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Leaving after one semester


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OK, so I've posted before about my worries that academic philosophy isn't for me...

Now, to follow up and ask an urgent question...

Before deciding to accept a great offer, I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to pursue philosophy in graduate school. To be safe, I went to the program and started recently. It is completely clear to me now, however, that I made the wrong decision. I belong in an entirely different field. Not to mention, I left my partner for grad school and that too was a huge mistake. So, I want to leave, and soon.

My question is this: Is it just totally unacceptable for me to leave after only one semester? My TA-ship is for a year, but I have found out that I can legally terminate my position in December. So there is no worry there. Rather, I'm more worried about having a "big black mark" on my record, and burning serious bridges with the philosophy and/or academic world. I'm sure it's better to stay for an entire year, but I don't think I can bring myself to do it.

What do you guys think? Is it a huge deal to leave so soon? Is it putting the department out (they won't be admitting any new students in the Winter)? Will my decision to leave affect future admissions in other programs?

Help!

philo_gal

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Do all grad students in your program receive funding? If not, someone would really appreciate your TA-ship. The answer I am going to give you is just my personal feeling on the matter, I certainly do not represent academia. I think if you have learned the program is not for you, then you should leave. The sooner, the better. I think it's great you plan to stay committed for the term. I would assume it's better that you leave early in the program, than just not ever finishing. It's pretty easy to explain that the program was not for you, and you discovered it early on. Also, if you are not invested it impacts your classmates and the program as a whole. My husband quit a biology master's program that he enrolled in right after undergrad. He later went on to film school (I know two very different interests, his mom's an artist, his dad a scientist), without any problems. I think being reflective and realizing when you have made a mistake, or sticking up for your decisions, makes you much stronger of a person.

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Do all grad students in your program receive funding? If not, someone would really appreciate your TA-ship. The answer I am going to give you is just my personal feeling on the matter, I certainly do not represent academia. I think if you have learned the program is not for you, then you should leave. The sooner, the better. I think it's great you plan to stay committed for the term. I would assume it's better that you leave early in the program, than just not ever finishing. It's pretty easy to explain that the program was not for you, and you discovered it early on. Also, if you are not invested it impacts your classmates and the program as a whole. My husband quit a biology master's program that he enrolled in right after undergrad. He later went on to film school (I know two very different interests, his mom's an artist, his dad a scientist), without any problems. I think being reflective and realizing when you have made a mistake, or sticking up for your decisions, makes you much stronger of a person.

Thanks for your reply. I am pretty sure that all of the students in my department receive funding, minus the students who have families and prefer not to work. I'm hoping that my leaving mid-year won't leave an empty position that my department will be angrily stressing to fulfill. But I really have no idea how this all works... : /

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One thing you can be sure of: there will always be someone around willing to take on the work that you give up. That's the least of your worries. Just give them some warning (like, a couple of months?) so that they can fill the spot.

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Before deciding to accept a great offer, I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to pursue philosophy in graduate school. To be safe, I went to the program and started recently. It is completely clear to me now, however, that I made the wrong decision. I belong in an entirely different field. Not to mention, I left my partner for grad school and that too was a huge mistake. So, I want to leave, and soon.

You've been there like a week or two, right? I'd say give it some time before making a decision.

My question is this: Is it just totally unacceptable for me to leave after only one semester? My TA-ship is for a year, but I have found out that I can legally terminate my position in December. So there is no worry there. Rather, I'm more worried about having a "big black mark" on my record, and burning serious bridges with the philosophy and/or academic world. I'm sure it's better to stay for an entire year, but I don't think I can bring myself to do it.

What do you guys think? Is it a huge deal to leave so soon? Is it putting the department out (they won't be admitting any new students in the Winter)? Will my decision to leave affect future admissions in other programs?

To answer your questions, it's not totally unacceptable but it is strange to leave so quickly. It will definitely be a black mark on your record and lead to burning some bridges. Unless you explain things very well and very gracefully, it likely will affect your future admissions to other programs.

