Delete
  8. I searched for 'how to finish grad school'. I guess that would be related to time more than money or anything else - because I was frustrated with how endless the process is. But on the bright side I think its a very proactive thing to search for - how to finish, as opposed to how to escape grad school. I need to praise myself, because for grad students, praise from others is few and far between. Reason 89 - lack of positive reinforcement from anyone in your life? Including professors and/or family? Just kidding. Excellent website - really helpful to see others in the same boat. Some very subtle and nuanced observations about the complicated emotions involved in grad school. Very impressed! Thanks!

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  9. Thank you so much for this blog....The sadness, loneliness, and depression of graduate school brought me here, along with unfortunate thoughts of suicide, as there is nobody in my life anymore due to graduate school. I no longer know what love and happiness are, even though they are what I long for most. Now, more than ever, I wish I had a special someone to bring me back from my despair...It helps to know I'm not alone, but at this point, it's essentially too little too late.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing! Has anyone responded to your message yet? I too feel the lack of meaningful relationships to be one of the greatest sacrifices of grad school. The word trade-off doesn't cover it. Care to elaborate a little more about who you have lost or cut yourself off from? Family, friends, potential mate? I'm not a professional, and do recommend you take some time to call the suicide helpline for grad students listed above for better quality of help. But if you just need someone to talk to, we on this website are here for you just the same.

      Delete
    2. Sorry - not sure why that reply says anonymous. This is Farrukh from the above post. Asking the original poster to open up yet inadvertently posting as anonymous didn't seem all too welcoming. Apologies!

      Delete
  10. I too am grateful for this blog. I think one of the posts on the 100 reasons list should be around debt.

    Even a more in depth debt analysis: such as student loans hard to get for post bachelor work (especially practical) but not for graduate studies - in "your field" ....and as well the ubiquitous recession practice in which people can not find work but can get money to go back to graduate school ...as a survival strategy in a recession.

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  11. I think that though covered in the top 100 in other forms one of the posts needs to address -the" your are bright, you are lucky to succeed in school, you should go to graduate school, graduate school will give you the life of the mind" phenomena that is often the longing of those who have lovely brains and the agility it takes to do humanities work which is wonderfully interdisciplinary and highly complicated. I think of Walter Benjamin here, whose work has fed so many graduate studies, and who had a very difficult journey with the academe. Somehow our culture conditions/misleads/dupes us to give these lovely minds- university, and grad school as a top reward or mount everest experience - and it is truly terrible that the univer these beautiful minds are led on such a tricky and perilous journey of what amounts to abandonment by the system and its job forces. Though I believe all of those who have experienced this will find a way to regroup...I think the suffering, loss, misdirection and energy spent - are such a loss of minds and energies our culture needs. It is a cultural tragedy.

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  12. I dropped out of a master's program in political theory 15 years ago because I was too intellectually insecure to assert myself on paper and in class. I deeply regret abandoning my studies. I am a still prolific reader but have no real place for engaging in discussions as I did in grad school. Though I am, of course, willing to consider that I may have idealized academia, no longer being a part of it.
    PS, I found your website via a link left in the comments section of a NYTimes article on loneliness!

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  13. Please seek some help. I felt like that in graduate school too, and I sought out a therapist. It should be covered by your student health insurance. While I'm not happy with still being in grad school, I am at least now happy with my life - I have friends, my relationship is going better and I feel more confident in myself. But you have to seek help to get it.

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  14. I'm at an R1 school with an excellent placement record and all that, but I'm realizing that I hate my field, don't want to be a professor, and am constantly wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life. I relate to this whole damn blog.

    It's been super important to have a life outside of grad school. I have a guaranteed 5 years of funding including a living stipend. So that relieves one big source of stress and gives me the privilege of pursuing such outside stuff. I understand not all people have that luxury (sidenote: maybe you shouldn't go to grad school if you're not offered such funding. Seriously, that should be consideration number one).

    I get self worth from my relationship (with a non-academic woman I met in my new, grad-school-city, so it *is* possible, y'all), my hobby (I'm an avid/obsessed musician), and a spiritual life meditating and talking to a spiritual mentor. I also go to therapy and talk to wise people I trust about my problems. That stuff probably helps me avoid the inevitable suicidal tendencies that plague academics and everyone else who is both a bit neurotic and stuck in a high stress job.

