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Hello,

I didn't get into any of the programs in my city with funding this cycle. I have a partner who can't move and is unwilling to live separately. He is in a science PhD program in the city we live in at the moment. Most likely I will have to commute to a school a bit far from here. I don't know if I should wait and try again next year, but I think my chances of getting into one of those 4 programs in my city with funding are extremely limited. I have ok GRE scores (320) and good recommendation letters, but didn't get into any of the schools I really wanted to go to this year. 

I'm wondering if any of you have experiences spending a few on the bus or driving.

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There's a thread about commuting somewhere if you search for it...

I think the bigger question is about your partner's post-PhD plans. Will they remain in the city they're in now? Would they be willing to relocate to a nearby city if you were in a PhD program there? Because if the answer to the first question is "no", then you may want to wait to apply for PhD programs until you know where you plan to settle.

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30 minutes ago, rising_star said:

There's a thread about commuting somewhere if you search for it...

I think the bigger question is about your partner's post-PhD plans. Will they remain in the city they're in now? Would they be willing to relocate to a nearby city if you were in a PhD program there? Because if the answer to the first question is "no", then you may want to wait to apply for PhD programs until you know where you plan to settle.

Thank you for the reply. I'm going to search for the thread you are talking about.

My partner wants to find a postdoc position in Europe, so he wants me to finish PhD in 3-4 years. I have been accepted to a program that will let me transfer 30 credits from my master's program, so finishing in 4 years is possible. I'm just dreading the possible 3 hour each way commute. I can try to improve my GRE scores and apply to the programs in my city again next year, but it will be my last chance. I don't know what to do.

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3 minutes ago, coffeentv said:

I have been accepted to a program that will let me transfer 30 credits from my master's program, so finishing in 4 years is possible. I'm just dreading the possible 3 hour each way commute. I can try to improve my GRE scores and apply to the programs in my city again next year, but it will be my last chance. I don't know what to do.

There are so many things going on here. I'm going to try to separate them though.

1) Is finishing in 4 years realistic? Would doing so position you well for post-PhD career options or would you realistically need more time?
2) Is your research something that doesn't depend on outside factors (e.g., getting external funding to collect data)? 
3) With a three hour commute each way, will you realistically be able to graduate in 4 years? Is there sufficient scheduling of courses so that you wouldn't have to commute to campus every day?
4) Would it be possible for you to sublet a room or get a hotel room a few nights a week so that you aren't spending 6 hours commuting?
5) Would that commute be you driving or would you be able to take public transportation?
6) Would your partner be willing to move so that you have a somewhat shorter commute/
7) How important is this relationship to you? Are you truly willing to let your partner's desires (live together, stay in this city, move to Europe when they're done) determine what happens with you, your education, and your career?

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Your questions helped me organise my thoughts. Thank you.

1) It is realistic, I believe.

2) I have two projects in mind, and one of them does not depend on outside factors. I probably cannot do ethnography without external funding. However, I can complete the other project anywhere (collecting data online).

3) If I can read/sleep on the bus, I guess so. I need to check which course I need to take first. I'm going to ask questions on the visit day.

4) I believe it is possible to rent a room at a reasonable price.

5) I would be taking the bus.

6) There are cheap buses to the campus leaving from the city we live in now, so it doesn't make sense to move.

7) The relationship is very important to me. I am willing to do whatever I can to support him. I'd be willing to clean houses or work as a cashier if needed in the city he gets a postdoc position.

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1 hour ago, coffeentv said:

1) It is realistic, I believe.

I would double-check on this. Talk to current students. Talk to faculty. Look at the department's average time to degree. Just because it is theoretically possible doesn't mean it's realistic. And just because it's realistic doesn't mean you should do it. (Of course, your answer to Q7 raises the question of why you're doing the PhD at all if you're willing to get a job as a cashier to support your partner in their postdoc...)

1 hour ago, coffeentv said:

3) If I can read/sleep on the bus, I guess so. I need to check which course I need to take first. I'm going to ask questions on the visit day.

4) I believe it is possible to rent a room at a reasonable price.

5) I would be taking the bus.

6) There are cheap buses to the campus leaving from the city we live in now, so it doesn't make sense to move.

