I Feel Like I Should Be Doing More (Grad School Woes)

I feel like I should be doing more…

Grad School is okay, but I would rather be out in the real world working. Of course, I think the assumption by most professors is that I am already established in a career… Well, I’m 24 and I am nowhere near established in any career. I need to find a career first. =P

Anyway, I’ve been sending my resume around and just seeing how many responses I get. I’m not sure how legit applying online is because I keep hearing from companies/organizations that are unknown to me. I guess applying online is the norm these days?

I’ve been doing work for my classes, but I’m not sure that I like it. I understand that there is pressure on me to get my master’s from my parents. Places that I interned at say that I need a master’s to be a full time employee… bummer!

I’m really trying to get passionate about my studies. I keep coming to the conclusion that I’m only in school to get my master’s because most places I want to work or see myself working now require it.

I guess I am asking for some words of wisdom. I’m on my second year of grad school and just want to get it over with.

I feel isolated from everyone because most of the people in this college town are undergrads. I was an undergrad too, but I think I am too mature now for them. I still consider myself immature, but not as immature as the stereotypical college kid. I made most of my friends when I was an undergrad and they are far away now since I moved.

I think the only good thing about graduate school is that I met my girlfriend here. I guess I took some interesting classes here, but the school politics get to me sometimes. I think it’s much different than the world, but I guess I need more experience in the real world to know for sure. I just got hired as a student worker working under a professor that I had and a graduate assistant. I guess I will see where that goes.

So, any words of wisdom? Thoughts? Motivational speeches? Experiences?

I left grad school (after my masters, but before my PhD) feeling pretty much the same as you – life is passing by, not really in love with what I’m doing, &c. Left, got a job, tried out some new things. I can’t say it worked out spectacularly, but it worked out well. I miss some of the things I could have done, but have done wonderful things that I couldn’t have done if I’d stayed.

All I can suggest is that if you don’t like being in grad school, don’t be in grad school. If you’re close to the end of your master’s, complete your master’s, shake hands with your advisors, and venture out into the world. If you’re not close to the end of your master’s, and don’t feel like completing it is worth it, do the hands-shaking part right away.

And if you feel like you’ve made a mistake later, you can always go back.

Thanks. I’m definitely not in love with it. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my future. I plan on moving away because I don’t want to deal with college town stuff. There are a lot of people doing dumb stuff. Some of the people are just down right rude and I’d rather be somewhere where people are actually nice.

I’m still doing the course work, but I’m not into it at all. When I was an undergrad, at least I had friends and a social life. Besides hanging out with my gf, my social life is non-existent. Not to mention that I’m poor because I’ve been doing minimum wage stuff to pay rent and basic needs.

I don’t see myself as a scholar. I just see myself as a working man providing for his family. I haven’t taken a break from school yet. I’m just getting tired of grades .

Out of curiosity, what are you studying in grad school?

My off-the-cuff thought is “go take a leave of absence.” Take a year off, get a job (or travel or deal drug or anything but school) and figure stuff out.

It sounds to me like your problem isn’t with grad school, it is with life. You don’t seem to have a good fix of what you want to do, and not surprisingly you seem to be drifting along without any real direction. You clearly don’t want to be in grad school, so your not really putting much in to it or getting much out of it. If you want to do better in school, you need to work on the big huge life questions first.

Grad school isn’t like undergrad. It’s not really a place for exploring or waiting things out. In undergrad, all you really have to do is show up and do what you are told. Everything is laid out for you. Grad school is more like access to a really big, really cool library- one with lots of guest speakers and great research librarians and a lot of really awesome patrons to talk to. In other words- it’s not going to tell you what to learn. It will give you the resources to learn whatever you want. But you have to formulate the questions and do most of the work. Classes, in grad school, are just a formality. They are not what its about. What it is really about is the chance to conduct research with real resources behind you, to connect with experts in the field, to meet future leaders in the field (your classmates) and to gain access to good internships. Classes are just that thing you do in the meantime.

If all you are doing is putting your time in for your classes, it’s like going on a cruise and spending the entire time in the cabin. Grad school is full of really neat, really useful STUFF you can use to make your life better. If you aren’t using it, it’s just a huge waste.

