Jump to content

Dropping out on first year?


Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

I started a Phd in Public Policy this year and I feel like I don't want to continue on it anymore. I had done a master in Econ before so I knew what to expect from the courses, but the level is just not what I expected and even the classes from my master were more rigorous than what I'm doing now, so it feels like I'm not learning anything at all. On the other side, I know it may be too soon to judge the program but I don't want to spend a lot of time here if I'm not getting anything out of it later.

I know I can get a masters degree if I stay two years, but I don't think a MPP would be worth 2 years, specially because I already have the master in econ (and the level of the MPP courses is even lower than my phd classes). Alternatively I could try to take a more mixed set of courses and try to get something like an MBA altogether with my phd courses so that it will work as back-up plan if I drop out later (if it's not research then I prefer private sector, that's why I prefer an mba over an mpp).

Do you think that sounds like a reasonable thing to do? I know I could just switch into the mba for instance if that's what I wanted, but I have a full scholarship now which I would loose if I do it, so in any case I'd continue doing both program instead of totally switching --and I don't think I'd learn much in an mba as I did business for undergrad, but the market values it and I like the job opportunities.

In a sense, I would like to keep going but only if I have a good back-up plan, but making that plan would make plan necessarily require deviating from my Phd a little, or maybe not so little... Thanks for your help! I'm just so confused now :/ 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well you go to a PhD for both the classes and research in my opinion, otherwise I'd have applied to Europe instead and save myself 2 years. But even if I were here only for the research, then being in a program that I don't consider rigorous enough will still be bad for job market later. You can offset part of that with a good job market paper, sure, but that will only be partial as the people hiring in the job market already have a prior idea of how alumni from each school are...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, yes, the good old first year "I'm too smart for this." Spoilers: you're not. And if you don't think your program is well regarded, why did you not consider that before accepting? Did you not get into anyplace better? How do you mesh that with your perceived intellectual superiority?

Classes are interesting but not where you should be spending most of your effort; easy classes mean there's more time for you to focus on other work. This is particularly true if you have an MA, as first-semester PhD work is often designed to get everyone on the same page.

Get over yourself, buckle down, and work to make your time productive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure why you're doing this PhD in the first place. Of course a PhD in public policy isn't going to be as rigorous as a PhD in economics. You should have known that going in. A PhD in public policy will never be "rigorous" enough to stand out on the job market: it's an interdisciplinary degree which gives literally no clue as to wtf you are doing beside it being remotely connected to the world of policymaking (which, as I'm sure you understand, can mean pretty much anything). If you want a job - any job - with this PhD, you have to hustle, build your own connections, invest in your expertise and your research. Unlike a PhD in econ, just the piece of paper isn't going to do shit for your career.

If you want a career in research as in in academia, yeah, you should drop out, because that's not happening with a pubpol PhD. If you're not interested in actually doing, surprise surprise, public policy (which I assume is correct given that your other interest is the private sector), you should probably likewise drop out. This isn't a degree that has automatic value added. You are the value added. The degree is an empty credential.

Edited by ExponentialDecay
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

I'm not sure why you're doing this PhD in the first place. Of course a PhD in public policy isn't going to be as rigorous as a PhD in economics. You should have known that going in. A PhD in public policy will never be "rigorous" enough to stand out on the job market: it's an interdisciplinary degree which gives literally no clue as to wtf you are doing beside it being remotely connected to the world of policymaking (which, as I'm sure you understand, can mean pretty much anything). If you want a job - any job - with this PhD, you have to hustle, build your own connections, invest in your expertise and your research. Unlike a PhD in econ, just the piece of paper isn't going to do shit for your career.

If you want a career in research as in in academia, yeah, you should drop out, because that's not happening with a pubpol PhD. If you're not interested in actually doing, surprise surprise, public policy (which I assume is correct given that your other interest is the private sector), you should probably likewise drop out. This isn't a degree that has automatic value added. You are the value added. The degree is an empty credential.

