Unfortunately, this is a tough subject to talk about, but one that is important. If you are asking yourself “should I drop out of grad school?”, you are either 1) actually considering it or 2) just a typical grad student lol. If you are seriously considering dropping out of grad school, then you are in the right place. I am not here to stop you from doing it, but I do want to bring up some things that may make you reconsider. Grad school is hard, life is short, and you deserve to be happy, regardless of some stupid degree.
Anyway, today we are going to focus on the age old question “should I drop out of grad school?” lol. It is a very difficult question to ask yourself and you will have to consider quite a few things before you go through the process of leaving. I will discuss some of those things to consider in this article. So, let us take a look at some of the reasons why you would even want to consider dropping out of grad school.
Reasons to drop out of grad school
SO, there are quite a few reasons to go to grad school. There are quite a few reasons to stay in grad school and of course, there are a bunch of reasons to leave grad school and drop out.
1) Your goals have changed
So , you may have started your grad school tenure with the goal of becoming a professor or getting a really good job in the field that you are getting a degree in. Over the course of the 3 to 8 years of grad school, you found that what you are going to school for is not your calling. Trust me, it happens way more than you think. This usually occurs when you are doing a PhD. A PhD usually takes a very long time and that gives you plenty of time to change up what you want to do in life. This reason to leave the program is completely justifiable and you should not feel ashamed if you fall in this category.
I would suggest at least making sure you get your master’s degree while in school. You will be surprised that just holding a master’s degree will get you plenty of jobs later on and there’s always a bump in pay. This is true even if your degree doesn’t have anything to do with the career you are in. Always get the master’s lol.
2) You don’t get along with your adviser
So, this one can either be used to justify leaving or moving to another department. A huge component of passing grad school is working with your adviser and, at least, somewhat getting along. I know of people who had to leave their current studies because, no matter what they did, they could never please their adviser and always butt heads. Sometimes the advisers can be too much and in some cases abusive towards their students. This is a very good reason to leave them.
I would suggest, before leaving and dropping out of grad school, you search for an adviser that you will get along with. It is totally fine to switch departments or even colleges if you have to. Just not getting along with your adviser really isn’t the best reason for leaving grad school completely. If you are serious about your research, I highly suggest choosing the option of finding someone else.
3) Grad school is making you sick
Now, I am not saying that grad school is making you feel ill, well maybe, but I am primarily talking about mental health. If grad school is making you severely ill (mentally), you may need to reconsider it. I truly believe that reaching out for help should be the first thing to do. Getting professional help during grad school is probably the best thing I ever did and one of the best things you can ever do. If you want to read more about my experience with therapy in grad school, check out my blog post on it (link here).
Mental health needs to be your primary focus when taking care of yourself. The amount of isolation can really take it’s toll on your well being. If you have tried everything, and I mean everything, and grad school is just destroying your mental health, then you might need to consider the option of leaving. Grad school is not worth it in the end if you are going to be depressed. Trust me on this, your mental health is way more important than some stupid degree.
4) You can’t afford to live
So, you are going to be pretty poor in grad school. In some cases, you might have to eat ramen a few nights in order to get by. It happens, we hate it, unfortunately it’s part of the process. If you are having to give up on your physical health, mental health, and well being just to be able to afford rent, you may need to reconsider some things. Loans are definitely an option that I wish wasn’t one, but this might need to be taken into consideration if you are skipping meals or whole days of food just to be able to pay rent. I know people that live in very old, run down, apartments because that’s all they can afford.
Yes, you can get another job outside academia (unless you’re an international student. They can’t have second jobs.) and you can get more money. But that might push back graduation. If you get to a position where you are not able to eat or live in a safe environment, I would suggest looking for a different field to go into that pays more or just getting a master’s and leaving. Some of the very long PhDs are also some of the lousiest paying. 8 years of work at minimum wage might not be worth it, especially if you are in a field that might not have a lot of money for you coming out of college.
Things to consider first before dropping out of Grad School
There are many things that you need to conder before you decide whether to drop out of grad school. This is a big decision and it should not be made in one day. In fact, taking a whole semester to decide is probably best.
1) Will leaving affect future goals
Sometimes we make decisions off of emotions. I know that I do all of the time. This is a decision that should not be made because you had a bad day in grad school. We all have bad days, but we don’t want to mess up out future goals because of one bad day. When considering dropping out of grad school, consider your goals. Will they be influenced by this decision? If you have your heart set on being a profession, you know that dropping out will influence that. You can’t be one unless you get a PhD. If you want to be an engineer, dropping out may not hurt you at all and you can go on to having a fulfilling career. Take this into consideration when making this decision.
2) How will others react and be affected
So, this one is a consideration, but not a big one. If you have thought it through and you find leaving the absolute best option, don’t worry about what other’s think. You are making this decision for yourself. Unless it affects them, then don’t care. If this decision does affect them, say a spouse or a child, then you have to take them into consideration. This decision could mean that they might need to support you while you search for jobs. It could mean you having to move and that affects them just as much as you. Leaving academia is a huge decision and I know you’ll talk it over with others first.
3) Is it absolutely the right thing to do
Really, really consider this. I mean, sleep on it for weeks if you have to. Going to grad school might have been the best thing for you. Having a bad semester is not a reason to leave but having a few bad years and realizing that grad school wasn’t the best thing for you is a good reason to leave. Is leaving the right thing for you? That is for you to decide.
I hope you don’t consider leaving grad school and I hope you finish everything you started. Grad school is a hard and strenuous task, but I know you can do it. I am here to root you on and help you if you need the help. If you feel like you are in a position where you are thinking of leaving, please consider reaching out to me to talk about it. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would gladly talk about your options. The very last thing I want is for you to feel alone in this decision.
Anyway, I hope you all have had a wonderful day and week. This post was a late one for me. Usually I write in the mornings but I decided to write in the evening. I hope you found this post enlightening and I will see you in the next one. If you haven’t already, go check out my blog about the best coffee and coffee gadgets for grad school (link here). Peace!