Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D.

Author: Robert Peters
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by lost_molecules   2019-07-21

I fucking love it! (I just started though, so my viewpoint might change in a few years, haha.) I finally get to be around people who share the same passion and interests as I do. Are there moments where I hate my life? Sure, but stress in life is a given. All I know it that I'd rather be doing this than anything else (housewife, office job, retail, etc.). Here's a book I recommend that helped me conceptualize grad school better before I committed: https://www.amazon.com/Getting-What-You-Came-Students/dp/0374524777

by lost_molecules   2019-07-21

Some thoughts:

  1. Yes, grad school will take over your life. But if you like the academia setting, then you'll probably like it. Also ask yourself, what else would you rather do as a career if money wasn't a huge priority? Work in an office? Be an Instagram model? Housewife/husband? Teacher? What sort of *environment* do you want to be in? BTW, I still have friends and a social life, so it's not all work work work. You can have an apartment, a dog, and bike cross country while being a grad student...
  2. You're smart for choosing Biochem as a BS because it will give you flexibility for going into different fields (medicine, biotechnology, genetics, toxicology, biomed engineering, nutrition, pharmacy, etc.). Usually, you don't go into the same field you majored in. Your PhD is supposed to be more specialized. Pick an idea/project that will interest and challenge you. What do you care about? Helping people? Saving polar bears? Treating cancer? Solving crime? Making drugs? Fitness? Use that as a jumping point to narrow down your interests.
  3. Please take a gap year (or 2). I took 2 before college and another one before grad school to "live my life." You need to figure this ALL out before you commit. Don't apply yet, but start studying for the GRE and lining up who will write your letters of rec. Financially, STEM PhD's have decent stipends so you'll be ok. Also, grad students get to travel, like, a lot. There'll be conferences to attend and travel grants to apply for so you'll get to travel for free essentially. See if you can apply for an REU. It'll give you a taste of grad-level research and they usually pay well.
  4. Do you actually dislike interacting with others? In STEM, there's a lot of collaboration. However, on the flipside, I've spent many a lonely day (and night) in the lab doing solo experiments. You can get an MS, which is less of a commitment and might give you a slight edge. However, those usually aren't funded. But maybe you can find an employer who will pay for it if you're in the healthcare field.

Your research will not likely change or influence the world, lol, so no need to be motivated by that.

Lastly, read this book. It will seriously answer all your questions: https://www.amazon.com/Getting-What-You-Came-Students/dp/0374524777

by neuromantik8086   2018-07-26
Most incoming grad students enter PhD programs with incorrect assumptions about how grad school works. A decent number of those incorrect assumptions involve the grad student role itself. For instance, I knew of a research assistant headed to grad school who was thrilled because he/she liked to learn in classroom environments, which is only a very small part of what grad school is at best (although coming out of undergrad, you might assume that it's a bigger part of a PhD than it is).

All prospective grad students should read over the following to understand what they're truly getting into / developing realistic expectations before committing a substantial amount of their life to the Ivory Tower. The first link covers toxicity in academia (YMMV), which is more or less what drove me out of lab work and into IT. I personally chose to remain working in academia because I find it meaningful, but in a role that was more insulated from academic politics (vs generic work politics).

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Getting-What-You-Came-Students/dp/037...

[2] http://100rsns.blogspot.com/