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Overall, I agree with you, but I think the implied dichotomy in your last sentence is problematic.  Are liberals the only ones more interested in making things better for others than in getting rich?  Is the reverse true of conservatives?  Or is that not what you meant?

 

good call. making statements as general as the ones I was making is always problematic. let me rephrase: i think a lot of liberals (those in and outside of academia) tend to have a "business/capitalism=bad" mindset and avoid it, favoring instead to support governmental reforms, rather than seeing business/capitalism as a potential vehicle FOR social change.

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Who's jumping to any conclusions? I'm simply relaying facts: it is a statistical certainty that the large majority of people who post here won't get tenure track jobs as professors. I certainly have a

I seem to recall this sort of anger from last year--people get pretty heated around this time. Good luck, guys. Honestly, I do believe that we're all in this crazy Humanities boat together, however fl

My research is on the rhetoric of social movements, and while working as a professor is my ultimate goal, I constantly think about how I could explain my work to make it appealing to non-profits, prog

good call. making statements as general as the ones I was making is always problematic. let me rephrase: i think a lot of liberals (those in and outside of academia) tend to have a "business/capitalism=bad" mindset and avoid it, favoring instead to support governmental reforms, rather than seeing business/capitalism as a potential vehicle FOR social change.

 

You're making huge, sweeping generalizations about a) "liberals" (as if we all believe the same thing and are one unit, which is laughable) and b ) capitalism. Capitalism is a system that creates HUGE dichotomies and is extremely problematic to individuals who are outliers in the system--sure, the extremely rich continue to be extremely rich and comfortable, but the poor are barely scraping by. Since when is capitalism a vehicle for social change? How could it be? If you've been kicked on your ass by a capitalist system, how is it going to help you? There's a reason that *some* liberal democrats push for socialized reform and it's because it has worked in many cases to better serve the people that capitalism shits on. I would love to see an example of "capitalism as a potential vehicle FOR social change" that isn't some business using "social change" as a tactic to elicit more business. Capitalism is intrinsically selfish and self serving. 

Edited by ArthurianChaucerian
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If you've been kicked on your ass by a capitalist system...

Capitalism is intrinsically selfish and self serving. 

A. I agree with you 99.9999%

But

B. I think you're reifying capitalism. Sure it feels like it's kicking me on my ass. Sure it feels more selfish. But these are all the results of people making "their own"* choices. People choose to kick us on our ass. People choose to be selfish. Folks choose to take a big bonus instead of helping others out.

it's not neccesary capitalism that is guilty - it is the modern day capitalist.

Soooo, I'm optimistic that folks can be educated and the rhetorical playing field can be leveled a bit - within capitalism.

* - caveat here. how many of our choices are made without some form of manipulation? It's debatable, certainly. 

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You're making huge, sweeping generalizations about a) "liberals" (as if we all believe the same thing and are one unit, which is laughable) and b ) capitalism. Capitalism is a system that creates HUGE dichotomies and is extremely problematic to individuals who are outliers in the system--sure, the extremely rich continue to be extremely rich and comfortable, but the poor are barely scraping by. Since when is capitalism a vehicle for social change? How could it be? If you've been kicked on your ass by a capitalist system, how is it going to help you? There's a reason that *some* liberal democrats push for socialized reform and it's because it has worked in many cases to better serve the people that capitalism shits on. I would love to see an example of "capitalism as a potential vehicle FOR social change" that isn't some business using "social change" as a tactic to elicit more business. Capitalism is intrinsically selfish and self serving. 

 

I admit I'm making sweeping generalizations, but so are you--"capitalism is intrinsically selfish and self serving," for starters. As BowTies noted, you're applying moral values to an abstract system, a system which is pretty much intrinsic to "development"--you're not going to find any sort of economic system that is not essentially "capitalist" unless you look at rural, subsistence economies.