    Not everyone is as lucky as me. I'll concede that. Some people aren't good at finding romance, or they simply don't have the time. Some people don't have something as massively motivating and fulfilling as music is for me. Some people don't do spirituality or therapy -type things.

    But I also get some balance by remembering that many (all?) jobs are brutal, many people other than myself feel stuck and misunderstood, many people (most) work for a paycheck rather than out of an undying love for their field, and when it comes to family/love/loneliness problems, grad students don't have a monopoly on that stuff, either. I had those problems before grad school and I'll probably have them after grad school.

    Whether or not your grad school experience is absolutely atrocious, remember that there is at least some level of privilege involved in grad school. We all could use a bit more gratitude across the board no matter what our situation, right? It might be losing its public lustre and there are a lot of grad student haters, but there are great books on how to reframe your grad school career as a valuable, portable asset. I have a great one titled "'So what are you going to do with that?' Finding jobs outside academia."

    I may not finish my PhD (I'm about to enter the dissertation phase and I'm really tempted to pull the ripcord before I get locked into the mindfuck that is dissertation work), or I may. I kinda have to put that question on the shelf, one day at a time. As of right now, I enjoy my stipend and free summer, but I vehemently discourage all but the most insanely committed to go to graduate school. But overall, I am where I am, and I'm not willing to self destruct because of a career (or whatever the hell you call this lifestyle).

    Thanks to everyone on here for making me feel validated, decent, human, etc. Thanks also to the tough love commenters who tell all of us whiners to shut up. No matter who I actually agree with, the balance of perspectives always helps.

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  15. Wow, I'll never believe that my parents told me grad school life was for quiet and introverted people like myself. No way is that true! Fuck it, I'm working minimum wage till I die. It's not a glorified life, but it beats anything else I can think of.

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  16. I hate graduate school and am considering my choice in attending. Everyone trys way too hard... maybe I never realized how much of a slacker I am :(

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    Replies
    1. I feel that same way, my seminars are like a game to see who can use the most obscure adjective. most of the time i want to say "you realize you don't have a chance of getting a job". Maybe i will say it im quitting at the end of this semester anyway.

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  17. I feel like people need to get out and live. If you make all your time about studying of course you will feel lonely and depressed. Crack a beer, go to student events, get to know people. It's ok to live every once in awhile. The graduate student experience is what you make of it. As for not finding a job right away you can't be super selective. You may have to work in a less desirable location for a bit to get field work and experience, but once you have that you can go anywhere. I feel some people do not look at the big picture. The important thing to remember is to go out and enjoy life, but balance academics and play. If you cannot do this you will burn out and make graduate school unenjoyable.

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    1. You must understand that that's not what everyone wants to do.

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  18. Hi,

    I got my PhD in history from a western land grant state university about three years ago. It took me six years to finish. I am still unemployed, and have been underemployed since then. The only reason that I am not homeless has been due to economic help from my family.

    I just want to say thank you so much for this blog because it is absolutely totally true.

    I was so moved and got so emotional reading your blog that I read every single reason from 91 to 1. Thanks to your blog, I realized that during my six years of time in grad school getting my PhD also scarred me emotionally. I actually performed a special meditation to cleanse myself of such diseases, such as arrogance, envy, and depression over not getting into the so-called 't.t paradise.' As you well know, those diseases are rife in the US academy. I also realized some of the bad habits that I picked up while in grad school, like going to all the cafes in my town with my laptop and books in my bag of bricks, and then simply talking to no one, and just reading crap on line. That is not a social life. Thank goodness, I realized this.

    There were many more issues that you mentioned that completely made sense. Thanks to your blog I can now emotionally rest, and look at my PhD quest as just another period in my life. It took six long years, but they are over, and it is now lodged in the past with my other adventures and such. At least I had a steady job in those days, (something I never had before), I read some interesting books and articles, I got the paper giving me a doctor title, and I really do know my history. I am a quiet person, but if someone starts blabbing crap that they know nothing in regards to history, then I put in 'my two cents' and shut down the bad history babble. These are the only things that my PhD has given me.

