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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:13 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
I also just don't know if I am cut out for a PhD. I know that I am only one year in out of five years total... but it's hard, and daunting, and I often feel lost. Being a work horse for another company seems compelling, but then again, the grass is always greener? Is it not?


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:58 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:57 am
Posts: 368
You are, thus far, mainly listing the "pros" of the non-academic job and the "cons" of the academic life. You've got a clear grasp of the "cons" of academic life. Make sure you talk to someone in academia about the "pros" of that life before you decide. Your advisor, perhaps? One of the professors whose course you just completed? Ask someone to have coffee and chat with you. And what are the downsides of the other job, aside from working a 55-hour week? I realize you may already have done this tally, of course, and just not shared it fully with us.

Not everyone loves academia. It's perfectly OK to go do something else! If you are really unhappy now, after only one year, believe me, you will probably not be able to complete a dissertation. The diss is incredibly difficult to get through even for those who are head over heels in love with their subject, their discipline, and the academic life. On the other hand, grad school is meant to be challenging. If you like the challenges, both intellectual and emotional, stick with it for another year and see how you feel.

Cheers,
Professor Cecily


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:09 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
Thanks for the information Prof. C,
When I sit down to read journal articles, and I get into a state of flow around my topic of interest, I really do enjoy what I am reading! I think about all the ways I can incorporate these ideas into technology to improve education. I think about all the ways that this research can be influential. I started an outline today for a conference submission that's due in a month, and I am excited to work on it more. I like the travel of academia. I like the stipend that I am getting, and the ability to create my own schedule (although, i need to make it an 8 to 7 kind of deal for consistency). Also being here means more government student loans to pay off private loans. Not a reason to stay, but a plus. It also means deferment.

I think I am just a bit hung up on the salaries of my peers at my age, and I also feel trapped by this debt, because anything else that I go and do has to make me GOOD money, or I will never escape the debt.

I also do really like the idea of generating brand new knowledge. My specific focus is already very fresh and not many people are working in it. My adviser seems excited about it. Tenure is great job security. I am being paid to learn! I love reading.

As a human, I am learning that my whole life has previously been filled with impatience and impulsive decisions (that explains my debt to some extent!), and so I think it's time to focus, take things slow, and maybe on the weekends look for other ACTUAL jobs on the market that I could apply for, instead of being so instantaneous about leaving now.

Once I get close to writing and finishing I can decide if private or academic jobs are right for me then.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:04 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
Thanks arzu.
I think I need to re-evaluate my budget. I don't have enough money for healthy foods, and I am so penny-pinching it's making me depressed.
I need to relax a little.
Thanks again for your kind words.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:15 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
Ok Prof. C, advice here...
This past week was terrible. I've hit a major depression, and the therapist I see at our universities counseling center suggested meds. I'm now on zoloft for depression. No, it's not entirely related to my PhD program, but I know the stress has brought it out in me much more then ever before. I spent an entire day in bed. That's never happened.

Frankly I'm terribly lost on my research, and I think I have some how gotten on my advisor's bad side. He loved me last semester, but this past semester I don't think I have been as productive as he hoped for. My current project is really going nowhere and I kind of bombed a presentation recently in our lab meeting (tons of feedback... I felt ill after... lab mate could tell and took me for a beer).

I am setting up a meeting to talk with him this Tuesday, but he is incredibly intimidating, and always seems to want to rush me away. He also is busier and managing more people than he ever has before. I'm going to try to bring something constructive to look at with him, but honestly my data is a mess.

I get this overwhelming sense that he wants me gone. I've already started applying for jobs back home on the side. Doesn't it look bad for him if I leave?


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 4:20 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
I've thought about talking to him, but apparently he has a reputation for being very "business is business" and "personal life is personal life"

I get that sense from him as well... I'm terrified to tell him because he might just hold it against me. Pissing off or making a graduate advisor dislike you is bad news in academia, I've been told.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 7:50 pm 

Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 11:56 am
Posts: 132
I don't know the guy but there are plenty of people who don't like to hear excuses of any kind, but I agree - don't let one impatient advisor make your decision for you. If you choose to pursue jobs in the private sector do it because it's your choice. I do think you're right about not burning your bridges, at least not until you're sure which direction you want to take.