 

My larger point is that the common "capitalism=inherently bad" mindset that you are displaying can be both simplistic and counterproductive. Seeking social change by acting "against" capitalism in some place like the academy or government (as if even state schools are not businesses or the gvt does not exist primarily to protect and facilitate the generation of private wealth) is perhaps not always as effective as working WITHIN the system to create business models that do a better job of distribution. If you cannot think of an example of a business that works for social change, I think you are probably not looking hard enough.

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I admit I'm making sweeping generalizations, but so are you--"capitalism is intrinsically selfish and self serving," for starters. As BowTies noted, you're applying moral values to an abstract system, a system which is pretty much intrinsic to "development"--you're not going to find any sort of economic system that is not essentially "capitalist" unless you look at rural, subsistence economies.

 

My larger point is that the common "capitalism=inherently bad" mindset that you are displaying can be both simplistic and counterproductive. Seeking social change by acting "against" capitalism in some place like the academy or government (as if even state schools are not businesses or the gvt does not exist primarily to protect and facilitate the generation of private wealth) is perhaps not always as effective as working WITHIN the system to create business models that do a better job of distribution. If you cannot think of an example of a business that works for social change, I think you are probably not looking hard enough.

 

Capitalism *is* selfish...if it wasn't selfish, it wouldn't be capitalism. You can't have one without the other and you need to ignore any pejorative context that you might be perceiving with that word. Where am I applying any "moral values" to the system? It just seems like you're throwing labels at me in order to bolster your argument. 

 

Why don't you provide an example of a business that works for social change? TOMS shoes doesn't count. It's like you're saying that we should use the system that creates problems to fix the problems...which is just like breaking something with your left hand and fixing it with your right. It doesn't change the fact that the system itself is what breaks, even if it can occasionally rectify that which is broken. 

Edited by ArthurianChaucerian
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sup with all the pro-capitalist anticapitalism in this thread? gdamnit, postmodernism...

 

and as for the job discussion, i would gladly enter a PhD program to take a shot at getting a gig in my academic interest area, if i knew i could fall back on something more realistic and sustainable than what i'm doing right now (adjunct) if need be. i appreciate champagne's comment on going into administration, because i've been thinking about that lately. yeah, it's not really what i want to end up doing, but what i really don't want to end up doing is being an adjunct after getting my PhD, or being 100% jobless. but how can i/we be sure? i guess i've never really researched the job market for more administration-type jobs, though i've applied for a few. 

 

in conclusion, fuck capitalism. 

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Capitalism isn't post-modernism. It's modernism (Das Kapital came out in the 19th century). Capitalism has a single ethic: profit. Profit is not a human-oriented ethic. It's not about "good" or "bad" when it comes to people. It's about the simple fact that he who dies with the most toys wins. Capitalism is not all bad and it's not all good. As my Marxist sociology prof puts it: it just is. The problem is that not all human endeavor does or should fit into a capitalist system. Education is one place where a business model just flat fails. As English folk, we've pretty much opted out of a work that's compatible with the profit motive. It's why we're usually labeled "liberals" and seem to hate on capitalism. Meh. It is what it is and we either adapt or or we don't.

As for an English degree. I think that an English degree is the most useful degree one can obtain. At it's most basic, English is all about doing critical analysis with a tremendous variety of perspectives available (lit theory is about as interdisciplinary as you can get), and then fashioning a cohesive, supported report on that analysis. This training can pretty much fit the needs of a wide variety of jobs in every industry. The limits as to what a person can do with a degree in English are set by the ability of the person to explain to a potential employer how they can fill a need.

Now, this is where problems crop up with PhDs, which someone mentioned before, and it bears consideration. A doctoral degree is a clear indication of expertise, and it's also a clear signal to employers of expense. The conventional wisdom is that the more training a person has, the more expensive that person is. I might convince someone that a person with an English degree is a perfect hire for some middle management position, and then find them trawling career fairs for MAs. I have seen it happen.

