Posted by: unlikelygrad | April 4, 2009

I am so confused.

CloseU managed to find some funding for me–not a lot, but nothing to sneeze at, either. So now I have no reason to turn them down on that account.

My visit yesterday was…interesting, I guess. I found a guy I wouldn’t mind working with. However, he has no funding and therefore couldn’t guarantee that he could put me on the potential project which really interests me. Overall I only felt lukewarm about the program.

On the other hand, CloseU is based in the city I’d most like to live in.

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Responses

  1. Hi unlikelygrad,

    I somehow found your blog from wandering around the net. From reading your family profile, I see that you probably already have a pretty good idea regarding the ways of academia; nevertheless, I do have a couple of thoughts on your decision.

    First, something about myself. I was an unlikely grad student as well. I got a bachelor’s in history from a small east coast school and then went on to law school. Then in my mid-30’s, while being an unhappy lawyer, I did the post-bac thing at a bay area Cal State school (in physics.) Took the physics GRE and then ended up at a large physics program in Southern California (one of the so-called top 20 programs in the 1995 NRC study.) I’ve finished my Ph.D. last year in high energy.

    It’s extremely important to have funding as well as an advisor who cares about you, your work, and your career prospects. In my case, my advisor’s DOE funding was cut off early on and I had to TA undergrads and grads during most of my grad school career. While being a TA is a wonderful experience to learn the relevant subjects in depth and a good way to gain teaching experience, it also can significantly delay progress in your research.

    In addition, my advisor was more into departmental administration rather than research; that meant I recevied little guidance from him and this further delayed my efforts to complete the degree.

    So the moral of the story is to pick your advisor very carefully. (But when you first enter the program you need to concentrate on passing the qualifying exams at the end of your first year.)

    Finally, do not worry about the location of the school in relation to where you’ll eventully end up. Whether you pursue work in academia or elsewhere, you’ll most likely end up in a different location. The vast majority of the people who entered the program with me are now elsewhere (in and out of US,) though I’m still trying valiantly to stay in the same city.

    The grad school expereicence that meant the most for me is not the accomplishment of finishing the Ph.D. (though that is not insignifcant especially after a long slog,) but that I learned enough about an area of human knowledge that fascinated me since childhood such that I have the skills to continue to learn about it for the rest of my life.

    I likely may not find your blog again, so let me just wish you luck in your future endeavors. Also, you should make use of your friends and family for some honest advise whenever you find a need for it; make sure they don’t just tell you what you want to hear.

    Cheers!


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