If it's possible to rent a room at a reasonable rate, why would you commit to commuting for six hours a day? That just seems like unnecessary stress. Also, you'll want to make sure that your class/TA/RA schedule is compatible with whatever buses you would need to take. (For reference, in my PhD program, the courses grad students taught or were the TA for happened during the daytime hours [9am-3pm generally] and graduate seminars started at 4 or 5pm, lasting 2.5 hours.)

Have you tried reading or sleeping on the bus before? Is it something that you know you can do? Figure this out before committing to doing it for a few years.

Leaving everything I've said above aside, your professionalization as a graduate student will suffer if you're rushing to and from campus and spending most of your time on a bus. There's a lot to be gained from conversing with your colleagues informally in the halls, being able to bounce ideas off of them, and being able to attend talks on campus. For example, if your department had a symposium or colloquium on a Friday and you didn't have class that day, would you be willing to make the commute for the symposium? Because the expectation is that you'll be there and if you aren't, you're the one whose career will suffer.

Your answer to Q7 suggests you aren't that concerned with the long-term aspects of your career so maybe that doesn't matter to you. So I guess a real question for you to think about is whether you need to do a PhD now or if it would make more sense to wait until you move for your partner's postdoc. And, you didn't address this here (and don't need to!), but if you aren't planning to pursue a career where you need your PhD, then it may not make sense to get a PhD right now...

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Bluntly, I think your answer to Question 7 seems to raise some red flags and render the whole topic moot.

A three-hour each way commute is not doable more than once a week or so. That's six hours, lets count it up. And I want to double check you're looking at door-to-door time, not general travel time between the two cities. And you're in NY, right? We're not talking a predictable commute between some cornfields here. There will be days - many days - when it will be worse, when the subway isn't running, when a car is stuck, when a road is blocked. Anyway, that's all pointless - even an exactly six hour commute is not healthy, physically or mentally, not safe if you're driving, and generally not doable with any kind of job - much less a PhD.

The prospects of you finishing exactly on time, exactly as your partner is ready for the postdoc - considerations of which apparently you don't figure into in the slightest - seem pretty slim, much less finishing well, with your six hour commute. And even if you do, what next? Follow your partner to Europe, where you'll need to find yet another position that revolves around them, probably another six hour commute away? (And what about if you don't? Will you leave it with a year or a semester to go?) Are you willing to keep doing this for the foreseeable future? I know a number of dual-academic couples with crazy commutes and complicated international decisions making issues, and it works - barely - because both partners are willing to do what's necessary to make it work for eachother, not expect to be revolved around like a soul-sucking black hole.

Frankly, if you're putting his career so far ahead of yours anyway, a PhD seems like a terrible choice - finish your masters, get a great job, make loads of money and significant career progress and dump their broke, immature grad student ass and build yourself up as someone with a more flexible and transferrable skillset and professional experience that doesn't reduce your to cleaning houses (a fine job. My mother did it) or cashiering (another, I did. But neither are a smart long-term career choice with a master's degree) as you follow your partner around. If you're really passionate about research and your field, and a PhD is just what you want to be doing, then balancing it with a six hour commute seems to leave you with nothing either way.

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14 hours ago, rising_star said:

I would double-check on this. Talk to current students. Talk to faculty. Look at the department's average time to degree. Just because it is theoretically possible doesn't mean it's realistic. And just because it's realistic doesn't mean you should do it. (Of course, your answer to Q7 raises the question of why you're doing the PhD at all if you're willing to get a job as a cashier to support your partner in their postdoc...)

If it's possible to rent a room at a reasonable rate, why would you commit to commuting for six hours a day? That just seems like unnecessary stress. Also, you'll want to make sure that your class/TA/RA schedule is compatible with whatever buses you would need to take. (For reference, in my PhD program, the courses grad students taught or were the TA for happened during the daytime hours [9am-3pm generally] and graduate seminars started at 4 or 5pm, lasting 2.5 hours.)

Have you tried reading or sleeping on the bus before? Is it something that you know you can do? Figure this out before committing to doing it for a few years.