Like everyone else, I want tenure. I'm also realistic about the odds of getting it. My program will be spitting out about 4 PhDs every spring. It's one of hundreds. So, if there are, say, 300 newly minted PhDs every spring in the US alone, and there are only 30 tenure-track jobs, well. A smart student cultivates options. If I align my interests to the ways the world, and I cultivate a good relationship with the DGS/adviser, I can take classes outside of the program in order to broaden my prospects. I can also tailor my dissertation to show some appeal outside of academia. That means that a strong dissertation includes "applied". The basic mindset in the discipline is that the "so what" of any research is a deeper understanding of the literature and the people who produced it. There's no other what-can-we-do-with-that. Engineering is science applied. Scientists add new knowledge, engineers use it. What can we, in literature, do to use the new knowledge our discipline provides? The answer to that question is the answer to what kind of non-academic jobs we can get question. 'Cause in today's capitalist system, hard skills (applied) sell and soft skills (knowledge) do not, even though most employers from all industries agree that soft skills are just as important for their employees to have as hard skills.

Edited by danieleWrites
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err i wasn't saying capitalism is postmodernism, but that's an interesting idea. i was saying that this mixed pro-capitalist anti-capitalism seems like a postmodern perspective to me. 

 

what's Das Kapital? is that by Tom Clancy?

 

but yes, i do appreciate your thoughts on the job market, preparing for it in diverse ways, and especially the bit about how to use knowledge our field is creating. 

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Hey, sorry I misunderstood you. It's all good. Das Kapital is Marx's explanation of capitalism. It's a wonderful cure for insomnia, particularly if you get an early 1900s translation. The phone book is more lively.

Huh, you bring up a good point. What relationship does capitalism have to the post-modern? Modernism is usually defined by capitalism and industrialization. (Anthony Giddens has a great take on it in the Consequences of Modernity.) When we break with the modern, what does that mean? Rejection of dominant ideologies seems to be a large factor and capitalism has been the dominant ideology, even the dominant morality, in Western Civilization for a couple of centuries.

I'm getting all excited now. This is uncool. I have papers to grade.

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"The fact that you are well aware of the market is not an argument that everyone who is considering grad school in English is aware of the market. This is forum for people to discuss grad student admissions, and this thread concerns professional realities. And there are tons and tons of blog posts and essays out there by people who went to grad school and failed to get a job and now insist that they didn't know the state of the market. I think it's fair and appropriate for people like me to present the facts in order to save future people that pain. As far as my tone and disposition, I don't think there's anything remotely inappropriate about it; I think, instead, the reality that I'm pointing out is hurtful. Because it sucks. If it were up to me, everyone would get a job. But I'll risk temporarily and minimally annoying a couple people to potentially inform others who aren't as aware as you are."

I just want to back up ComeBackZinc here. I am currently watching my colleagues (from a top ten literature program) do interview after interview for naught. The Duke postdoctoral fellowship received over 500 applicants this year. And that's not even a job! My friends are falling apart. And it's making me seriously think about what I'm doing. Just because you feel like you don't belong anywhere else doesn't mean you should do this. Yes, the work is great and life-changing and wonderful, blah blah blah. But there's a whole lot of pain waiting for me at the end of this. If you already know this, great, but if not, you should.

The upside is, those of you who don't get accepted this year might receive a blessing in disguise.

This.

Scary decision to make. Even at a top program, Im taking it all the way down to the 15th to decide. Scary scary scary.

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But I'll risk temporarily and minimally annoying a couple people to potentially inform others who aren't as aware as you are.

 

 

Duly noted.

 

I have completely sincere question to ask, in this case. Or I guess it's a 2-part question. First, do you genuinely think that people are under-informed?  Like, as in readers/posters here in this forum? And B, if/when people are under-informed, do you really feel that your version of a reality check is productive?