I don't agree that a phd in public policy is as uninformative as you say it is, but I understand that's what many people think so that's still a drawback by itself. The main reason why I thought it would be more rigorous is because it's a top 10 school, but it turns out is isn't enough.

Unfortunately also I guess I agree more than I'd like to admit with your last paragraph. The degree/paper doesn't seem to have much value added by itself. And my whole comment is that it doesn't seem to have as much value added for me either. Obviously I'd learn things, the issue is whether what I'd learn is worth 5 years. To some extent, I think I just already know I should drop out but I don't want to admit so soon that the program is not a good fit for what I want (or I'm not a good fit for what they want, either way, it leads me to the same conclusion).

 

 

 

Edited by Tom675
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, telkanuru said:

Ah, yes, the good old first year "I'm too smart for this." Spoilers: you're not. And if you don't think your program is well regarded, why did you not consider that before accepting? Did you not get into anyplace better? How do you mesh that with your perceived intellectual superiority?

Classes are interesting but not where you should be spending most of your effort; easy classes mean there's more time for you to focus on other work. This is particularly true if you have an MA, as first-semester PhD work is often designed to get everyone on the same page.

Get over yourself, buckle down, and work to make your time productive.

I'll just say I'm surprised of how much you trust in the almighty flawless admission process of grad schools. There are many other factors, but I'm not gonna share my life experience here with you lol

Anyway, that's what I'm doing. I'm working in research and taking extra classes...

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, not only are you way too smart for your school, the other programs just wouldn't recognize your genius. Of course. lol.

I assume that, since you're just so smart, you actually had a purpose in attending your program despite the caveats given by @ExponentialDecay above. Obviously you're too intelligent to have gone in without having fully researched the consequences of taking an interdisciplinary degree. So clearly there's still some point in getting it, and that point hasn't changed. My advice thus remains the same: first semester tends to try to bring people up to speed, and may be easier since you have an MA. See if you still feel that way in the spring.

Oh, and try not to cause yourself irreparable social harm by talking about how you're too smart for your program.

Edited by telkanuru
Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

Ah, not only are you way too smart for your school, the other programs just wouldn't recognize your genius. Of course. lol.

I assume that, since you're just so smart, you actually had a purpose in attending your program despite the caveats given by @ExponentialDecay above. Obviously you're too intelligent to have gone in without having fully researched the consequences of taking an interdisciplinary degree. So clearly there's still some point in getting it, and that point hasn't changed. My advice thus remains the same: first semester tends to try to bring people up to speed, and may be easier since you have an MA. See if you still feel that way in the spring.

Oh, and try not to cause yourself irreparable social harm by talking about how you're too smart for your program.

Why is everyone being so narrow minded here? I don't think that's actually what OP is saying. I'm also finding out that the world of academia is weird and disconnected from the real world. Sometimes, they're less aware than individuals and groups outside of academia - which is the weird and unfulfilling part that OP is probably talking about. 

Anyway, @ OP - is there a way to stay in your program and produce research/dissertation that is meaningful for you while still working on side projects outside of academia? That seems to be the best avenue for you. What were your original reasons for wanting to pursue a PhD?

Edited by buttercup8d
Link to post
Share on other sites

What it really sounds like is OP did not research the field or the program he was applying to very well. The school does not make any program any higher prestige or more difficult, it simply provides more funding for the POI. Did you just apply to the school because of brand name? Because that's a terrible decision. Regradless, what's done is done. If you realize the degree is not something you want, or if you've realized public policy is not what you thought it was and want to change your program, then I think the best option here is to either try and integrate in the same school but different program (don't know how happy your POI will be to have you leave so early, but they may be chill about it), or leave the school and go through the application process itself (but no one likes a flaker). 

