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Doubting?


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Anyone got in to a top-20 program and now doubting going to a phd program altogether? Reasons doubting it being the realization of spending remaining twenties on a stipend in a small college town, then possibly spending a career in multiple small college town (most likely not chosen but forced by the job market). But I feel I'll regret not going simply because I worry about the job market. Is it smart to reapply and focus on schools in large (non-college) cities and then plan to find jobs in similar cities? Part of my problem is doubting whether my personal life will be happy in small cities, i.e. wife and family job opportunities.

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Anyone got in to a top-20 program and now doubting going to a phd program altogether? Reasons doubting it being the realization of spending remaining twenties on a stipend in a small college town, then possibly spending a career in multiple small college town (most likely not chosen but forced by the job market). But I feel I'll regret not going simply because I worry about the job market. Is it smart to reapply and focus on schools in large (non-college) cities and then plan to find jobs in similar cities? Part of my problem is doubting whether my personal life will be happy in small cities, i.e. wife and family job opportunities.

.I am thinking the same. It is a long time to commit for a job that may not be there in 5 yrs. And that is assuming you even make it through the program in the first place. It was this, get a job or go to law school.

 

Job - I find business trivial, I used to want to just own a business and make a lot of money. But you make money, then you make more, and then you make more and then your 65 and its time to quit. And that is assuming you even like your job in the first place.

 

Law - I would make a really good lawyer, I mean a really good one. However, the job market is the same for PhD in poli sci (50/50 chance) and taking on 100K+ of debt for a 50% chance to make 40-60k is not worth it at all. So no law.

 

So here I go. i am losing 5 yrs of earnings where i could be making 40k ($200,000 total), however, I will not be paying for tuition, will make a small salary and study what I can say I love. I have never studied what I love 24/7 so this will be new to me. Plus, I know I would make a darn good professor too.

 

Worst come to worst, I have already been looking for a job in the summer and when you tell people you are a PhD Student, EVERYONE outside of academia automatically assumes you are super smart lol.

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This is a very personal decision that will come down to you and your wife weighing and comparing your priorities.  For me, this is truly the only career where I can visualize myself being happy for the next 40-50 years without dejectedly crossing off the days until the weekend, my next vacation, retirement, etc, so despite the tradeoffs, this was an easy decision for me.

 

I was advised not to pursue this by one of my LOR writers who shares your concerns, but I decided that you only live once and I didn't want to look back in 10, 20, 30 years with the regret of knowing that I never tried.  I decided that I would apply far and wide and attend the program that would best prepare me to get a desirable job in the end.  But everybody's definition of a "desirable" job is different.  I realize going into this that not everybody lands a TT at Stanford.  I'd love to land at an R1 flagship or large, prestigious private school, but I would also be happy at a mid-tier LAC if that's where I end up.  But not everybody would.  I'll be attending a top-15 that's top 10 in my subfield and it's my hope that if I work hard, publish, etc, that I'll land somewhere afterwards.

 

In my opinion, there are worse things than getting paid a modest stipend to live in a fun town with a low cost of living and young demographic for the next 5 years while I become an expert in my field and earn a debt-free PhD.  I'm 5 years out of undergrad, divorced, living in a small city where it seems that everyone else is over 40, and I've spent the past 5 years working at desk jobs from 8-5 every day.  So the changes that my life will undergo this August are very attractive to me, despite the fact that I'll need to make some lifestyle changes to make ends meet.

 

My income will be cut in half for the next 5 years, but I feel that's a small price to pay for the benefits of a great education and a career that won't make me feel like I've wasted my life doing some insipid job that eats my soul.  I have a number of friends who have said "well that sounds fun, but it's going to take 5 years?? Don't you just want to work and make money?"  Sounds like a recipe for long-term happiness if I ever heard one...

 

If you truly think that living in a small town will make you and your wife miserable, then perhaps you should consider re-applying.  5-6 years is a long time to hate where you live.  It would be terrible to drop out of your program halfway through because you were so unhappy.  On the plus side, however, small towns often have a more favorable stipend-to-cost of living ratio (not always true of course - Minneapolis, Nashville, Austin, etc are all quite affordable).  And attending a strong program in an undesirable city for 5 years might mean that you can land a job in a desirable location for the balance of your career. 

 

Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck in your decision.  I'm sure you'll get a lot of opinions and advice from your friends and family but only you can know what is best for you.  Good luck!

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When I was getting ready to apply this past fall, I had coffee with my undergrad advisor (I was living the in the same area where I'd gone to undergrad after 2 years working).  He gave me what he called 'the fire and the guts' speech.  To sum it up, for me to pursue this and devote the next 5 years of my life to a PhD, I needed to live and breathe political theory.  It had to be enough to keep me warm at night on its own.  The market is horrible and there are no guarantees, but that shouldn't even factor into my thinking.  My work is part of a greater aim, yes, but on its own it is also something that will satisfy me if nothing ever comes of it.  That's the case for me, and I'll have no problem wherever I end up.  I want to do what I love doing, and that'll satisfy me.  

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You're asking a very good question (one that I hope everyone who applies to graduate school have asked).

 

Having been through a MA program and worked as a lecturer I personally can't imagine any other career that I'd enjoy as much as an academic career. I don't expect to receive job offers from Ivy League schools when I'm done with my Ph.D. (although that'd be nice!). I'd be quite happy working at a low R1/high R2.

 

Unlike you, I love smaller cities and towns while I absolutely loathe major cities. :P

 

It's a highly personal decision and one that you really only can answer on your own after some hard thinking.

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