Robert Nagle’s Straight Talk About Grad School

I will finish my PhD coursework in about five weeks. (Yay!)

People keep saying, “You’re almost done!” Or they will ask, “How much longer do you have?”

I say the same thing every time: “Well, I still have my Comprehensive exams this summer. It’s an 8 hour written exam followed by an oral exam. Then if I pass those, I can start on my Dissertation, but most people don’t finish it in a year. And I still have to get published in a journal to meet my requirements. It’s hard to say when I’ll be done, honestly.” Then, of course, I start feeling the anxiety take hold and the person standing in front of me is either annoyed, confused, or both.

I’ve talked a bit on this blog about feeling as though I don’t belong in grad school. I keep moving forward because the light is more visible at the end of the tunnel now. Plus, I know it’s what I need to do to  get the kind of job I want. I am so thankful that I will not have to be as present after this semester. I am ready to move forward. I am ready to finish grad school. Obviously every discipline, every program is different; however, there are are some common themes to many Doctoral programs.

I have read many articles and blog posts about grad school over the years. Probably hundreds by now. This is, by far, the one that captures almost everything I would want to share with others before pursuing a PhD. It definitely summarizes many of the articles I’ve read and it touches on some thoughts I’ve had myself the last four years.

Straight Talk About Grad School – Robert Nagle

I highly recommend reading through his lengthy post if you’re struggling in your own Doctoral program or if you’re considering pursuing a PhD program in the future. It contains updates as recent as this year. I also think it’s beneficial to read through some of the comments and the original articles he cites.

Do you have any advice you’d give someone who was thinking of pursuing a PhD?

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One thought on “Robert Nagle’s Straight Talk About Grad School

  1. This made me laugh: “Grad school sucks, and so do the politics and turf fighting, but the international demographics of it makes it good for potluck dinners.”

    I feel so strangely about this question, because I think the articles that easily dismiss grad school make academia all about the job you get afterward, and it is so much more than that to me. It has contributed hugely to the person I am. But I would never want anyone to enter grad school not knowing that stuff. I was taken by surprise in a lot of ways, but I always knew it was a risky thing to do and a narrow path I was walking down. I knew all of that even in undergrad when I decided to major in English and Religion instead of Business or Nursing. Lately I find myself wanting to tell people not to go to grad school, but I am still so delighted to hear from people who are in grad school and loving it (even while also hating it, because it’s hard). I feel fortunate that even though I have complex feelings about grad school, none of them are angry or resentful. I hope it stays that way!

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