Don’t you just hate doubt? It quietly nags at you then gets louder over time until you’re totally unsure of yourself or your plans. I’ve been feeling that way about grad school and I hate to admit it. I’ve always been so sure of grad school and becoming a prof. Now that it’s time to apply to grad school, however, I’m not feeling completely sure of my decision.
On the one hand, I could just be nervous and it’s manifesting itself as doubt. Grad school truly is a serious undertaking. It’s a big commitment of both time and money…and oh yea, it’s really hard. On the other hand, I could doubt what I’m doing because maybe it’s not right for me. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life studying economics? Am I just trying to delay real life? Do I only want to stay in school because it’s what I’ve always done?
This is completely normal behaviour. Every big decision comes with at least a little bit of doubt because hey, it’s a big decision! I’m deciding what to do with my career, at least for the next several years, and that in turn will dictate a lot in my life. It’s also the biggest decision that I’ve had to face alone. I know that I’ve got my parents to help me out and my friends to rely on but the decision as to my life’s direction falls down to me. I want to make the decision for myself but do I really know what I’m doing?
If you’re going through the same doubts, whether it’s about grad school or your program or whatever you’re going through, don’t despair. Your heart is demanding some soul-searching before you make this big decision. Set aside some time to reflect on what you really want from life and if grad school aligns with that desire. Take an active part in thinking about every angle of the decision until you’re satisfied with your answer. Also, don’t forget that if it comes down to it, you can always change your mind. For example, you can apply to grad school now and reject an offer in the future if that’s what you want to do.
Are you having any doubts? How do you deal with them?
Not only does grad school take all your time, it also takes all your money. You’re probably no stranger to giving your money to your school but higher degrees make it much more difficult. You’ll be faced with the double whammy of larger tuition fees and no time to take on an extra job. Of course, you can get a TA or RA position, but that money will not cover all your expenses. Schools themselves do offer scholarships but there’s only so much money to go around.
It’s time to think outside of the box…or more specifically, outside of the school. There are various opportunities for funding your education that you’ll have to search out and work for. The Canadian government offers grants through three different councils, depending on what your program is. I’m currently in the process of applying for funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Some provincial governments, like Ontario for example, also offer funding opportunities. These applications often involve getting various reference letters, writing about the research you want to do in grad school, and listing how awesome you are (awards, publications, etc.). You apply for these awards through your school, so contact your department to find out about deadlines and any info sessions they may hold. Don’t delay – deadlines will be coming up within the next two months!
Competition is fierce and the awards are pretty huge (ex. SSHRC’s award for Master’s students is $17,500 for the year!) so it’s worth starting your applications now so you can ensure that they’re perfect by the time you send them out. Best of luck!
Just got back home from my first day of school for the year! Even though I’ve done the back-to-school thing numerous times, it never gets old for me. Hanging around campus just feels so academic and inspiring to me. I can’t help it. This year will really outdo them all, and so what if I say that every year?
Currently, apart from my thesis, I’m only registered for a fourth year econometrics course. It was a standard first class where we went through the syllabus and did some review. It was a very fast-paced review of a lot of info…sign of things to come? I’m hoping to also get into a math course that’s currently full. It’s a tough course so somebody should (hopefully) get scared and drop it. Sooner rather than later, please.
I also had a thesis meeting where I finally nailed down my top for real this time. I’ve already got my data and some great research started so I’m on the right track. Next up is to complete my prospectus, which is basically to prove to the B.A. Supervisor that I’ve done enough work by now to complete the thesis by the end of this semester. My thesis is due Dec 5th so I still have a lot of work to get done by then but I know I’ll be fine.
Apart from all the school stuff, I also visited a Cancer Society fundraiser run by the international sororities on campus. The girls ran a carnival-themed event with various games and activities. As an alumna of one of the organizations, I volunteered to bake cookies for the bake sale. Great way to kick off the year!
How was your first day back to school?
This past week, I discovered that I had to pick a new thesis topic. I was having a lot of trouble finding enough data to work with so, after some discussion, my supervisor and I decided I’d be better off picking something else to work on. Stressful? Absolutely! It could be worse though. It’s better to discover data problems now instead of later, when I’m halfway through my thesis and may not have time to start from scratch.
Setbacks happen all the time in research. You need to safeguard yourself as much as possible. For example, if you require data, look for it before you do too much on the literature review side. I’m happy I did because I saved myself from a future headache and also learned a valuable lesson in the process. You can’t guarantee that you’ll find reliable data or enough data points to support your work so make no assumptions. Keeping an open line of communication with your supervisor is essential so that you can identify and resolve issues quickly.
If you come up against an issue with your research, don’t think that it’s the end of the world. Make a decision about how to tackle the issue, even if it means picking another topic (ugh), and move forward. You can do it!
Got a thesis horror story? Please share!