Why getting a PhD could be the stupidest mistake

I’m fully aware of the 10% (tenure-track) employment rate; the loneliness; the poverty; the depression; the overqualification; the emotional rollercoaster; the self-loath; the 50% dropout rate; the slavery; and the strip of professional aura.

But there is nothing else I’d rather do. All I know is, if I give up at this stage for security, I’ll hate myself later in life. Even if I become a cool CEO one day, even if I have a nice house, a loving family, flashy clothes and handbags, I know every time when I hear the word “university”, I’ll be reminded of how I took the easy route and never had the chance to be who I wanted to be.

So, still here? Is there a good reason to pursue a doctorate? Yes, I think–and this is just my own opinion–that there are two good reasons. First, you love to do research. You aren’t just a curious person–everyone says they are a curious person–you live on curiosity and Top Ramen. You do not care particularly about being rich, but you want to be challenged every day. You are passionate about learning and helping others to learn. You will need that passion to sustain yourself through the idiocy, politics, and bureaucracy of the typical doctoral program. Doctoral programs virtually guarantee stress beyond what you have experienced before, which accounts for the strange bestiary that is the typical university faculty.

Second, you like spending most of your life around people who are smarter and more driven than you are. If you are used to being the smartest person in the room, get over it. (Contrariwise, if you think everyone who pursues a Ph.D. is brilliant, be prepared to be disabused of that notion. Many of the brightest people said “screw this” several paragraphs ago and are signing up for the GMAT/LSAT/MCAT as you are reading.) That was really important for me, because I am naturally both lazy and competitive. If there aren’t people around me doing really interesting stuff, I am less likely to be doing so. There was something really exciting to me about being in a room with people who were likely to change the world, and hoping that I could too

Prof.  Alexander Halavais, Arizona State University

I will take this 10% chance to actualize my dream than living a complacent life. It’s not like I’ve never beaten this odd before.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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