The biggest issue here is though, it doesn't sound like you know what you want entirely. I'd highly recommend researching every alternative you're looking at (including the field you are currently in), and seeing which interests you the most and pursuing that. Classes are honestly a very tiny portion of the PhD program, the majority being the research (even though I made a topic earlier making a big issue about classes), so don't judge anything of off that. Look at the research currently being done, and how that will apply to your future career goals (including the degree you're getting). Maybe you don't need a PhD for your degree, maybe a MBA will be perfectly fine. Again, it sounds like you don't know what you want to do, and thus, don't know what direction you want to take. I would think long and hard about what your future career goals are, and then base everything off of that (I made a post regarding this not too long ago). 

Also no need to be an asshole. It appears relatively clear where OP went wrong here, and the solution is not to just insult the person for it, but rather help them move past it. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, samman1994 said:

What it really sounds like is OP did not research the field or the program he was applying to very well. The school does not make any program any higher prestige or more difficult, it simply provides more funding for the POI. Did you just apply to the school because of brand name? Because that's a terrible decision. Regradless, what's done is done. If you realize the degree is not something you want, or if you've realized public policy is not what you thought it was and want to change your program, then I think the best option here is to either try and integrate in the same school but different program (don't know how happy your POI will be to have you leave so early, but they may be chill about it), or leave the school and go through the application process itself (but no one likes a flaker). 

The biggest issue here is though, it doesn't sound like you know what you want entirely. I'd highly recommend researching every alternative you're looking at (including the field you are currently in), and seeing which interests you the most and pursuing that. Classes are honestly a very tiny portion of the PhD program, the majority being the research (even though I made a topic earlier making a big issue about classes), so don't judge anything of off that. Look at the research currently being done, and how that will apply to your future career goals (including the degree you're getting). Maybe you don't need a PhD for your degree, maybe a MBA will be perfectly fine. Again, it sounds like you don't know what you want to do, and thus, don't know what direction you want to take. I would think long and hard about what your future career goals are, and then base everything off of that (I made a post regarding this not too long ago). 

Also no need to be an asshole. It appears relatively clear where OP went wrong here, and the solution is not to just insult the person for it, but rather help them move past it. 

Well first thanks for the post. This is clearly more useful than what forum trolls like @telkanuru have to say. I did my research about the program, read a lot online and talked to professors --from the school and from outside who knew more or less the school-- and also alumni from the program. Now that I'm inside however what they told me doesn't look like what I feel. Whatever the reason, that part is already done so I won't really complicate about it. I must say though that you are quite wrong in that interpretation of "it's public policy so it's obviously not going to be rigorous", and as usually happen you may have a misconception about how public policy is done in academia. I still believe it is more rigorous than many Econ programs anyway.

And it's true. I don't know what I want to do anymore. I'll just give my thoughts some time to settle down and anyway I wasn't taking any decision right now. What I do know however is that I want to get a degree out of this, because I want a sort of international career, so I want to stay even if it's only for a master. Hopefully, I'll recover my interest in the field as I go back to doing research and if I don't, then well, there's a back-up.

7 hours ago, buttercup8d said:

Why is everyone being so narrow minded here? I don't think that's actually what OP is saying. I'm also finding out that the world of academia is weird and disconnected from the real world. Sometimes, they're less aware than individuals and groups outside of academia - which is the weird and unfulfilling part that OP is probably talking about. 

Anyway, @ OP - is there a way to stay in your program and produce research/dissertation that is meaningful for you while still working on side projects outside of academia? That seems to be the best avenue for you. What were your original reasons for wanting to pursue a PhD?

I'm currently working in a couple projects outside my PhD but they are research projects so not really outside academia. I can't really leave them at the time --nor I want to-- and I'm taking extra courses too, so I don't really have any time available. My original idea was to try to get into academia, but I thought this offer was better than the offers I got from Econ departments so I took it. Also, this gave me the chance to take classes and have advisors in any other department, which is still something I value from this choice.

Well in summary I'll just need time to think about it. Thanks to all of you for your input! I just had one of those bad weeks when you hate everything, but hopefully things will get better. Cheers!