 

I actually have no doubt that people are under-informed (there we agree, though I find it pretty unlikely that regulars reading our exchange fall into this category), but I still find it an interesting decision to choose to communicate what you do the way you do, and here's why: everybody is responsible to themselves. Not knowing the brutal truth is, in my opinion, an egregious error to commit, but it's just that - someone's own error. My perspective is that people can't and shouldn't be saved from themselves in all cases (hold on...hold on). I have some personal experience in coming round to this perspective that I will share before eagerly and sincerely awaiting the counterperspective. There is someone relatively close to me in life who completed a PhD in a completely unrelated field to the one we are in...actually, it is in a field with a much better market, but nonetheless, even a better market is not a very good market, and this person *discovered* (which is to say, *didn't previously know!*) that the market wasn't what he thought back when he made the decision to pursue his PhD 5 years earlier. This discovery came at a conference in which he presented a paper, networked, and laid the groundwork to later procure a postdoc at an even more "prestigious" institution than the one at which he earned his PhD (the current debate surrounding "prestige" forces me to scare-quote and qualify this word - for immediate purposes, just be aware that I know my use of it here is problematic but what I mean by it is what this guy meant by it, which is that he had the opportunity to be instantly recognizable as succeeding at the highest level of his field and thereby enhancing his prospects in what he found to be a dreary market). However, another thing that occurred at this conference was that advice was dispensed: the market is brutal and the field less than lucrative (by what standards or in what concrete terms this was conveyed, I have no idea. I merely convey the paraphrase that justifies what comes next). So here's a guy basically rocking it right out of the park like a ninja and only getting better. But the realization that his prospects were not what he thought - get this - led him to jump ship and pursue a new career altogether. He is currently in another graduate program making that new dream come true, and he'll face his new market in May. And he doesn't even know the realities of his newly-chosen field! My response to this is complete disgust and a total lack of respect. This person went from doing something he loved and was good at and succeeding and competing in to something that he is not passionate about for the sole reason that it carries the promise of a paycheck. When we discuss this, I always have the same questions. Do you miss what you were doing before?  Oh yes, completely. Do you love what you're doing now? Meh. I'm gonna graduate and make a lot of money. Should someone have said something earlier?  Hell no - it was his responsibility to track down the relevant info!

 

Now, there are a million angles to come at this from. I can be more tolerant of spineless wimps. I can recognize that my value system is not everybody else's value system. I can try to appreciate that had this person been more aware of the state of his field before, and not after this entire anecdote, that he may have been spared a pretty intense and expensive experience. I could simply be wrong, in whatever possible sense we want to say that I'm wrong, but no matter how much I go over it, I cannot get away from another set of...strong intuitions?...that I'd like to state as honestly and neutrally as ComeBackZinc has been stating cold hard facts: namely, this was one person's process, decision, error.

 

Of course we congregate on the interwebs to solicit advice and feedback and know-how and tips and hopefully to save ourselves some (or a lot of) trouble, and I think that's wonderful. Good for us. But I've always interpreted the layout to be of a more technical approach - we pick each other's brains about steps and phases, pieces and parts. How should I tailor this or that, what works here or there, what can your experience tell me?  And now I anticipate the reply that upon entering a PhD program and then, therefore, being fully able to grasp the complexities and difficulties of the field, is precisely of this sort of experience that is to be solicited and relayed. Or maybe someone would just altogether disagree with my more technical approach, wherein we are all talented prospects already aware of our fields and our work, and say that it shouldn't be so narrowly defined. But I would disagree on both counts. Once we arrive at a certain place, there has to be a certain amount of trust that the reason I'm here is the reason you're here (in other words, your process/decision/errors aren't any better than mine, or if they are, it's my own fault and not your problem). Immediately it will be said that that's not true, and we are back to a certain level of awareness and under-informed-ness, which is, of course, something you are graciously offering to correct. I think that's where the sticking point is. Ain't nobody here not trying to do something, so to suggest that maybe somebody here ought not try to do something, even if totally based in neutrally-conveyed facts and delivered with well-intentioned compassion, is basically tantamount to saying one of several things, ranging from, "you're not good enough to try what I'm trying," to "you have no idea what you're actually trying to do," to "you're certainly good enough and probably have some idea but for reasons that elude us both I'm still here and you should consider not being here" to simply, "this could be the biggest mistake of your life even though it's clearly not the biggest mistake of mine." 

