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virtua

PLEASE I need advice: thinking of leaving

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I have recently read the article speaking about uselessness of PhD, and it was written that some people that were doing Phd were so exhausted that they tried to leave the program.

Let's say, I accept an offer and work as a Research Assistant doing my Phd, what if I do not like the program at the 1st year of my education and want to leave everything and go back to my country? Would that be problem for me? What are the consequences?

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I have recently read the article speaking about uselessness of PhD, and it was written that some people that were doing Phd were so exhausted that they tried to leave the program.

Let's say, I accept an offer and work as a Research Assistant doing my Phd, what if I do not like the program at the 1st year of my education and want to leave everything and go back to my country? Would that be problem for me? What are the consequences?

 

Then you can leave. If you go back to your home country the chances of negative consequences are slim. You might make an excuse about why you have to go back in order to make the transition smoother. It might be harder to pursue a PhD in the same country if you ever go back, but cross that bridge when you come to it.

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There are basically no new consequences at all if you leave the program because you don't want to pursue a PhD in that field. Sure, you would have "wasted" a year of your time, but that's already "lost", so at that point, if you feel the PhD is the wrong path for you, there is nothing wrong with leaving and doing what's right for you instead! At this point, you might also consider staying just long enough to get a Masters and then leaving.

 

You should be a little careful if you are funded by scholarships or fellowships though. Check the fine print to see what happens if you leave the program early. For most awards, leaving at the end of a year does not result in any penalty but sometimes it might mean you have to repay part or all of your award. Usually this is not the case though and usually you only repay the portion that was prepaid to you ahead of time, but it doesn't hurt to be 100% sure! 

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Thank you so much, guys! I really appreciate your replies! In this story the main question for me is money, I`m not sure if the salary they will pay me will be sufficient for me to live in the city where university is located. So I`m thinking about risks "What if...".

 

1. How do you think, guys, would that be rude or impolite to ask my university regarding consequences of leaving, particularly about whether I have to pay them or not if I leave?

 

2. And how do you think, guys, could I continue my education in the USA, being enrolled into MSc at the 2nd university, right after leaving PhD at the 1st one?

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1. Don't ask this. When you are granted an award/funding, read the terms and conditions of the award/funding carefully.

 

2. Probably yes but your chances would probably be lower than if you didn't enroll in the first program at all.

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There are basically no new consequences at all if you leave the program because you don't want to pursue a PhD in that field. Sure, you would have "wasted" a year of your time, but that's already "lost", so at that point, if you feel the PhD is the wrong path for you, there is nothing wrong with leaving and doing what's right for you instead! At this point, you might also consider staying just long enough to get a Masters and then leaving.

 

You should be a little careful if you are funded by scholarships or fellowships though. Check the fine print to see what happens if you leave the program early. For most awards, leaving at the end of a year does not result in any penalty but sometimes it might mean you have to repay part or all of your award. Usually this is not the case though and usually you only repay the portion that was prepaid to you ahead of time, but it doesn't hurt to be 100% sure! 

So, what you wrote doesnt apply to assistantship, right?

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If I understand your post correctly -- you are thinking of leaving before you have even started at your institution?  That seems a bit unusual to me.  

 

Is this the norm for you when embarking on plans of this nature?  If it is normal that you like to think through worst case scenarios because it helps to calm your nerves about a decision with potentially uncertain outcomes then okay -- keep on digging about what will happen if you leave w/o graduating.  If this is not the norm for you - I wonder if your gut is trying to tell you something either this isn't the right time for you or this isn't the right program for you.

 

Generally, people come in either positive or at least neutral to their PhD program.  It's going to be a lot harder for you if you are already planning your escape so to speak.

 

And since you mention salary concerns -- I would speak to current students about how they manage and I would try to get a better understanding of the cost of living in your program location.  If the financial package that the program offers is not going to allow you to cover living costs you could either try to negotiate a higher package (if possible) or turn them down.  

 

If you decide to go and then drop out after 1 year -- you are going to be out the moving and transition costs and potentially not have anything to show for it if they won't award you a master's degree.  That does not seem like an ideal situation either.

Edited by ZeChocMoose

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2. And how do you think, guys, could I continue my education in the USA, being enrolled into MSc at the 2nd university, right after leaving PhD at the 1st one?

 

This is more difficult, from what I've seen. I know people who have transferred in the first year of their PhD due to "research interests" (they couldn't join the research groups they wanted to at University 1, or found the groups to be a poor fit for them). However, you would typically start right from the beginning at University 2 - course credits can't be transferred until you've been in my program from 2 semesters, for example and you'd probably have to redo a lot of the compulsory courses. 