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Tom675 said:

I'll just give my thoughts some time to settle down

Huh. I wonder who suggested that course of action.

You can call it trolling if you want, but I've been pretty gentle with you here. I really do hope that this is the only place where you've expressed yourself as you have here, or you've done yourself pretty significant harm which you need to start trying to fix. People do not generally try to read between the lines to stretch out some absurd favorable interpretation, as @buttercup8d did; they'll take you at face value and respond in kind. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

Huh. I wonder who suggested that course of action.

The fact that I asked for opinions doesn't mean I'll follow what people suggests. It's just about having more inputs, but that doesn't mean I'll value them more than my own opinion. Despite that, it was indeed suggested above.

Thanks for "worrying about my reputation" anyway, it's so kind of you. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Tom675 said:

I don't agree that a phd in public policy is as uninformative as you say it is

I'm not saying that a PhD in public policy is uninformative. You yourself have set up an axis of comparison between the PhD in public policy and your master's in economics. I'm telling you that you're disappointed because you are expecting a public policy degree to be an economics degree by another name. The academic study of public policy is very valuable and can produce incredible specialists with top skills for both research and implementation, but its scope is much wider than economic analysis. If you want to exclusively focus on economic analysis, you should be getting a PhD in economics. I'm not sure why you're getting so defensive about the strengths of public policy when you seem to have no appreciation for any of the non-economic perspectives or skills that your program is teaching you.

Finally, it does seem from your responses like you didn't research your program or what a PhD is in general. A PhD is not about the classes. If the classes are easy, good for you - you can start on your research. Between you and me, you should probably also get a full-time job in some kind of policy outfit, because you'll be grateful for the work experience and network more than you are for your piece of paper. I don't necessarily agree that you think you're too smart for grad school, but I do think it's rather myopic of you to lord your economic background over a non-economics program. An economist coming into a policy program is obviously going to know the economics at a high level, just as a swimmer who starts training for a triathlon is already going to know how to swim. This should not have been a revelation for you. If you want to lord your economic background over the hoi polloi, you should consider switching back to the economics track - but keep in mind that there you will be competing with other economists instead of picking on the history majors.

Edited by ExponentialDecay
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, telkanuru said:

Huh. I wonder who suggested that course of action.

You can call it trolling if you want, but I've been pretty gentle with you here. I really do hope that this is the only place where you've expressed yourself as you have here, or you've done yourself pretty significant harm which you need to start trying to fix. People do not generally try to read between the lines to stretch out some absurd favorable interpretation, as @buttercup8d did; they'll take you at face value and respond in kind. 

absurd favorable interpretation? lol. It's just another interpretation based on what little facts that were given.

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Tom675 said:

The fact that I asked for opinions doesn't mean I'll follow what people suggests. It's just about having more inputs, but that doesn't mean I'll value them more than my own opinion. Despite that, it was indeed suggested above.

Thanks for "worrying about my reputation" anyway, it's so kind of you. 

You should put down the shovel. The fact that you don't find @telkanuru 's read-back of your OP flattering doesn't make it less accurate--especially given your subsequent posts.

If you want to leave your program, then leave it. Someone who wants to be there will replace you.

Don't expect the narrative you're practicing in this thread to convince everyone. "I was too smart for the room," is not an original story, and it is very rarely an accurate one.

If you leave, it will be because you decided not to motivate yourself to make the best of an opportunity to acquire advanced expertise in a different field, not because the courses were not rigorous enough. 

IRT your reputation, FWIW, I knew a guy who viewed himself too smart for almost every room in the House of Klio. He steamrolled his way to glory at break-neck speed. So much so that along with his Ph.D., he earned a PNG. As brilliant as he is (or thought), many others decided he simply wasn't worth the aggravation. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/6/2017 at 2:57 PM, Sigaba said:

You should put down the shovel. The fact that you don't find @telkanuru 's read-back of your OP flattering doesn't make it less accurate--especially given your subsequent posts.