 

I guess, bottom-line, I don't see how, given the nature of how we meet here, your version of  it can be corrected, and I don't see much reason to feel the need to correct it. If someone is drowning, pull them out of the water, yes.  If someone is an idiot and doesn't know their field, your saying something here isn't going to change that and even if it would, it wouldn't be worth it.    

 

Everybody here, we should assume, has learned to swim and has basically decided that they want to swim the English Channel even if it kills them. How are we not all assuming this? I call this the benefit of the doubt. And you seem to want to say, hey, watch out for the English Channel! Bloody treacherous! Beware! Riptide! This is the deep end, not the kiddie pool. Your cold hard facts are well known, and if they're not, so much the better! If someone is an idiot and doesn't know their field, your saying something here isn't going to change that and even if it would, it wouldn't be worth it. Let the non-swimmers take their dive. It won't actually kill them, it will just sweep away the morons. But life will indeed go on post-fail for those of us who fail, too...

 

Or maybe you're just a way better person than I am? I am open to that as well.

Edited by Strong Flat White
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I think that there is every chance that people reading this thread--no, maybe not regulars--do not know how bad it is. Or ignore it. In this case, it makes sense to reiterate: the job market isn't everything, obviously, but it's probably even worse than you think. Take that for what it is.

And I do not think that we should let people jump into dangerous water without warning them first, and then maybe warning them again. This isn't an every-person-for-themselves kind of forum. 

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We haven't talked a whole lot about the problem that is an overproduction of PhDs. This doesn't act like a market in that while the demand for PhDs is static or perhaps going down, the production continues to escalate. This is because the stimulus to produce PhDs is very far removed from the factors that influence demand. It does act like a market to the extent that each individual person with a PhD becomes much more easily exploited when there is someone happy to adjunct for $25K/year in their place due to the amount of PhDs on the [not always literal] street. 

 

I'm going to avoid the inevitable argument that will ensue by naming names, but we all see those schools on some folk's application lists. There are too many schools that are pooping out PhDs for who knows what reason, though I would surmise it has something to do with relatively inexpensive labor without the appearance of using adjunct labor. 

 

The truth of the matter is we have some programs that are doing a very good job of preparing and placing PhD recipients into the academic job market. Others are issuing PhDs, for sure, but those people come out highly unqualified for most desirable academic jobs. The PhD issuing apparatus is composed of far too many schools that are doing a whole lot of issuing and not a lot of placing. This isn't poor career advising so much as it is a doomed-to-fail system. If this were a real market and you heard there were so many cars being made that most of them had to be sold at half-price to become rentals after sitting for years on an over-filled lot...would you react by saying, "Hey! I'd like to start a car company!" Unfortunately, this is what many universities are doing. They persist in giving out PhDs and even commencing new PhD programs because non-elite schools risk very little in having their PhD recipients ultimately become unsuccessful academics.

 

I'm no free market guy myself and I think the deeper flaw in the system is that we care so little about funding our public schools that they are forced to resort to sacrificing educational quality in favor of bottom lines. The only reason they remain interested in quality is largely due to state-applied pressure to be great academically. If only we could apply the pressure for academic quality while also applying our funds like we did when the workforce was predominantly tenure-track. Instead we have this bastardized system that is forced to act like a business in some ways and act like a public good in others. Americans have become so completely individualistic that they see no value in supporting public education. Why should [some person who doesn't need public education due to age/economic status/lack of desire for it] pay for this? How could providing the populace access to great education that is unlikely to cause permanent financial harm benefit [that person]? The truth is that it does, but the effect is too delayed to be worth forking over some money.

 

Hayek said that there are three potential states for an economic system. It starts with a binary: you have free markets or you have socialism. You have central planning or you have completely decentralized planning. This is easy enough to understand. The alternate, he says, is when you do just a little central planning. In this case, you have oligopoly. 