    OK, such is life. Time to move on as they say. But as you know, the grad PhD experience is so scarring that it is hard to let go. Your blog has led me to my own personal transformation to let go - and I thank you again for your honesty.

    I would also suggest some other diseases that will plague grad students, of which you could comment on for the 91-100. In regards to the bad health and social problems, I became a soft alcoholic while in grad school. When we rarely went out as grad colleagues that hated each other, the nights were filled with heavy drinking and hard core drunkenness. The humanities were not the only ones to fall into this behavior. I also saw the science grad guys getting plastered hard core. We even had a bottle of tequila inside of our old motel refrigerator in the grad office. In my apartment after my comps, I had bottles of whiskey and gin sitting on top of my refrigerator.

    There is also the anger, the anger at corrupt university based grad scholarships, (usually given out by the grad student committee), where the same winners collect thousands of dollars each year, and the anger against the boasters that go around the halls in the spring semester telling everyone how they got hired for a tenure track position.

    And there is the now dangerous cop presence that is even found on private university campuses. These well-paid cops have complete legal jurisdiction to detain and arrest students. Some uni cop stations even have jails. When the cops first entered the campus in the 80s, they generally went after working class kids, local weirdos or darker skinned kids that ventured on the privileged lawns of the campus. But now these donut gangs have been targeting students, both undergrads and grads. They have even forced professors and coaches to pack up their offices and leave the campus. As you well know, grad students tend to stay in the grad office and the library until very late hours, this often makes them targets for the police bums that are looking for weirdos on the night prowl. I have seen a few incidents while I was getting my PhD.

    Best regards, and I have bookmarked your blog in my academic corruption section of links,
    Gypsytravash

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  19. I wish there was a hotline for grad students in Canada. I just finished my first term of my masters and I'm hating it so bad. I have never felt so inadequate in my whole life. During my undergrad I worked 2 part time jobs, one in research that I loved. I love research and learning. I'm feeling that I would rather take a bullet or get some tragic illness so I would have a way out. I haven't had any money issues because I've been well funded with grants and scholarships, this just adds to the pressure to perform. My husband and mother in-law have high expectations and I can't even talk to my husband about this he just shuts me down. Worst thing is that I left a full-time job that paid relatively well. I was living comfortably, had paid vacation, sick time, time to have fun and enjoy my life. I am able to return to my position when I'm finished my masters if i choose to do so. The stress and the workload is not what I've barganed for. I have developed a twitch in my face, have heart palpations and anxiety attacks throughout most of the term. I'd don't feel that I'm really learning much, no time to take in knowledge. The only thing I'm accomplishing is how to feel extremely depressed, anxious and hate my life. I'm not a young student either, I should have the knowledge and skills at age 43 to deal with this. I thought I had everything finished up for the end of term, but prof sent my paper back and said it's not good enough. I don't know what I was thinking. I wish I never started this nightmare. I sould have listened to my mom, she didn't think I should go back to school. I wished I had listened. How do I find a way out of this mess I put myself in? I want myself back.

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    1. Quit while you can!!! Its easier in the first year and without less regrets. It is not good if its affecting your mental health and it has become somatic!! People spend thinking less time on you than you think, perhaps they might be a bit disappointed but sooner than later they will forget about it and focus on their own lives. After all those who love you just want to see you happy.

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    2. I am 47. I work full-time and my employer is paying for my graduate degree. Today, I decided to quit. I have been working on my MS degree for 4 years. They have been the most depressing and stress filled years of my life. I completed my coursework with a 4.0 GPA, and I'm now attempting to analyze my data and write my thesis. I am a few months away from being done, but I just can't subject myself to any more stress. My physical and mental health mean too much to me.

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    3. Hello Anon 10/24/2014,

      Perhaps before you quit, you should ask yourself,
      1) What is/are the source(s) of my stress?
      2) What is/are the source(s) of my depression?
      ... and try to be as specific as possible about these with yourself before making the decision to "jump ship." It could be that the program you're in isn't appropriate in some way, or that you're getting hassled by some @sshat faculty member, or that external pressures (work, relationships) are causing problems for you. Regardless of what the issues are, there may be a less drastic way to resolve them than quitting altogether.