If you want to leave your program, then leave it. Someone who wants to be there will replace you.

Don't expect the narrative you're practicing in this thread to convince everyone. "I was too smart for the room," is not an original story, and it is very rarely an accurate one.

If you leave, it will be because you decided not to motivate yourself to make the best of an opportunity to acquire advanced expertise in a different field, not because the courses were not rigorous enough. 

IRT your reputation, FWIW, I knew a guy who viewed himself too smart for almost every room in the House of Klio. He steamrolled his way to glory at break-neck speed. So much so that along with his Ph.D., he earned a PNG. As brilliant as he is (or thought), many others decided he simply wasn't worth the aggravation. 

My point in the last post was not actually judging whether his posts were right or not --i don't agree, that's clear, but it doesn't matter for this. The point was: does any of his comments help in any way to clarify what I asked? I think the answer is clearly no. So that's why I consider him simply a forum troll.

And even more --to make it clear that idc if you think I consider myself smarter than I am or not-- I'd love if I was learning other stuff in a new field, but unfortunately --for this matter at least-- the program is 90% about economics. To the point that some of my classmates complain the other way, i.e., why do we have so much econ. That's how public policy PhD's are at least in most top schools in the US, which is something that originally attracted me. So well, if I'm not learning in econ and I'm not learning new fields, that's where the problem arises... Second year may be better though.

Lastly, if I dropped out it's would not just because I didn't motivate myself to make the best of this opportunity. It'd be because there's a lot of other great opportunities that you are not taking by getting into a PhD... I'd be just going after them. But I decided that I'll at least stay for the first year. There's always the option of the master as worst case scenario, or hopefully a chance to get to like this again as I used to before.

Anyway, I won't be posting or checking this again. Thanks to those who made well intended comments, either those that I agreed with or not. Best!

 

 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, rough crowd.

I don't think it's an uncommon reaction from PhD students to be somewhat dissatisfied with their classes. The professors weren't really interested in teaching in general. I learned some good stuff, but the classes weren't super rigorous. (The reading lists were sometimes quite long, but that's not the same as rigor.) To be fair, though, they aren't supposed to be. As has already been stated, classes are the least important part of your PhD program.

OP, when you say you "feel like" you aren't learning anything, do you mean that you are actually not encountering any new concepts in your classes? Or are you just concerned that because the classes don't feel Nintendo Hard that you're not learning enough? The former would be concerning, but not the latter. At many programs the doctoral classes are deliberately kept under control so you can devote your time to teaching and/or research.

So I think the question of whether to stay or go should be less about the rigor of the classes and more about

1) Do you need a PhD in public policy to achieve your career goals? (In other words, do you want a research career somewhere?)

2) If so, is this particular program you're in a well-reputed, high-quality program where you can do the kind of research and career preparation you need to do to reach those goals?

If the answer to #1 is "no," then drop out. If the answer is "I'm not sure," start doing some career exploration and see what kinds of jobs really appeal to you - and whether you need a PhD for them. There are lots of research careers that will take you on with an MA in economics - think tanks, government agencies, NGOs, nonprofits. The PhD is only really necessary if you want to direct or lead research and/or want positions at specific kinds of places that only hire or strongly prefer PhDs (academic faculty, senior researchers at certain think tanks, etc.)

If you end up answering "yes" to #1 then the next to consider is #2. Set the classes aside. If they are easy, that's simply more time and energy you can put into the real meat of your program, which is research and professional development. That's some time you can spend interning or networking, too.

Don't bother with the MPP if you already have an MA in econ, and I also wouldn't bother with trying to complete an MBA along with your PhD courses. First of all, it's probably not actually possible to do that - and even if it were, it's unlikely to be easy or doable in 2 years. If you want an MBA, leave and get one. (However, if your university has a certificate in business or if you can take some classes at the business school, by all means do that.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.