 

I personally still find this incredibly reductive as there should be some interventions into society against the encroachment of markets. However, it is clearly true that poorly or incoherently-made efforts at intervention can cause this kind of calamity. You can look at our media apparatus, the oil industry, the soon-to-be-dead net neutrality, and you can look at the literature PhD problem. A haphazardly placed market incentive here and there turns the whole thing to shit. The solutions tend to always be profit-oriented because we can empirically measure that. Measuring educational value is about as possible as it is for the Supreme Court to define pornography...so it tends to lose out. We will see it declining but those who are interested in bottom lines can make the unfalsifiable claim that it does not. Thus, nobody sees the problem in the adjunct-dominated workforce and its hidden supplement, the graduate student workforce that preys on the dreams of young adults and churns them out as disillusioned 30+ year olds with no chance at the work they are trained for and the rightful expectation for important work that compensates them in a way commensurate with their level of training.

Edited by JLRC
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I think that there is every chance that people reading this thread--no, maybe not regulars--do not know how bad it is. Or ignore it. In this case, it makes sense to reiterate: the job market isn't everything, obviously, but it's probably even worse than you think. Take that for what it is.

And I do not think that we should let people jump into dangerous water without warning them first, and then maybe warning them again. This isn't an every-person-for-themselves kind of forum. 

 

Huh. Fascinating. Well, I wish you guys all the best in your endeavors to "warn" people of the very thing you've decided to do. Good luck with that.

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The only reason they remain interested in quality is largely due to state-applied pressure to be great academically. 

 

Killer post, I gave it my little happy stamp.  I especially like the poop imagery.  I was wondering whether you could clarify this line for me: who are the "they" - the administration, the faculty, both, neither, other...? (I originally read it as administration but that carries some weirdly interesting implications for the faculty, and before jumping into conversation with a really good post, I just wanted to make sure I understood you correctly).

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Huh. Fascinating. Well, I wish you guys all the best in your endeavors to "warn" people of the very thing you've decided to do. Good luck with that.

 

This is a good point and brings us to two things.

 

First, people who have "done it" like to be patted on the back and told how they have done the impossible. This is worth considering when you hear accomplished academics speaking about their job as if they are martyrs. It may not be as great of a job as it is made out to be, but let's not kid ourselves. Your tenured advisor almost certainly has a great job.

 

With that said, the reason this entire system continues attracting people is survivorship bias. This is an actual psychological phenomenon that affects us humans in multiple parts of life and it is alive and well here. We see the "survivors," AKA our professors, and do not encounter the "casualties." You can keep telling folks that 75% of literature PhDs never get on the tenure track, but the only people we make contact with are optimistic grad students and the survivors of the process. People tend to fixate on the survivors and dismiss the existence or relevance of the casualties. It is too tempting to just assume those casualties were not worthy. The system is not that great at rewarding merit. There are highly qualified people that will do everything right and lose this game. 

 

Of course, it is very easy to suggest to somebody to simply run away from the whole thing when you are not faced with leaving something that you are very passionate about doing. The truth is that there are some "right" circumstances to pursue this. The following are some standards that are a combination of suggestions from my mentors as well as a few places like The Professor Is In:

 

-you have to be young. A potentially decade-long process in which you will not be saving for retirement or preparing for anything but the job you fear not getting cannot be done in your 30s unless you have a spousal or other situation that puts you at no financial peril.

 

-you cannot be taking out any debt. This means your graduate school needs to support you with full tuition and fee waivers plus a livable stipend that comes with medical coverage. If you aren't getting these things, reconsider how much you mean to the program and/or how worthwhile a program that can't provide these things might be.

 

-on a related note, you can't already be under crushing debt from undergrad. If you took out $50K in loans in undergrad, going without an income for 5+ more years is probably a bad idea

 

-again on the financial side, you can't enter into life-changing circumstances like childbirth, home ownership, or perhaps even marriage if you expect to be covering the expense of these things yourself. You're allowed to live an adult life as a grad student, but you won't be compensated in a way to pay for it. There's no shame in a spouse that works and supports you while you study, but if you don't have one then don't burden yourself with financial or other commitments that you cannot handle on your own as a grad student.