 

If you formally join a research group and then quit/get asked to leave, it can sometimes be harder to get the letters of recommendation from your advisor necessary to apply to a 2nd American university, especially if you have a bad relationship with that advisor. 

 

Lastly, the question of money/salary. Try to ask the grad students currently in the program how they manage on the given salary. If you don't know any current grad students personally, try asking the faculty you're interested in working for if they could connect you with one of their students who would be willing to answer your questions. 

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Thank you very much, guys, for your replies!

You know, I`m an international student and I have never lived in the USA, I have never been to the USA, so I have many concerns regarding living costs, I do not know what I will have to pay for, how much I will have to pay; but I hope I will be able to contact with current students and to know their experience. The thing is I do not want my family to pay for anything, and if my Phd education at the university 1 will make me to spend more than I will earn, then I will definitely leave that. 

I do not want to have nothing saved up after 4-5 years, that thought makes me very timid in my choice

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There are basically no new consequences at all if you leave the program because you don't want to pursue a PhD in that field. Sure, you would have "wasted" a year of your time, but that's already "lost", so at that point, if you feel the PhD is the wrong path for you, there is nothing wrong with leaving and doing what's right for you instead! At this point, you might also consider staying just long enough to get a Masters and then leaving.

 

You should be a little careful if you are funded by scholarships or fellowships though. Check the fine print to see what happens if you leave the program early. For most awards, leaving at the end of a year does not result in any penalty but sometimes it might mean you have to repay part or all of your award. Usually this is not the case though and usually you only repay the portion that was prepaid to you ahead of time, but it doesn't hurt to be 100% sure! 

What if I leave right after the 1st semester or before the 1st semester? 

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There are basically no new consequences at all if you leave the program because you don't want to pursue a PhD in that field. Sure, you would have "wasted" a year of your time, but that's already "lost", so at that point, if you feel the PhD is the wrong path for you, there is nothing wrong with leaving and doing what's right for you instead! At this point, you might also consider staying just long enough to get a Masters and then leaving.

 

You should be a little careful if you are funded by scholarships or fellowships though. Check the fine print to see what happens if you leave the program early. For most awards, leaving at the end of a year does not result in any penalty but sometimes it might mean you have to repay part or all of your award. Usually this is not the case though and usually you only repay the portion that was prepaid to you ahead of time, but it doesn't hurt to be 100% sure! 

 

You mean I can be awarded by MSc degree in PhD? Could you please elaborate more on this?

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What is the best time to leave PhD? I mean, how & when to leave PhD (with RA position) without hurting anyone and without causing problems for anyone?

Edited by virtua

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Okay, to address one question at a time:

 

Can you get a Masters while enrolled in a PhD program?

 

It depends on the program. You might know that there are two types of Masters programs in the US--"terminal Masters" and "on-the-way/consolatory Masters". A "terminal Masters" program is a program designed to have the student leave with a Masters degree and is usually unfunded. They may be research or course based. This is the type of Masters that most other countries have (but sometimes funded). In engineering fields, these programs are more common but they are very rare in other fields. For example, my field rarely offers a terminal Masters.

 

The other type of Masters is a degree you get while in a PhD program. The "on-the-way" Masters (maybe someone can think of a better term!) is the degree you get after 2 years or so in a PhD program.  You get this after you meet some requirements, usually all coursework or something. You get this Masters and continue on your way to the PhD. The "consolatory" Masters is either a degree you get because you got a "on-the-way" Masters and then quit before you finished the PhD, or it's one that is awarded you to when you decide to leave before getting a PhD, provided you meet some requirements. In the US, this type of Masters is not worth very much (but still better than nothing) because it indicates you somehow failed to complete your PhD (either quitting or flunking out). Note: Not all programs will offer this option.

 

When is the best time to leave a PhD program without hurting anyone?

 

There is no good time. No matter when you leave, you are going to hurt someone (i.e. waste someone's time). However, sometimes there are good enough reasons to leave a program and there are things you can do to minimize "damage". I think students should leave a PhD program if they no longer feel that the PhD path is the right path for them. At that point, leaving will surely hurt people and waste resources, but that's better than continuing to waste your and everyone else's time pursuing a degree that is no longer right for you. 

 

I'm not saying you should never leave a PhD program but I think it's our professional responsibility to act in good faith and honestly/ethically. I would argue that it is unethical and bad practice for a student to enroll in a PhD program with intention to drop out after a Masters. However, if you enroll in a PhD program, and then after receiving a Masters, you decide that you no longer want to continue, then it's a different story. 