      Also, you might consider that quitting the program may have ramifications that will increase - not decrease - your depression and stress.

      I'm not presuming to walk in your shoes. I have to admit that sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. It's best to do so near the start of one's program rather than later.

      Some parting thoughts -
      It sometimes helps to get outside perspectives from people who *have no stake in what you're doing* - like, perhaps, a university or private counselor, or someone in your industry.

      It also can be helpful to think "I've got options." If you feel like you're being railroaded into something or have no choices, it helps to unpack whatever assumptions you're making about your situation to the point where you understand that there might be other ways to manage your situation. This can be extremely hard work, but it's worth arriving at a point where you can maybe make better informed decisions.

      Best wishes.

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  20. Having my work stolen from me by my PI is what brought me here. I want to quit so badly, but I've been working at this for 5 years now.

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  21. I am a senior in my undergraduate degree and contemplating whether I want to get my teaching license or go to grad school for my psychology major. I love school but I am already in debt and I am 65. I really don't think after reading this that I can cope with all this anxiety I think I will hang my shingle on education and relax. I really appreciated everyone's candor. If you are so stressed in your young years with grad school then my decision to go to make more money is not a wise one.

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  22. Some additional possible reasons to consider:

    Intellectual property that you have developed is not yours.
    University aims do not correlate with student needs.
    Government interference in university activities.
    Corporate interference in university activities.
    The university is less accountable to its supporting population.
    Increased politicization of university activities.
    Institutionalized differential treatment according to race and gender.
    Rampant age-based discrimination.

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  23. ...and also

    Discpline Balkanization.

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  24. I read this blog last year after agonizing over the question of attending grad school. After ten years of trying my hardest to summon the will to write the admissions essays after dozens of failed starts, I saw that with three kids and a mortgage, grad school was going to be a disaster all around. I gave up and started attending the United Association Mechanical Trades School (UA is the international plumber's and pipe fitters union, AFL-CIO). I now have a union plumbing job as a first year apprentice and am working on an eighty million dollar extension of a university. I think about grad school on occasion, more as a novelty than anything.

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  25. Hey, Such a great weblog. I got a PhD in history for 4 years and still waiting for a decent academic job. Recently I am considering doing something more worthwhile with my life. I feel very good to be free of academic jail I made for myself named "research assistance"! Younger students should be aware of what is waiting for them in grad school and this weblog is doing a great job in informing them. Well-done.

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  26. I am a grad student finishing my Msc. I am less than four weeks away from defending. Every day I work more than 6 hours at the office i become suicidal. I have tried counselling and seeing a doctor, but it keeps getting worse. I just want to finish but I am scared

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    1. Please don't hurt yourself. Get help. You're almost there. I saw a psychiatrist and took Xanax for the last 6 months of my MS. Because like you, spending more than 6 hours working on it made me want to walk out onto the interstate where the traffic comes around a blind curve. (Kind of frightening how detailed the plan was.) Please, please don't hurt yourself.

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  27. I too, am a grad student and got my PhD in computer science. It's not as bad as you think, trust me!! :)

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    1. Way to ignore and devalue all of the tales of genuine regret, loneliness, and depression that are on the site. I'm glad that you enjoyed your PhD experience, but saying that grad school is not that bad right below someone else's comment about their struggle with suicide demonstrates an unprecedented level of willful obtuseness.

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    2. Perhaps your dig at the "first" anonymous poster would be more palatable if there were some statistics showing a large percentage of those in grad school are so miserable. As there are none in this particular blog, your derision towards the other poster is preposterous. Yes, there appears to be enough to warrant a hotline, but that doesn't speak to percentages in the least. You are placing other's postings/experiences above another's.

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    3. My CS friends all have good high paying jobs. Trust me that knowing that is at the end of your trials makes an enormous difference vs facing the academic job market and permanent adjuncting.

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    4. Hello Mr CS. This blog is primarily about the social sciences and humanities where such convenient options are not available.