But, if that's what you want to do, then you should do it. Personally, I would finish the first year so that you have something to show for your time in graduate school. And, depending on the way TA positions work at your university, they may not be able to find someone else to fill your shoes. In my department, we can hire from outside the department because there's a lot of crossover with other disciplines. But, depending on what you're TAing, there may not be other qualified students on campus (moreso if your department already has everyone working as a TA).

Keep in mind that I think your happiness is first and foremost. You're probably going through a lot right now, having moved away from your partner and starting something totally different. Take some time before you make a decision that you may come to regret.

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How much notice do you have to give them? You seem to be going through a lot and if you had some time before you had to give them notice, I would use that time to settle my thoughts and make sure I was 100% sure if that was the right decision. I agree with rising_star - if you can go the year it might be best - especially in order not to burn bridges, but if you're sure you want to leave, then you should do what's best for you.

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OK, so I've posted before about my worries that academic philosophy isn't for me...

Now, to follow up and ask an urgent question...

Before deciding to accept a great offer, I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to pursue philosophy in graduate school. To be safe, I went to the program and started recently. It is completely clear to me now, however, that I made the wrong decision. I belong in an entirely different field. Not to mention, I left my partner for grad school and that too was a huge mistake. So, I want to leave, and soon.

My question is this: Is it just totally unacceptable for me to leave after only one semester? My TA-ship is for a year, but I have found out that I can legally terminate my position in December. So there is no worry there. Rather, I'm more worried about having a "big black mark" on my record, and burning serious bridges with the philosophy and/or academic world. I'm sure it's better to stay for an entire year, but I don't think I can bring myself to do it.

What do you guys think? Is it a huge deal to leave so soon? Is it putting the department out (they won't be admitting any new students in the Winter)? Will my decision to leave affect future admissions in other programs?

Help!

philo_gal

Follow your heart. If you think it isn't for you, then I would leave. You don't want to be unhappy about what you chose. Treat graduate school like a job as they always say. Would you want to be unhappy about the job? This is what my professor told me. Good Luck. I don't think they will "leave a big black mark" on your record. They have this withdrawal form for you to fill out. I'm sure "Transfer" is one of the choices. =) You can mention why you left the program (for future admissions in other programs), but some programs might not even ask about it.

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Wow, tough choice. My suggestion would be to try to make it a year. The first few weeks are invariably difficult, especially when separated from a loved one. However, over the course of a year, you settle into a routine, you and your loved one get accustomed to the distance, and things look better. If not, you quit then.

My caution here is not to let your current misery turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unhappiness now can easily translate into "I'm not meant for this." If I had quit after the first two weeks of my seminary experience a decade ago, I wouldn't now be in a PhD program I love, studying a topic I can't get enough of, facing the prospect of a career I love.

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As for burning bridges, yeah that might be an issue if you go back into the same area of study or a closely related one.

Outside of that, you can use the cloistered nature of disciplines to your advantage here.

Keep in mind whatever your pick ,life will go on and you will be fine after a bit.

So, step back and figure out what you want and then do it.

All the best. :)

Edited by hubris
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  • 2 weeks later...

First year is always the toughest. You're jumping into the unknown- graduate school, life without your partner by your side at night, and a new location. It's still too late- people take a few months to settle down. Remember freshman year of college? Same concept.

Stick it out, especially with teaching. You'll at least be able to show for it by demonstrating that you gained some skills for jobs you'll apply for.

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Like others have pointed out before, grad school certainly isn't glamorous, and it's solitary, and full of theories that don't always amount to much (first impressions here). I'd say tough it out, but then again I've personally been through a couple episodes where when I realized that something didn't feel right, or wasn't for me, I made the decision to get out of it and try something else. If that's how you feel, then I would encourage you to go with your gut instinct. Good luck.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi, philo-gal,

Have you made any decisions yet? I'm in a similar situation myself, questioning whether I've chosen the right field. I'm in a two-year master's program, so there is not that level of commitment. But I am debating how long I ought to give this a shot ....

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