 

To minimize damage to others and to act in good faith/ethically, you should let your department know as soon as you decide that you only want a Masters and you know that your own interests are protected. (i.e. if you know decide at the end of the first year that you want to leave, but you know that saying so at that instance would result in them kicking you out before you can even get a Masters, then it makes sense to wait until you are certain of getting a Masters). Generally, I'd say that if you are able to let people know that you won't continue before they make the next Fall's admissions decisions, it would be helpful for the department to plan for the future and it will also give you and your advisor about 6-8 months to make plans to wrap everything up before you go.

 

When you leave a PhD program, even if you do it ethically and honestly, you will have to accept the consequence that while most people will understand you have to act in your own best interests, this will hurt others and you will have to take responsibility for your actions. Some people may remain upset with you after this is all over. 

 

I'm not trying to accuse anyone of anything here, but I would like to say that in my opinion, I think people who start PhD programs with intention of dropping out after a Masters in order to get funding for a Masters degree are taking advantage of a loophole in the system and ultimately, hurting all future graduate students. I think if many people abuse the system like this, schools will react in ways that negatively impact the student community** and because I don't want to see that, I always try to discourage people who sound like they might be thinking of doing this. 

 

(**e.g. remove funding for first 2 years of PhD program, or stop offering Masters degrees at all, with the outcome that people who do choose to leave after 3-4 years get nothing instead of a Masters).

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Okay, to address one question at a time:

 

Can you get a Masters while enrolled in a PhD program?

 

It depends on the program. You might know that there are two types of Masters programs in the US--"terminal Masters" and "on-the-way/consolatory Masters". A "terminal Masters" program is a program designed to have the student leave with a Masters degree and is usually unfunded. They may be research or course based. This is the type of Masters that most other countries have (but sometimes funded). In engineering fields, these programs are more common but they are very rare in other fields. For example, my field rarely offers a terminal Masters.

 

The other type of Masters is a degree you get while in a PhD program. The "on-the-way" Masters (maybe someone can think of a better term!) is the degree you get after 2 years or so in a PhD program.  You get this after you meet some requirements, usually all coursework or something. You get this Masters and continue on your way to the PhD. The "consolatory" Masters is either a degree you get because you got a "on-the-way" Masters and then quit before you finished the PhD, or it's one that is awarded you to when you decide to leave before getting a PhD, provided you meet some requirements. In the US, this type of Masters is not worth very much (but still better than nothing) because it indicates you somehow failed to complete your PhD (either quitting or flunking out). Note: Not all programs will offer this option.

 

How to know if a program offers it or not?

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How to know if a program offers it or not?

 

The best first step for any question regarding your graduate program is to check the program's handbook.  You can likely find it on their website.

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I don't want to judge....but I think you should have figured out an idea of living costs ........ :S . It's rare to get living costs and tutition and everything paid for.

 

Where is the school? There are a lot cheaper options depending on where you want to live.. Usually the closer to the school the more expensive it is. So if you are wiliing or able to ride transportation to the school you may have cheaper living arrangements.

 

Have you looked at the housing for graduate or phd students for the school? Usually even if it's offcampus they have a listing you can look at.

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I don't want to judge....but I think you should have figured out an idea of living costs ........ :S . It's rare to get living costs and tutition and everything paid for.

 

I think this really depends on your program/degree type and your field. In my field, it's rare to not get tuition and living expenses. I would not have accepted any offer that did not pay for all of my tuition, plus paid a stipend that is high enough that I can live the (modest) lifestyle I want and still save ~10% of my annual income for the future.

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If your only concern is money, than their are options you can consider, such as looking for roommates in the area to share the costs. Must university offer Graduate Housing and you can find housing with another student. Looking at cost of living, etc, it's ridiculously tight if you try to "go it alone." 

 

You can also apply for additional funding, fellowships, etc. You can talk to your PI about additional funding sources because of your concerns. Especially being an international student, there are probably a lot of untapped/rarely tapped resources. However, if you tell them you are planning on leaving, you're going to see negative consequences in the way they interact. The department is putting out a lot of resources, and have chosen you over a lot of other candidates. They tend to frown  upon people pulling out. Sure, it happens. But, as mentioned above, usually for problems of 'fit' or 'life emergencies.' 

 

As for your career ramifications, you may see schools in the future questioning your commitment to a program. They may be less willing to offer you as much funding, because you're a flight risk. 

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