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  28. For one year I was stuck in the middle of PhD course. My supervisor had absolutely no interest in what I was doing. He was sleeping during my seminar presentations, and after I finished he woke up and was asking me questions to answer which I need to repeat whole content of the presentation again. After more than 3 years being my supervisor he always asks me "What do you study?". I gave up communicating with him verbally, and tried to write him. I wrote and printed out my thoughts about current study and problems. He just browsed and said "Where is your graphs?". After one month, he finally found time to discuss about that text and asked me another question, which meant that he did not read it, as he did not read my conference paper. So, my study did not progress for one year during which I was thinking to complain to student support service and ask if I should change my supervisor. I changed my sub-supervisor during that period. It was good for my research, but my supervisor did not not even I ask if I have problems with study. I continued research not caring about my supervisor opinion (or its absence). When I found this blog and read it I was happy that I didn't complaint to student support service and asked to change my supervisor. What I understood that my professor is not wrong at all. Because whole this system of graduate education is wrong and sick and he is only part o it. What is most stressful in graduate course is being ignored by your supervisor.

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  29. This article, like any other article, is just partially true. You try to generalize everything and extend that to everyone which is not a scientific approach. Some of the things that you've written here are just personal comments. I agree that graduate studies can be tough, unfruitful and pointless. But you need to ask yourself what options do I have? there is always a chance that you can change an unpleasant situation into a very beautiful experience and it is up to you. it is up to the perspective you've adopted for seeing episodes of your life. Don't buckle down under pressure of life, no matter how hard it is.

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  30. Of course students are unhappy, that's how system is set up. If there was any will by those who can make a change, i bet they would. But, when you think about it, many can profit from others being miserable, no matter how sick and twisted that might sound to you and me. Kids do not learn in schools what happiness is. Instead, they're bombarded with irrelevant things.

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  31. can relate to everything here. In fact, after two years in a PhD program, I am thinking of quitting. I have never been so unhappy in my life. I talk about it in today's blog entry: http://notebookobsession.blogspot.com/2014/10/page-from-my-daily-journal-and-why-i.html

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  32. I am glad that during my searching i found this blog... such a compassionate warning for any potential graduate student... a needed service is provided by this blog.
    Discerning when points have grown to be excessive will be a thing merely the consumer is able to do, nevertheless the above list is certainly a great example of what things to consider as warning flag. I really hope anyone reading through your blog that's acquiring troubles can easily come to a decision concerning academia which operates for him or her, and that places their well-being entry and middle.

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  33. I came to this website to see if other people had been screwed over in the particularly dishonest and disingenuous way that I, along with all the other junior faculty members in my College, have been. Our tenure requirements have suddenly and dramatically increased, effective immediately. We were all of course given tenure guidelines when we were hired. Some, like securing an R01 grant as a co-PI or PI while still untenured were hard to accomplish. Most of us have been okay in terms of required publications, but most of my peers have not gotten funding, given the 10% NIH paylines. I've worked my ass off and now, in the middle of my 6th year, I got the holy grail -- an R01. But guess what? A month ago, without votes from anyone not tenured, our College changed the tenure requirements. Doubled the number of required publications (from 2 a year to 4), and now federal grants must bring in the equivalent of your salary annually to the University. The new requirements are effectively immediately, no matter what expectations you were hired under. ("Wait a minute! I was got my 12 publications -- actually a couple more -- but now you want me, a year from now, to have 6-10 more? How can you not honor what I was told when I decided to accept this job?" "Well, we can't possibly keep track of what people were told when they were hired...") Six weeks ago, I was golden and planned to go up for tenure in the fall -- now I cannot even request it. Honestly, the new requirements are so stringent now, I don't know who could make tenure under them. Most of our fulls and associates have not achieved these milestones even now, much farther along in their careers -- and I have no idea what newly-minted PhD they think would be crazy enough to be hired under them. (My field is one of the lucky ones where there are still jobs, so most good candidates will simply look elsewhere). It is a complete disaster in terms of morale and retention. It's a public R1. The only thing I can think of is that we have a new Provost who seems to be leading a path to adjunctification for most faculty. Get rid of most of us, mostly replace us with adjuncts, and bring in a handful of tenured folks with insane research records and zero work-life balance, who will buy out their courses and never have to teach. We are already being told if we know anyone with a strong research program elsewhere, they will "do anything' to recruit them. Of course, I am looking for another job starting immediately. I'm not stupid enough to work my ass even harder for the next year, only to find the goal posts have been shifted again. I feel completely hoodwinked by this entire process. Luckily, I have some other options! But I'd be curious to know if this is a trend anywhere else.