After reading your journal I kinda want to tell you to stop, take a step back and breathe. Yes, you have a lot of debt, but you have a plan and are tackling it already; in fact it sounds like you're in control. Planning for the future and preparing for worst case scenarios is good, but let yourself consider the best case scenarios too and figure the actual case is somewhere in between.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:22 am 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
Yes. yes. yes. breathe..... that's a hard one for me to do. I will try.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:04 am 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
So, I'm struggling to understand my family. Many of them are in debt and still spend lavishly, and I find it really hard to relate to their advice now that I am recognizing my debt. I know deep down that it is wise to get out of debt as quickly as possible, but the family keeps telling me to stop worrying about it, and to just enjoy life now. I had a family member visit and take me out to dinner last night, and she must have spent over $120. She's in debt. I couldn't understand, and I actually had resentment in my heart. I was grateful for the meal, but she has kids and they are spoiled. Basically anything they want.

It's not healthy for them to grow up that way! It's kind of infuriating. I think I'm holding onto this too much, but they are family.

Advice on how to handle family members? Is this just a case of learning to let go?


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:10 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 6:57 am
Posts: 368
Hi there,

Sorry -- have been away for a few days! How'd the conversation with your advisor go?

I find myself wondering whether there is someone else you can talk to confidentially about at least the academic side of your worries. Is there a director of graduate studies in your department? Or another professor who is more approachable than your advisor? I think you need a couple of things. First, you need to get a bead on your advisor from somebody else who has known him for a while: to confirm whether or not you are going to tick him off if you talk to him about your difficulties, and whether or not he's just brusque because he's very busy. Second, it might well be you would be happier with another advisor, one who has more time to help you find your feet academically, work with you a bit more closely, without resentment. The director of graduate studies ought to be able to help you with that.

You say you feel lost on the project. It would help to be more specific when you chat with anyone about this. Are the overall goals of the project unclear? Or are you stumped as to why you are using this particular method? Or are you unclear about what you are supposed to be doing? Or did your results just not tally with what you expected?

Some professors (at one end of the spectrum) expect graduate students to function as extensions of themselves without requiring any direction; others (at the other end) are willing to acknowledge that academic research is a skill acquired over time and with help. It sounds like you need an advisor who skews to the latter end of things...

Good luck and keep us posted.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:46 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:37 am
Posts: 446
Hmm. So many topics, so little time. Since you lament about being naive, I'll try to give you some information I would have liked when I was in grad school. Like other people saying here, your graduate work "is" your job. Treat it like one. It worries me that in the first year you are already thinking you may take longer than 5 years to get your degree. Not a good approach. It is not only your investment but the institution is investing in you (by paying a stipend), and your advisor his/her time so you can either teach, do research, or do something otherwise great with your life that reflects well on them. They are NOT going to tell you that many people in grad school drop out before getting a degree, and that an even smaller percent can get work as a professor let alone tenured professor (though that's what EVERY advisor will tell you you what you are working towards). If you want to be a professor, you have to work towards it throughout grad school. Have an advisor who is well known or even a superstar in their field, be their slave (I mean this in a kind way) work on projects that will lead to presentations or publications. If you do get a professorship, the actual work is long hours for not spectacular pay. It is all about delayed gratification. So if you are interested in getting out of debt as soon as possible, and being a millionare, maybe the academic field is not your best fit. There is nothing wrong with that. But be honest with yourself. Usually in every department there is a liason for the students. Lay it out with them. Saying that you have high debt, and you are distracted by it, that you are not sure if you want to go into an academic field, or the private sector, but you need something that will be financially strong. At the very least you may be able to get advisment on a graduate career/skills that best translate to a non-academic path if you end up changing your mind. It is better to explore these things now, than spend 5 years (or more) trying to please other people, or staying in grad school simply to defer loans. Bottom line, graduate school is a lot like real life, while they will let your float almost indefinitely, you have to demand what you want or need out of it, and pursue that, or if it is not working, change it.


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:30 am 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 10:05 am
Posts: 960
DebGrad64 - You are not alone. There have been peole in your situation before that have pushed through the hard times and succeeded.

