The ABCs of Grad School Should Include “ABD”

When most people wrestle with the perennial question, “Should I go to grad school?” they consider many variables: cost, distance, future job prospects, loss of salary, potential long-term salary gain, how good their names would look with initials after them, how proud their parents would be, whether their parents would even notice, and so on. But how many folks stop and think, “What if I start and never finish?”

Starting a PhD and ending up “ABD” — or, “All But Dissertation” — is vastly more common than you might think.

Today, the Ph.D. Completion Project estimates that the ten-year completion rate (that is, someone’s status a decade after they begin) is 55–64 percent in STEM, 56 percent in the social sciences, and 49 percent in the humanities. … Some advisers are helpful and supportive. But many run the gamut between absentee, excoriating, and micromanagerial. There are the advisers who retire, leave, or even die. Then there’s the total lack of preparedness for such an extensive and rigorous project: A seminar paper is a 5K fun run; a dissertation is an ultramarathon. And in the social sciences and STEM fields, there are data sets or experiments that simply fall apart.

That means about half of people who pursue a doctorate in any field give up before they get the sheepskin, but after they have endured years of privation and toil. The Slate article has advice for people who find themselves in that position, as well as advice for others in higher ed, but mostly it’s a good Monday morning eye-opener. Those of who did manage to finish your ultramarathons PhDs, congrats! Feel extra-special-good about yourselves today.

A Nanny (BA, MSW) Chats about Psych Grad Programs, Zigzagging Through Life

I was socialized to be a super achieving person who does great things and makes lots of money. I was one of the “smart” ones in my class, so I thought I had to be a doctor. I never really considered anything else until I went to college. And then I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor, but maybe a teacher (there’s my gut!). But my parents said something along the lines of, “We’re not paying for you to go to Cornell to be a teacher.”

“Should I Go To Grad School?” vs “MFA vs NYC”

Jessica: Also, delicious. So, we're coming at this anthology from perspectives that are similar — we both asked, "Should I go to grad school?" and said, "Yes!" — and different: your graduate work is in academia, and mine was an arts MA. This anthology read (to me, at least) to be focused more on academic graduate programs — PhDs — than a similar anthology that came out in February, n+1's MFA vs. NYC. But the publication of both of these anthologies in such a short time span begs the question: why now?

What It Costs [Me] to Apply to Grad School

I am applying to grad school for the Fall 2014 semester, and therefore am losing / have lost my mind. In lieu of a nervous breakdown, here is a financial one

Every Job I’ve Had: Publishing, Teaching, and the Inevitability of Grad School

I got my first ever paying job through a family friend. My mom’s college friend ran a (now defunct) television production company specializing in lowbrow A&E Biography specials (RIP), afternoon cooking shows for the Food Network, and occasional documentaries for HBO. I was shy and willing to earn minimum wage spending all summer inside, reading the internet. My first summer, I pitched subjects for a Biography special on murderers. I spent a lot of time on Crime Library, got familiar with the filming policies for both federal and assorted state prisons, and eventually one of my suggestions became a TV episode! “First Person Killers: Ronald DeFeo,” (about the guy who inspired The Amityville Horror) aired sometime in 2006, and I have still never seen it.

Crop Tops Cropped from College, Education = Reparations?, Academic Rejection vs Other Kinds

+ UT-Austin signs tell women how to dress so as not to be distracting and, according to Jezebel, crop tops are out.

Here are the things you cannot wear, if you want to learn to be a nurse at the University of Texas:

Midriff-baring shirts Short-shorts Low-rise pants Low-cut shirts that reveal cleavage

My K-12 religious school had a dress code that prohibited all of these things and I still feel funny if I wear them. My mind has been warped forever on the issue of modesty, which means I can’t be trusted to know whether this is egregious. Dress codes! Always unfair, if they’re only targeted at women? Justified in a context that has something to do with God, or taxes, or death? Can we trust students at a certain age to know how to dress appropriately and/or to not get life-threateningly distracted by a glimpse of skin?

+ Uh oh. STEM magic doesn’t work as well for black folks.

NYU Now the Only Private University With Unionized TA’s

Good news for NYU grad students: representatives voted 620 to 10 last night to unionize, and will become the first students at a private university who will bargain collectively for their work conditions (this is much less rare at public schools). The union falls under a branch of the United Auto Workers, one that represents 45,000 academic workers.

Mind the Gap (Year): Taking Time To Tend to a Dying Parent

If you had asked me in the summer of 2011 where I thought I’d be in a year, I would have said living a queer artist’s life in San Francisco, “writing” my dissertation. Instead, I spent the summer of 2012 moving my parents out of their retirement property in South Florida -- think Boca but not nearly as bougie -- and bringing them back to New York, where my brother and I had grown up.

Pay to Play in Business School

Business School is not just about the degree but about the experience, which means students shell out tens of thousands of dollars above and beyond tuition, whether they have the money or not. Are the extracurricular activities worth going (further) into debt for?

In many M.B.A. programs, lifestyle experiences are gaining on academic ones in importance, as seen in much busier evening and weekend schedules of bars, parties and trips, says Jeremy Shinewald, founder of mbaMission, an M.B.A. admissions consulting firm based in New York. “My father went to business school a generation ago as a married 25-year-old, and I can assure you he has no stories of jetting off to Vegas for the weekend,” says Mr. Shinewald, who is 38.

The trips usually aren’t free, often adding a shadow budget to an already expensive M.B.A. “I would say that $5,000 total for two years is a low to moderate budget, but is one that would still allow a student to experience significant social and academic travel opportunities,” says Mr. Shinewald, whose firm works with M.B.A. applicants. At the high end, $20,000 to $30,000 for two years is not uncommon, he says.

Some of the trips are vacations, excuses sponsored by Rolex for the rich, or proto-rich, to have fun. Still, even those are bonding-experiences; those trips, and the others that are more straightforwardly career-oriented, alike help students network with each other and with future employers. So plenty of students suck up the costs, thinking of them as an “investment.”

In 2003, Mr. Caballero, then a second-year student at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., received internship offers from Intel and Cisco Systems after leading a career trek to Silicon Valley. “I got interviews at firms, and I certainly feel more comfortable reaching out to the people I went on the career trek with for favors than the average classmate,” says Mr. Caballero, 36, now vice president for programming at the nonprofit Venture for America, based in New York.

Did you try B-school? Was this your experience? Or is it emblematic of why you’d rather get Rubella than an MBA?

Last Hundred Bucks: Graduate School Finals Edition

I took out one hundred dollars in cash on Black Wednesday and didn't spend it. Then I decided to go full-on hermit (and straight-edge!) for finals, making it easy to keep track of where the cash went (which, let’s face it, I was stressed so my spending was focused on eating).