Leaving everything I've said above aside, your professionalization as a graduate student will suffer if you're rushing to and from campus and spending most of your time on a bus. There's a lot to be gained from conversing with your colleagues informally in the halls, being able to bounce ideas off of them, and being able to attend talks on campus. For example, if your department had a symposium or colloquium on a Friday and you didn't have class that day, would you be willing to make the commute for the symposium? Because the expectation is that you'll be there and if you aren't, you're the one whose career will suffer.

Your answer to Q7 suggests you aren't that concerned with the long-term aspects of your career so maybe that doesn't matter to you. So I guess a real question for you to think about is whether you need to do a PhD now or if it would make more sense to wait until you move for your partner's postdoc. And, you didn't address this here (and don't need to!), but if you aren't planning to pursue a career where you need your PhD, then it may not make sense to get a PhD right now...

I'm going to take full advantage of the visit day and ask current students and faculty questions. I think it would be a good idea to rent a room and stay there from Monday to Thursday and spend the weekend in the city. I would have to take loans to pay for two apartments, though.

I used to commute 4 hours/day for 6 years, so I'm used to reading and sleeping on the bus.

At my current school, people don't really communicate with each other, but you have a good point. I would like to learn from my colleagues and talk to them about their/my research interests.

I'm honestly not too concerned with the long-term aspects of my career. It would be great if I could continue to do research after PhD, but my partner comes first. I've been very curious and passionate about some topics and decided to attend grad school. At first, I thought I'd be just happy with a master's degree, but I have realized that I want to learn more and do more research.

Thank you for taking the time to write another long post. I appreciate it.

 

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7 hours ago, TK2 said:

Bluntly, I think your answer to Question 7 seems to raise some red flags and render the whole topic moot.

A three-hour each way commute is not doable more than once a week or so. That's six hours, lets count it up. And I want to double check you're looking at door-to-door time, not general travel time between the two cities. And you're in NY, right? We're not talking a predictable commute between some cornfields here. There will be days - many days - when it will be worse, when the subway isn't running, when a car is stuck, when a road is blocked. Anyway, that's all pointless - even an exactly six hour commute is not healthy, physically or mentally, not safe if you're driving, and generally not doable with any kind of job - much less a PhD.

The prospects of you finishing exactly on time, exactly as your partner is ready for the postdoc - considerations of which apparently you don't figure into in the slightest - seem pretty slim, much less finishing well, with your six hour commute. And even if you do, what next? Follow your partner to Europe, where you'll need to find yet another position that revolves around them, probably another six hour commute away? (And what about if you don't? Will you leave it with a year or a semester to go?) Are you willing to keep doing this for the foreseeable future? I know a number of dual-academic couples with crazy commutes and complicated international decisions making issues, and it works - barely - because both partners are willing to do what's necessary to make it work for eachother, not expect to be revolved around like a soul-sucking black hole.

Frankly, if you're putting his career so far ahead of yours anyway, a PhD seems like a terrible choice - finish your masters, get a great job, make loads of money and significant career progress and dump their broke, immature grad student ass and build yourself up as someone with a more flexible and transferrable skillset and professional experience that doesn't reduce your to cleaning houses (a fine job. My mother did it) or cashiering (another, I did. But neither are a smart long-term career choice with a master's degree) as you follow your partner around. If you're really passionate about research and your field, and a PhD is just what you want to be doing, then balancing it with a six hour commute seems to leave you with nothing either way.

I don't live too far away from the bus stop in NYC, and the bus will drop me of right in front of the campus. You are right. It's going to be more like a 4 hour commute each way.

My partner and his dream as a scientist will always come first, but that doesn't mean I will do my best to find a job that I can be happy at. I used to clean houses and wait tables. While I can't say I enjoyed cleaning rich people's apartment, I enjoyed working as a waitress. Now I'm hoping to find a less physically demanding job with a master's degree, but my point is that I wouldn't mind working as a cashier or a waitress if necessary.

I am passionate about my research and was sure I wanted to get a PhD, but maybe it is not a good idea. I wanted to make it work, but I have to compromise on something, obviously.

Thank you for your advice.

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14 minutes ago, coffeentv said:

I am passionate about my research and was sure I wanted to get a PhD, but maybe it is not a good idea. I wanted to make it work, but I have to compromise on something, obviously.