I worked full-time 40-60 hours a week and went to grad school for my MBA. Three semesters (the last three) were really tough as I took a full load of classes and worked about 50 hours a week. Plus I commuted to class at night 3 times during the week (love traffic btw - not) and went at least once a week to meet for groups on projects on the weekend. It was tough but temporary.

Have you set out and written goals for the short-term(less than a year), mid-term(one to 5 years), and long term(5 years plus)? Having a clear sense of direction might help.

I hear you on the frustration with family. My parents have handled money well but I have extended family that has not. This has transferred over to my generation with my cousins making one bad financial decision after another. Bottom line is you can't affect other people's behavior - just your own.

What do you do for fun? There are some fun and cheap hobbies/activities out there. See this thread.

How often do you exercise? Exercise relieves stress like nothing else.

Chin up! Be encouraged! Today is a new day! ;)

_________________
~ Eagle


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:17 pm 

Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 7:40 pm
Posts: 67
Wow thanks everyone this has been great to read this feedback.

@ Prof C - My advisor and I talked this past Monday, and he honestly seemed perfectly fine. We talked about my data, he was laughing about things in life in general, and I kept thinking "What has been wrong with me? Why was I perceiving him so negatively?" I have not told him about my fears or concerns about the program/quitting. My mood has improved a lot lately and I think that I was simply in a summer slump. I mentioned previously that I needed to go to the mental health clinic and they've put me on Zoloft. It's been really helpful at helping me get back on my feet/eat healthy/exercise/etc, and I don't think the major cause of my depression was related to school, to be honest, but past family /personal life troubles. Nonetheless, I'm gearing up to write my first paper (1st author hopefully) in a peer reviewed journal, which would be a good way to begin my second year. I've switched my work location to the library, where I am more productive as well. I also chatted on the phone with my old advisor from my undergrad research years, who gave me perspective on academia and told me that his second year was when he thought about quitting. It put things into perspective. Overall, I'm much happier and less depressed. I've also decided that I need to keep asking questions and being assertive with my advisor. He's never once told me that I am being too "needy" in any way. It's always been in my head.

@partygypsy - Thanks for the feedback, and the push to be proactive now. I am almost certain I don't want to be a professor, but the skills I obtain here could be useful for government or even private sector work. I will find those people that I need to talk to and make it happen. I also want to look for "role models" in the real world who obtained a similar degree to mine, who I can learn from by reading their stories.

@Eagle - Thanks for the support! I do need to work harder and push harder and know that others have done this before and I can do it too! I think my mind simply went through such a state of shock when I realized "oh no! I have to pay off all these silly loans by myself now!"
It will happen. It will. I will make it happen!


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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:41 am 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 10:05 am
Posts: 960
Eagle wrote:
Have you set out and written goals for the short-term(less than a year), mid-term(one to 5 years), and long term(5 years plus)? Having a clear sense of direction might help.


----------x-----x------------

DebtGrad64 wrote:
Wow thanks everyone this has been great to read this feedback.

@Eagle - Thanks for the support! I do need to work harder and push harder and know that others have done this before and I can do it too! I think my mind simply went through such a state of shock when I realized "oh no! I have to pay off all these silly loans by myself now!"

It will happen. It will. I will make it happen!


Your welcome! Glad things are going better. Remember no matter what everything we face are just seasons in life. This too will pass as my Dad always would tell me. This thread reminded me of something I developed a few years back. This is a very simple yet useful tool I developed in 2005 while putting into practice some of the concepts found in "The One Minute Manager" by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson.

I've shared it with several people in person. The first two phases should take between 15 and 30 minutes. Trust me it is well worth your time. After sharing the idea with one or two people it was suggested I create a generic "how to" and so here it is...

Since I didn't want to highjack your thread I started another one here. This might be very helpful to you. If not no worries. What do you think? ;)

_________________
~ Eagle


Last edited by Eagle on Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: My DebtJournal out of 100K of Undergrad Loans
PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:56 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:37 am
Posts: 446
I'm glad things are going better for you. I wasn't trying to beat you up. If it makes you feel any better, at the end of my first year in grad school I was in the graduate liason's office, basically in tears, ready to give up as well.

I did finish graduate school, but I didn't really do it strategically at ALL (no 5 year plan, no clear idea what I was doing once I was out of grad school) so I know I didn't get as much out of my graduate school experience as I could have. But hindsight is 20/20.


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