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anon143

Worth finishing Masters?

8 posts in this topic

Hi everyone, 

I'm starting a Clinical Psychology PhD program at the end of the month.  I've been debating whether it's worth it to finish a Master of Liberal Arts degree (Psychology concentration) from Harvard Extension School.  

  • I'm going to get a masters en route to the PhD anyway (hopefully, if all goes well)
  • The adviser is not easy to work with, and there are many students who agree with me.  There is only *one* adviser for all of psychology, and she appears to have limited capacity in understanding certain research domains.  Which is understandable, given that her adviser role at this unusual program is different from the usual MA/MS thesis path. (How can there be only one adviser for all psych students who are likely interested in many different topics?)  But basically, she has been a roadblock.  I proposed a study that utilized a pre-existing dataset, and she called it the "reverse" way of getting to an idea.. which I do understand, but I know PLENTY of students use already-collected data for masters! Then, I proposed another idea but it turns out is just a bit too complex. So that one is partly my fault, and definitely something for me to keep in mind for the future reg my PhD  Anyway, this back and forth and trying to develop a proposal to her liking spans almost two years. 

Is it even worth finishing this degree? It would be nice to keep the Harvard email address, attend the huge graduation, and have a degree I worked very hard to get..

 I had hoped to be significantly on my way to getting the Masters by this point, but I got in a PhD program without it, so will affect me in the future?  Are there are any other good reasons for me to complete it? 

 

Thanks! 

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14 minutes ago, anon143 said:

Is it even worth finishing this degree? It would be nice to keep the Harvard email address, attend the huge graduation, and have a degree I worked very hard to get..

 I had hoped to be significantly on my way to getting the Masters by this point, but I got in a PhD program without it, so will affect me in the future?  Are there are any other good reasons for me to complete it? 

For what it's worth, in a similar situation (advisor delaying progress toward my thesis with basically everything else done for the MA), I chose not to finish the degree. I realized that finishing (if possible, which frankly wasn't obvious) would have meant working non-stop with someone who is being an obstructionist and basically not having any kind of break leading up to starting my very intensive PhD program. I reached out to my new PhD program to ask if it would matter to them if I didn't finish, since my application did mention a projected graduation date, and they said it didn't matter as far as they were concerned. I put the MA "on hold" (an administrative process which would have allowed me to come back and finish it within some amount of time, in the event that the PhD didn't work out), and left in early summer. It was a great decision and I don't regret it for a minute. I never went back to finish the degree, I now have my PhD, and not once has this come up in job interviews or anywhere else -- once you have a PhD no one will care about this MA (and if they ask, there are benign ways of answering). 

I can't promise that it'll be the same for you, but for me, at least, my mental and physical health meant that I needed a break, and once I had the PhD it became a non-issue. I would suggest reaching out to your prospective advisor/program to ask how they see things. (Disclaimer: it is obvious, I think, what the pros of finishing are, so I'm not even bothering with those.) 

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@fuzzylogician Thanks for the reply and I'm glad it worked out for you! I assume you still list the masters school on your resume?  Do you just write "candidate" and the years?  Or do you actually write "incomplete" next to it? 

And yes, I should probably let my PhD program know I don't plan on completing the masters.. I have a feeling they won't care. 

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24 minutes ago, anon143 said:

@fuzzylogician Thanks for the reply and I'm glad it worked out for you! I assume you still list the masters school on your resume?  Do you just write "candidate" and the years?  Or do you actually write "incomplete" next to it? 

I write "MA student" and the years. This is right after a year where I was an "exchange student" at another institution, and both didn't lead to a degree. My BA is listed as "BA in XYZ, summa cum laude" and my PhD is listed as "PhD in XYZ", and in the first couple of years I also listed my committee and dissertation title. I think it's honest but also doesn't exactly draw attention to the distinction. In the rare occasions where someone wanted transcripts, I explained the situation and they were fine with the answer, no confusion or problems.  

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1 hour ago, anon143 said:

Are there are any other good reasons for me to complete it? 

 

Down the line, you're going to disagree with the guidance you receive from professors and professors are going to disappoint you. If you stay, you'll have an opportunity on working on how you manage relationships and expectations. You'll also have an opportunity to grind through something when your constellation of motivational factors is being disrupted by someone who has power over you, does not provide the kind of support you want, and who wants you to do something you don't want to do/don't think is necessary.

In regards to managing expectations, it can be very easy, especially early on, to conclude that a professor is mostly right/approaching perfection or an incompetent POS who you would watch bleed to death in a gutter. (Did that sound bitter?) But sometimes professors know more than their students and tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

In the event you decide to not complete the MA program that you're in, I recommend that you develop a reason "why" that is authentic and sustainable given your field of study and the kind of second-guessing that may occur, and the possibility that your professors in your new program have positive relationships with your current advisor and that your answer will be discussed. (Because while graduate students gossip, faculty members share information that will inform future decisions.)

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Why be negative? You were working on a part-time MLA and then the PhD offer came along.  End of story.

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2 hours ago, Concordia said:

 End of story.

As a historian, you know that's never the case.

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Yeah, but this is a rhetorical question folded into a marketing problem.  Faking confidence and sincerity are key, here. :)

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