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Why do people drop out of Graduate School?

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    I am just curious as to why people drop out of graduate school.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2
    There are tons of reasons... I know of at least one person who dropped out because she ended up not enjoying research.
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3
    You find out the subject wasn't what you thought it was or you don't like the competition or you get burnt out after years of being overworked.

    Or sometimes, it's personal problems.

    I don't think I'm going to drop out since I am so close I may as well finish it, but I realized I am not sure I want to be a math professor, which takes some of the wind out of my sails.
  5. Jun 5, 2012 #4
    Common ones are
    1. couldn't pass quals
    2. couldn't work hard enough
    3. making too little

    Isn't there some joke that says if you are a math phd and you don't want to go into academia, then your only option is to become rich?
  6. Jun 5, 2012 #5
    it takes about 4-7 years depending on what you're doing, so lots of stuff can happen, some examples are (some have happened to people I know):
    -you are married and want to have kids, but need a "real" job rather than a 15k a year stipend for working 80 hours a week.
    -your spouse gets a sweet job across the country and you follow them, opting to find a job rather than finish your thesis/courses/whatever
    -you realize that you aren't alpha dog like you were in undergrad, and your area of interest isn't growing, and all you wanted to do was be a prof, but realize that's probably not going to happen, so you cut your losses, earn the masters degree and get a job in industry.
    -you can't handle the workload for another 4+ years of your life
    -you fail the USMLE part 1 and are held back from continuing the clinical years of your medical program.
    -you can't pass the qualifiers (although that's one of the least likely ones due to how well schools screen applicants and how competitive it is to get into grad school, a very high % are able to handle quals is all I'm really saying).
    -you end up hating the city you moved to, the school you're going to, or your thesis adviser which makes you much less motivated.
    -your parents die and you need to take a semester (or year) off to take care of legal matters and whatnot, then when you attempt to go back (to a professional program), you find that you cannot secure medical school loans to continue your education since you lack cosigners and collateral.
    -you find a lump somewhere on your body and need to start aggressive cancer therapy rather than continue the PhD.
    -a friend from undergrad offers you a prime position with a start-up that they created and it looks like it could be a possibility of a lifetime, so you pursue that instead of remaining in academia.
    -you develop an addiction to something which eventually inhibits your ability to finish the degree.
    -you get drafted into the military (unlikely but eh, sure it's happened sometime/somewhere)
    -you're working full-time and doing a professional program part-time but your job promotes/transfers you somewhere else where you cannot finish the degree.
    -your visa expires before you can finish your thesis and you need to return to your country because you can't find anybody to marry you.

    I'm sure I could go on for a lot longer, and others could easily contribute many more than I could come up with on my own too.

    So there you go, just a small list of examples of why people might (and have) dropped out of grad school.
  7. Jun 5, 2012 #6

    D H

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    Nobody has mentioned issues with the advisor yet, or with funding.
    - Your advisor takes on a new position at Nowheresville University. You either move with him/her to Nowheresville (and it costs, both time and money) or you start over.
    - Your advisor plays the "wrong rock" game ("show me a rock. Nope. That's not the rock I meant. Show me another rock.") one too many times.
    - The funding that has paid your measly salary disappears. Now you get to work for free.
    - You get sick of writing proposals to keep the funding going.
  8. Jun 5, 2012 #7
    I haven't heard that one, but yeah, you're probably better off financially, but you have to improvise a bit to find a job that you like, especially, if you aren't too much of an applied person.

    Money doesn't make too much difference to me. I just don't think I want to deal with teaching or the all the BS involved in academic research (the pressure to publish anything I can, rather than just pursue my interests wherever they lead).
  9. Jun 5, 2012 #8
    Same here. I don't think I'd like to sit in front of a computer 8 hours a day to write hedging programs. However, it seems that becoming rich is easier than going into academia. So my plan is to do something that I'm crazy about for 5 years in grad school, and then go do something that I feel ok with for the rest of my life.
  10. Jun 5, 2012 #9
    I'm starting to think the only way to go into academia and be free is to just be so far ahead of the game that you can take your time to pursue your interests wherever they lead and still have plenty of stuff to publish towards the end of your PhD and postdoc. That would mean preferably starting really early, like high school or earlier.
  11. Jun 5, 2012 #10
    Haha this is exactly my plan.
  12. Jun 5, 2012 #11
    Getting married and having kids with no money.
  13. Dec 1, 2012 #12
    I know this is an old thread. In my case some serious medical and emotional problems. Also, I had no idea what to expect which results in unpreparedness.
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