There's probably no point - not to mention, it's useless and inappropriate - to start giving you career, much less relationship, advice, but trying to make a significant career that makes you happy work and also be in a relationship doesn't require that you make some compromises - it requires that both you and your partner make some compromises. One person making all the compromises and the other making no compromises adds up to one miserable person, and that's you. There's no balance you will ever find if your partner is so utterly inflexible and unconcerned towards you.

Frankly, elements of the way you write - the distinctly gendered, highly demanding and typically low-paying jobs you list, the quickness with which you can apparently be pursuaded out a PhD you've apparently been accepted to in favour of your partners frankly childish-sounding refusal to live apart or move, even temporarily, your complete self-abnegation to his goals and dreams - that makes this sound either borderline abusive, or fabulistically melodramatic. The career dilemmas of having master's degree and a grad-student partner are not between housecleaning and a PhD. The field of employment options and career trajectories here are just a bit wider than that. Either you're in a deeply disturbing and unequal relationship that will never allow you to do anything you actually want, or you're talking yourself into some sort of oddly, and I think unnecessarily, self-sacrificial martyrdom-ish position.

If you really want to do a PhD, and are genuinely not happy with any of the options you have this year - improve your application and try again, including outside your city. If you are happy with one of the options you have, demand your partner make some compromises. If they won't, you'll never have a PhD.

If a PhD is not really what you want, examine - seriously - the career options available in New York City with a Master's degree. Do this, if possible, drawing on what your interests and inclinations are, not on what paints a picture of total selfless supportiveness for your partner's 'dreams'.

If you can't imagine any of the above, leave him and get therapy.

Do not take on an 8-hour daily commute. It's not a thing. You won't get a PhD and you'll ruin your health and your career and probably your relationship. No ifs.

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On 2/22/2018 at 10:11 AM, TK2 said:

There's probably no point - not to mention, it's useless and inappropriate - to start giving you career, much less relationship, advice, but trying to make a significant career that makes you happy work and also be in a relationship doesn't require that you make some compromises - it requires that both you and your partner make some compromises. One person making all the compromises and the other making no compromises adds up to one miserable person, and that's you. There's no balance you will ever find if your partner is so utterly inflexible and unconcerned towards you.

Frankly, elements of the way you write - the distinctly gendered, highly demanding and typically low-paying jobs you list, the quickness with which you can apparently be pursuaded out a PhD you've apparently been accepted to in favour of your partners frankly childish-sounding refusal to live apart or move, even temporarily, your complete self-abnegation to his goals and dreams - that makes this sound either borderline abusive, or fabulistically melodramatic. The career dilemmas of having master's degree and a grad-student partner are not between housecleaning and a PhD. The field of employment options and career trajectories here are just a bit wider than that. Either you're in a deeply disturbing and unequal relationship that will never allow you to do anything you actually want, or you're talking yourself into some sort of oddly, and I think unnecessarily, self-sacrificial martyrdom-ish position.

If you really want to do a PhD, and are genuinely not happy with any of the options you have this year - improve your application and try again, including outside your city. If you are happy with one of the options you have, demand your partner make some compromises. If they won't, you'll never have a PhD.

If a PhD is not really what you want, examine - seriously - the career options available in New York City with a Master's degree. Do this, if possible, drawing on what your interests and inclinations are, not on what paints a picture of total selfless supportiveness for your partner's 'dreams'.

If you can't imagine any of the above, leave him and get therapy.

Do not take on an 8-hour daily commute. It's not a thing. You won't get a PhD and you'll ruin your health and your career and probably your relationship. No ifs.

Sorry for the late reply.

My partner can be oblivious at times, but he’s very supportive and kind.

Today we discussed all the options including renting a cheap small room near the univereiry and coming home every weekend. In the end, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to pay for my share of our current apartment, the room, and bus tickets. My stipend wouldn’t be able to cover all those costs.

This was my first/last chance applying. I’m a bit sad, but will try to focus on writing my master’s thesis and look for a job later. I hope I can find a job related to my field of study in grad school.

I’m going to decline the admission next week. My partner is supportive of my decision. He thinks my GRE scores are to blame, but it’s too late now. I’m not too sad about the rejections from the two prestigious programs in my city.  If there’s a chance in the future, maybe I’ll try applying again in Europe.

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