 

-you cannot go to a school that does not have a clear track record of placing its PhD recipients in the kinds of positions you are seeking. If you cannot get hard data on this from the program, this should be a major red flag. Don't accept a few anecdotes. You want an idea of the percentage. You also want to know average time to degree and the attrition rate. If half the students quit, how good of a job is the program doing? "Fit" means nothing if you know going in that you have no chance at "fitting" into a job when you leave. If you aren't sure if you have a chance, you haven't done your homework.

 

-you don't waste your time at grad school and while you own and encourage your intrinsic passion for your work, you realize it is all wasted if you do not leave prepared for the job market. You also accept that being well-prepared will likely not guarantee your dream job...or any job. But if you did everything else, you'll be in a position to readjust to your circumstances and somewhat painlessly change the trajectory of your life if that is what is needed because you won't be too old, you won't be burdened by debt, you won't be obligated to a child you cannot afford to raise, etc.

 

I think the points on debt and school choice are the ones taken least seriously or are perhaps incorrectly interpreted. You don't get into the school you want and you start to expand the definition of what an acceptable program is.

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Edit: Redacted my post. I don't want to get involved with this debate. Also, is it just me or is there no real away to delete a post entirely? 

 

Hahahaha, hilarious.  I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you...not only can you not delete a post, I don't even think you can delete your account.  

 

As you exit the debate, AC, I shall intensify my perspective. I will let it be known that I do not consider myself a better applicant than anyone here, and to take up the savior role would necessarily change this approach.  There is simply not a way to read "do as I say and not as I do" in a way that doesn't imply some kind of superiority, it's impossible. It's condescending. And hey, it is an every-person-for-themselves kind of forum.  We are each other's direct competition! It's dressed up as nicey-nice and let's all help each other out, but the reality is that this community is the epitome of a zero-sum game - how's that for stark reality? There is nothing more cutthroat than the very game that provides this forum's reason for existence - a sentiment that the warners would do well to acknowledge since they are the ones insisting upon doom and gloom. Your acceptance will be someone else's rejection and vice versa in the most banal kind of way. There is no philosophy here. There is no mystique. The kiddos get it. Those are facts to rival the ones others would use as precautions. So when we meet on the cyber streets of a forum like this, I will be civil and respectful, but not because I'm a nice guy, and not because I'm here to save anyone. My assumption will be that we are competitors (albeit competitors that may or may not form a camaraderie in the trenches) and I bring my wares to a game that I believe I can win. I don't believe it to be an easy game. I believe it will be the most difficult game of my life - is already, frankly - and when I respect you, it's because I believe that quite likely you're the one that is better than me...not less aware than me, not less informed than me, not stupider than me, not a worse writer than me, and not a weaker applicant than me. If you show up to play, I expect a good showing. Anything less than that is to disrespect your own logic, warners. And if you show up to play and can't play, I will shake my head in disgust and move on and watch you drown. And I will go this way, and you will go that, and neither of us will actually be dead because this is all just an extended metaphor anyway, and the people who needed warning will do something else, and either they'll be the wiser for it or they won't, but it won't have anything to do with what people who tried to warn them once said. The warners shouldn't flatter themselves in such a way. It will have to do with what sort of person that is, and how that person reacts to situations. 

 

Play ball.

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I am *very* cautiously adding a side note here, so as you read keep in mind that I am doing the equivalent of timidly raising my hand and flushing and staring everywhere but at anyone while I talk.

 

I think the main issue with the "reality checks" that a few people have been delivering here is two-fold.

 

First, intended or not, they do come off a bit condescending, especially to the 60+% who already know these things.  That's not necessarily the fault of the writer; the internet is death to actual intended tone.  So what is supposed to come off as friendly and concerned often comes off as "what are you doing, you idiot child, even if that was not how it was meant at all."