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    1. Everyone will have to do more with less. Eventually we hope to get to the point where everything is accomplished with nothing. This will be funded by squeezing the underemployed and impoverished US population even harder through excessive taxation, ridiculous penalties and outright theft. It's not as if they're good enough for anything else. Go Feds!

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  34. What brought me back here was a mention in a comment at Steve Sailer's blog.

    Great to see the site still up and alive.

    I was one of the many who experienced grad school as horrific, though I did it for MA and PhD. I actively recommend against it to any young people I know and have helped many choose other paths to adulthood, prosperity, usefulness, and happiness.

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  35. I regret giving up my nice job and going to grad school. This experience is very lonely and waste of time and money.

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  36. Thanks for interesting blog - it's really helpful to see that there are people going through similar troubles. Also, I believe it helps others too, so I decided to comment here just to contribute to bulk of (somewhat unpleasant) graduate experience.

    As previous commenter, I left my job in software development 2 years ago to enter the grad school. Funny enough, I've already acquired PhD from my home country institution in 2012, but stepped back in this track having an idea that it's somehow different in the US.

    While this blog is devoted to mainly humanities, many of the things described here are applicable to my physics school too.

    I believe, one should think positively and develop plans of there future instead of just complaining, but the first step is to recognize the problem. And then second is to act.

    Actually, these 2 years in grad school tought me that I don't like doing science as I thought I do, which is quite valuable knowledge for me, since I was always thinking that science is my true passion. Studying was always a pleasure for me and procrastination I experience now (and which I didn't have in my programmer times) is a clear sign that something is wrong.

    So, my current plan is to stay till end of semester looking for industry jobs at the same time, but due to visa issues it can hardly be accomplished really. And then plan is to go back to industry, most probably back to my home country. Couple of things can hold me to the end of summer, like obligations regarding upcoming conference, but that's it - spending more time doing things I don't like and having no practical value is really a threat to mental sanity.

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  37. I am 56 and just headed back to grad school. I typed " Help me I am dying in grad school" into the search window and this blog came up. Almost afraid to read it because I had such high hopes. I have had a pretty good career in healthcare, all things considered, but am at the end of the options rope. I had hoped to educate myself into some other choices as an independent contractor. But since I work full time, had to do the web based learning method. Mother of God what an empty lonely black place this is. Has a sort of Hunger Games feel to it, with some distant faculty cranking out requirements that, mathematically, there is really not time in a human 24 hours to complete. I thought I was an adult learner and this would be a wonderful challenge. What it is is endless endless reading sitting in silence with everyone around you, dogs, cats, husband, children snoring. It is pointless curriculum: Please tell me how cramming 4 chapters into 3 days and then giving us an open book test is of any value. Like seeing Europe: 7 countries in 7 days. Maybe I need to look at another school. Ridiculous emphasis on research and publishing in APA format. Whose goals are those? They weren't mine. Just had a good old weak-ass cry. Try to muster some enthusiasm tomorrow.

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  38. I got here by trying to search for Hogarth's pug, FML.

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  39. Thanks for creating this helpful blog. I Googled "should I quit grad school" and found this site. I'm done all my course work in a Masters program, and am struggling with the thesis. This is surprising since I love to write, and I've written academically as a part-time research assistant throughout the three and a quarter years I've been enrolled. It's great to know I'm not alone in questioning the value of my free time and mental health over completing this degree, which optimistically could be completed part-time by the end of this year since I also work full-time. I want my evenings back, and to read books again without feeling guilty, among a myriad of other reasons to leave. Thanks again for all of the points to consider.

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