Are you thinking about applying to a PhD program? Are you already a doctoral student? PhD is a huge investment of time and money. So make sure you spend 15 minutes of your time reading this blog devoted to PhD program success and survival tips. I'm confident that these tips can save up to 10 years of your life, up to $1,000,000 of your money, and, most importantly, your physical and emotional health.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Grad School as an Escape from Reality

This blog already talked about some of the wrong reasons for getting a PhD. It occurred to me today that there is another dangerous rationale for deciding to pursue graduate education. I think that many people decide to attend grad school because they want to escape the reality.

Here's a case in point for you. One of my friends was a double major in his undergraduate program. He got a bachelors degree in political science and biology. After getting his bachelors degree, he decided to go into a law school to get a JD. After he got his JD, he worked as a lawyer for a couple of months and then decided that being a lawyer "is not his cup of tea". So he went into a business school to get his MBA. After getting his MBA, he went into a PhD program in business. It took him almost seven years to get a PhD. After he got his PhD, he couldn't find employment in academia and, being 40 years of age, started looking for other jobs. During all those years his parents had been proud of him. They had been very pleased with their son's passion for knowledge and education and proud of his academic success. Now that I think about him it occurs to me that placing him into a drug rehabilitation facility instead of supporting him could had been a much wiser choice. This guy was addicted to education. He was using education as a means to escape the reality.

Discovering your strength and weaknesses, finding your passion, setting your life and career goals and taking the responsibility for those decisions is often an exhausting and nerve-wrecking experience. Some people decide to postpone the time when those choices have to be made by going into a grad school. Graduate schools serve as a safe psychological harbor for those who are not brave enough to face those choices at the present moment. Society looks down on those who remain unemployed for prolonged periods of time, change jobs often, and fail regularly at their endeavors. At the same time, the society looks at those who decide to continue their education in grad school with approval. Thus, graduate schools often serve as a drug that lets one escape the real life for a few years. I think this addiction has, at least, caused an irreversible damage to his life.

But the truth is that while graduate schools will let you escape the real life for a few years, it may not solve your problem of figuring our who you are and what you are good for. Professors won't help you with this, since they are the people who opted out of real life. Once the drug effect wears out, you will be faced with the same kind of problem, yet you will be older and beating around the bush to find answers to those questions may be even harder psychologically. By the time you graduate, at least some of your friends may be done with the period of soul searching and pursuing their dreams. And you will be among the group who is still struggling with those questions.

Finding your own path in life instead of going into graduate school may be a much better route. You cannot become successful simply by getting a Masters or a PhD. Who do you think will look as a more attractive employee - someone who got his or her masters degree in marketing or someone who has sold millions of dollars worth of cars? Just like drugs, graduate education may give you a mere illusion that your are growing and finding yourself in life. In many cases, the drug effect will wear out and you will see that you are still standing where you left years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog! Lovin the raw truth about life and politics in academia! I was wondering if you'd be willing to write a post about pre-phd/grad school tips as well. Some questions I have in mind are:
    -Do people know what sorts of research topics (and research methods)they want to pursue before they apply to grad programs?
    -What's a good way to come up with a topic and narrow the focus for a good disseration?
    I've read through the latest posts as well as all the entries labeled tips, before you apply,dissertation, finding yourself, and a few others as well. I'd greatly appreciate it.