 

Secondly, especially at this point in the game... we've all submitted apps.  We're all having anxiety attacks and refreshing the results search and trying not to look at our application packets.  If someone made an uninformed comment like "There's no chance I won't get a job immediately after because I did XYZ," or if they came on in September and asked if they should go to grad school to get a job/make billions, then that would be the place for comments of this nature.  But except in a very rare circumstance that someone decides in the next month or two to do a total life switch... we've all sort of committed already.  So the reality checks are not helpful, especially since our only response can be "I threw my chips down already, and I can't/won't take them back. So why are you telling me this/what am I supposed to do with that info?"  It either comes too late, or comes off as someone telling someone to abandon their dreams and clear the way for someone else following those exact same dreams.

 

I will restate that I know that's not how those comments are *meant*.  But when there is clear evidence that that is how they are *taken*, it at least might be worth a moment to consider how urgently you feel you need to pass on the information, and why.

 

Hopefully I haven't pissed anybody off.  I'm just observing, not trying to add fuel to the fire.

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I am *very* cautiously adding a side note here, so as you read keep in mind that I am doing the equivalent of timidly raising my hand and flushing and staring everywhere but at anyone while I talk.

 

I think the main issue with the "reality checks" that a few people have been delivering here is two-fold.

 

First, intended or not, they do come off a bit condescending, especially to the 60+% who already know these things.  That's not necessarily the fault of the writer; the internet is death to actual intended tone.  So what is supposed to come off as friendly and concerned often comes off as "what are you doing, you idiot child, even if that was not how it was meant at all."

 

Secondly, especially at this point in the game... we've all submitted apps.  We're all having anxiety attacks and refreshing the results search and trying not to look at our application packets.  If someone made an uninformed comment like "There's no chance I won't get a job immediately after because I did XYZ," or if they came on in September and asked if they should go to grad school to get a job/make billions, then that would be the place for comments of this nature.  But except in a very rare circumstance that someone decides in the next month or two to do a total life switch... we've all sort of committed already.  So the reality checks are not helpful, especially since our only response can be "I threw my chips down already, and I can't/won't take them back. So why are you telling me this/what am I supposed to do with that info?"  It either comes too late, or comes off as someone telling someone to abandon their dreams and clear the way for someone else following those exact same dreams.

 

I will restate that I know that's not how those comments are *meant*.  But when there is clear evidence that that is how they are *taken*, it at least might be worth a moment to consider how urgently you feel you need to pass on the information, and why.

 

Hopefully I haven't pissed anybody off.  I'm just observing, not trying to add fuel to the fire.

 

This is almost exactly what I had written. I also wrote something about the importance of having a contention plan and a "support system" of some kind, whether it be a parent, significant other, friend, etc. outside of the field who you can throw ideas off of and has an unbiased view of the academe. 

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I think hammering this point home now is more important than ever.

 

More people are learning this, but the funeral industry is an absolute scam. It's easy to pull because people are grief-stricken, terrified, and don't want to consider the possibility that anything yucky is going on. The people you deal with are perfect in their manner...they couldn't be scammers.

 

So now imagine that some of us miss out on the subset of schools to which we applied that we really wanted while the only one or ones we got fall into the "well, I wanted options" category. Suppose then that after this devastating run of rejections we head towards April with only this particular set of results. Maybe these are utterly sub-standard programs with no track record of placement. Perhaps they are middling programs that are offering zero, partial, or non-guaranteed funding. Either way, our vulnerable minds will want to make this work. "I heard about that one person who went to Southeastern North Igloo State University - Bayou Campus and they are earning a livable wage now! I can do this!" The faculty at the school will encourage you to think this way because they really want you there to teach classes and/or pay tuition.

 

Folks have to be prepared for that and realize that disappointment will make them want to compromise. Don't do it! Don't take out that debt, don't waste that decade of your life at a crap school only to be forced out of the job market shortly after entering it, don't fail to ask about how much the "student fees" are and whether you get medical benefits, etc. 

 

We all know lots of stuff but emotions, selection bias, and all kinds of things can twist our logical capacity. It is imperative to continue examining those first principles.

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I seem to recall this sort of anger from last year--people get pretty heated around this time. Good luck, guys. Honestly, I do believe that we're all in this crazy Humanities boat together, however fluffy that sounds.

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