Whether you are in a Ph.D program in Philosophy or completing your Master’s degree in Classics, you can be sure that it will be a lot of hard work. If you are passionate about the subject and career path you have chosen, however, it can be a very exciting and rewarding endeavor.
While you may have anticipated the long hours of research, strict deadlines, meager financial compensation, and all of the other typical obstacles and responsibilities related to grad school, one aspect that may have come as a surprise is dealing with discouragement, overwhelming frustration, and depression. Long hours in the lab or library, an overwhelmingly packed schedule, or even dissatisfaction with your academic performance can all contribute to an unnecessarily stressful experience. On top of all of these things, graduate students focusing on subjects in the liberal or fine arts are often confronted with an extra dose of negativity. Pessimistic attitudes, both on and off campus, regarding the value of an advanced degree in the arts and the future of stable employment opportunities can be quite discouraging. This negativity has intensified over the past few years, as cuts to education and an unstable economic climate have increased. This leaves many idealistic grad students questioning whether or not all of their hard work, emotional and mental investment, and extra stress are worth it.
If this strikes a chord with you, please be assured that you are not alone! It is almost inevitable that most grad students will go through periods of discouragement and insecurity. One thing that may serve as a starting point for a more positive experience is to think back to the time when you first decided to attend graduate school… Why did you do it? Were you always super interested in the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe or the philosophical stylings of Michel Foucault? Did you discover your passion for archaeology after watching Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones? It may sound silly, but it is important to remember WHY you decided to dedicate so much time, effort, and resources into your graduate program. Remembering the original source of your scholastic motivation and passion, and keeping it in the forefront of your mind, will provide a solid foundation for greater success and happiness in grad school.
Before you decide that your dream job as a Religious Studies professor will certainly be a thing of the past by the time you actually finish your degree, think of it this way: While it seems like the world is changing so rapidly, one thing that will not likely change any time soon is human nature. The fascination that we all have to learn and explore our world has driven the pathways of life for all of recorded history. There will always be a need for information exchange and expertise. Although a leaner economic climate may signify a more competitive job market, a positive and motivated attitude (in addition to your academic credentials, of course) will give you a strong advantage when the time comes to find a job. A confident and driven graduate will look much more appealing to prospective universities and secular employers than a jaded, stressed-out grad.
This website is designed to be an encouraging and uplifting resource for those who have committed to taking the plunge into the academic abyss. The articles, tools, and tips listed on this site are aimed at helping you become a more positive and successful graduate student. There are a plethora of articles and anecdotes that you can find online that feed into a cynical view of grad school. While it can be entertaining at times to wallow in our own pity and laugh at ourselves, these resources are not going to help you stay motivated when it really counts. Hopefully, you will gain helpful and unconventional advice from this site that will help you succeed in your endeavors.
Keeping a positive outlook is an ongoing process, but it will help you to achieve your academic and professional goals. The path that you have chosen is not an easy one, especially if you want a career in academia. However, it CAN be done! You have already demonstrated that you have the courage to follow your dreams by taking the road less travelled (and a bit rockier). By building confidence and refining your goals, you can achieve success in your graduate program and beyond. It is all up to you, no matter what anyone else tells you!
Website by Heather Blanchard
- grad student and perpetual academic idealist