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Should I leave my good job to make time for PhD program visits and finishing my applications?

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It would be awesome to hear your stories. 


I'm a recent grad from Columbia with an MA in anthro. I'm currently taking a year off school for health-related reasons. I got into a PhD program at Syracuse, but it was unfunded, so I rejected the offer and took a year off to get healthy. I have severe anxiety and depression, so it was the right move for me. 


I'm currently taking a course at Rutgers in Hispanic Urban cities. I spent the summer taking an online Manhattan Prep GRE course, and my exam is ONE MONTH AWAY. Cue panic. :o


I still do not feel ready for the exam, and I need to do well. The schools I'm applying to are quite competitive.


I cut back my hours at work. I work till 12:30 every day, but my afternoons are spent running off to my Rutgers class or driving back to New York to speak with my advisers and letter recommenders. I feel like I have no time to study for the GRE, and to be honest, I'm on thin ice at work. I keep asking for personal days just so I can meet up with my professors. 


A part of me wants to leave my job, but I like having the source of income. Plus, life will only be this crazy till December when applications are due. 


I know for a fact that I'm not ready for the GRE. I need more time. So, should I quit my job and delay my exam till November? 

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No, I don't think it's a good idea to quit your job. Have you taken the exam in a practice form at all? If you got into a PhD program before, your grades are obviously good. I wouldn't stress out about the GRE too much. Studying can only do so much, anyway, as it's a test that's designed to evaluate your entire pre-graduate experience. You're not going to want to not have that source of income. If you do get in again, you're going to wish you'd had the money for any number of reasons.


Many, many MA/MS students are teaching, taking classes, and possibly working second jobs as they work on their applications for PhD programs, so it's definitely possible. I was also working on my thesis at that point. It really isn't that much work, if you're good at managing your time and can get an early start (i.e. now or earlier) on working through the materials. It seems stressful because of the desired outcome (i.e. a PhD and then job satisfaction for life) more than the actual input required, and because of the general type-A personality types that most of us have.

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I really advise against quitting your job. The GRE sounds scarier than it is, but it's basically high school level math and reading comprehension questions. I'm going to echo that the money you get between now and when you start will be incredibly helpful. I know I burned through a lot of my savings with just moving. And with you having already completed a masters degree the material on the GRE should be that much simpler for you to do.


I would recommend that you ease up on traveling back and forth to New York, use email or phone calls instead. You have other responsibilities and that should be respected.

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Also think about Skying with your professors in NY! Or try consolidating all your meetings with profs into a single day of the week, so you're only making that trip once a week. I went through the application process last year and it's strange because you get so busy putting the applications together and once you've submitted them, there's nothing to do but wait for a couple months. At that point having a job is great, it certainly helped me keep my mind off wondering where all the schools were in the review process.

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