Luckily, there are a few things your school has that can help you with your problem. The first is the career center. Go make an appointment. They have all kinds of tests and ideas and whatever that can help you find a direction. They can also help you actually get a job in the field. Looking online is a terrible way to get jobs. I know in my industry, you need to just go contact hiring managers directly, either through connections (which you need to sit around cultivating) or through industry job fairs. In other words, it needs to be done in a very specific way that your school should be teaching you how to do.

You might also want to check out psychological services, just so you have someone to talk to about how you are feeling. I’d also make some office hour appointments with professors you are interested in, and come in with questions about the field.

For more specific advice, please tell us what you are studying, what your career goals are, what other goals are important to you (do you want a life of adventure? a quiet middle class life with a family? big bucks? to work in a specific city?), why you got in to this field and what kind of work experience you have.

Enjoy it while you can. The life of a student is pretty cool, particularly compared to the “real world”. You’ll be better off financially later, but you have more freedom now than you’ll ever have again. In a decade or so, you’ll look back at your time as a grad student as a great time in your life.

I felt about the same while I was in grad school except I was in my early 30s. However, my grad school was in Hawaii, and I was courting a fellow student who is now my wife, so there were lots of factors making up for it. I was glad I did it once it was all over though, and the degree has proved advantageous, so stick with it. You are still very, very young at 24; I did not even start my bachelor’s-degree studies until I was exactly 24.

Grad school is such a short time compared to the remainder of your (hopefully) long life. I’d say tough it out and finish, and then do whatever you want to. You’ll have this degree in your back pocket for the rest of your life. If you quit now you’d probably regret it in a few years.

Yes, in a college town, a big chunk of the population will be undergrads. But you aren’t the only grad student - there’s at least one graduate school at your university, probably many of them. And I’d be willing to bet that there are regular, semi-official get-togethers for students in your particular program - most places have them. In law school, for example, we had “bar reviews” (har, har) at a different local bar every Thursday night. Schedules were posted to the same online service that hosted our class syllabi. :slight_smile:

There are also clubs and extra-curricular programs at your grad school. No, really, there are. Maybe there’s a Jewish student’s club, or a Muslim club, or a Gay/Lesbian club, or clubs for people with various specific interests within your field - but there really are clubs, I promise. Grad school students spawn them like crazy. Join clubs, get involved in them, use them to make friends and professional connections.

These are basic, obvious things you can be doing, right now, to improve your social life and job search. Stop producing Internet angst (we already have plenty) and go do them.

Get off my lawn you damn whippersnapper!

When I was in law school, we had to mass communicate by leaving an actual hard copy note in everyone’s box. Yes, there was a message box structure with a slot for each student. There was also an old school manual bulletin board. No fancy ass internet online hosting for us. And we had to walk forty miles through the snow to get to class. Uphill both ways. And we liked it, dammit.

I agree with this. You will be finished with your coursework before you know it, Master’s in hand. Sure, there are places will hire you with graduate credits and no degree. But bagging out now, when you’re halfway in…in this economy?..I just don’t think it’s wise.

I liked grad school. I’m at that point where I am able to look back on it with more nostalgia than is probably warranted, but overall, it was a good experience for me. But man, there were some really bad stretches when I felt like I was wasting time. I’d sit in boring classes and wonder why I should care about such abstract, esoteric topics. I’d worry that my lack of passion and going-through-the-motions behavior was apparent to everyone. If it did, no one said anything.

There’s nothing wrong with being in school simply because you want a good job afterwards. I think most students enter grad school for this reason, whether they want to say so out loud or not. You are no less “pure” of a student for being pragmatic and thinking about the future.

Not everybody has an easy time in grad school. Some of us spent time in the ‘‘real world’’ before we got there and I can tell you I never worked harder in my life than I did earning my Master’s degree. I’m glad I did it, but I’m SO RELIEVED it’s over. (And my experience pales in comparison to my husband’s current experience working on his Ph.D. God, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.)

Maybe I should have left, because I really didn’t like it, but in the end I stuck it out in grad school until I got my Ph.D. I think in the long run it was worth it – I’m in a position where all of my colleagues also have Ph.D.s, so I’d be at a disadvantage if I didn’t have one. But it’s hard to say how things would have turned out if I had left.