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Thread: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

  1. #21
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

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    I think the first two years are much easier than the last 3. In the first 2 years, you have some semblance of a schedule and direction in your life. You take courses, you read assigned papers, you write your term papers. You have a couple of research projects which you have started recently. You also have your comps at the end of 2 years and that is a big goal for you. But, things suddenly change after comps. You are on your own and you have to find your own direction. There is no schedule. So, you procrastinate. A lot of intrinsic motivation is needed at this stage to carry on with your PhD. In fact, although my N (no. of observations) is relatively small, I have seen more people feeling lost and demotivated midway through the 3rd year.


    Quote Originally Posted by hattrick View Post
    Are the first 2 years harder than the next 3-4 years doing research and preparing your dissertation?
    Some people suggest that the first 2 years are more like a Graduate Program completing exams and classes and the rest is kind of preparing your dissertation and research which is much harder. I was just curios about your experiences.
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  2. #22
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Midway through the third year right now. I actually am taking 3 classes, teaching, doing RA work, and trying to get a third year paper together while hoping to advance other projects. So I have plenty of things I need to do from day to day. I feel much more pressure to produce good research though, and this is a very difficult thing to do. It is definitely easier to concentrate on the other things that I mentioned. So far it seems like the latter years are difficult.
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  3. #23
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Thank you for your posts, sb29 and YaSvoboden!. It seems that would be the general consensus I was just very curious to know what you guys thought but that answers my questions
    Btw, is it bad over here to ask which universities you guys currently go to? I've seen that nobody refers that.
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  4. #24
    A long long time ago XanthusARES's Avatar
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hattrick View Post
    Are the first 2 years harder than the next 3-4 years doing research and preparing your dissertation?
    Some people suggest that the first 2 years are more like a Graduate Program completing exams and classes and the rest is kind of preparing your dissertation and research which is much harder. I was just curios about your experiences.
    I'm only a second year, but everything that I've heard from everyone is in agreeance with what the others have said here i.e. that the last 3 (or 4) years are significantly more difficult. The biggest reason for this is self-motivation. You really have to be good at scheduling and actually getting work done. Add to the fact that during your first two years you have a bit of a respite from research. Sure you might have a project or two going on, but no one expects that much from you. On the other hand, during your last 3 years, a lot is expected from you, if not from your faculty, from yourself. You'll need to get some work out so that you can find a job at the end. This can definitely lead to demotivation, particularly if your adviser is kind of hands off. From what I hear, the third year is the most demotivating. You're right in the middle, you no longer have classes (at least not as high of a load), but you also aren't prepping for the market or your dissertation. It's all about what your motivation level is.

    That being said, every year is hard. There is always too much work and not enough time. There are pressures to pass comps, then there are pressures to pass your proposal, then there are pressures to get a job. There is always pressure to publish and there is the constant nagging feeling that you just aren't enough, just aren't smart enough or good enough or creative enough. It's always there. It's hard because the idea that you aren't smart enough has probably never crossed your mind. All of us, all of us, have been some of the smartest students in all of our classes throughout school. There is nothing more humbling than a PhD program.

    One final thought, of all the people I know who have scrubbed out, they all did it before their third year. I'm not trying to argue that the first two years are harder, but merely noting that you know pretty quickly if the program is for you or not. Generally once you pass your comps, while the program gets much harder, you also see an end in sight.

    One more final thought, I've seen a lot of people get demotivated throughout the program. While there will be bad days, days where you just don't think you can make it, it's only really a problem when these feelings become chronic and won't go away. My advice on one way to deal with the stress is to celebrate every win. Absolutely every win. Did you take a midterm? Have a beer! Did you get an OK from the IRB? Watch a movie with some friends. Is it Friday and you made it through another week? Order a pizza. In life, it's really easy to lose sight of the good things because bad things are more salient (thanks Tversky). Counterbalance that by celebrating the wins. Sometimes just taking a night off counts as a win, sometimes doing it up on the town is what you need. No matter how you celebrate, make sure to celebrate, or you'll get crushed.
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  5. #25
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hattrick View Post
    Thank you for your posts, sb29 and YaSvoboden!. It seems that would be the general consensus I was just very curious to know what you guys thought but that answers my questions
    Btw, is it bad over here to ask which universities you guys currently go to? I've seen that nobody refers that.

    There is a certain modicum of anonymity throughout this forum. Some people have no issue saying where they are at, others prefer to keep it anonymous because of future job prospects. A lot of us have at one point or another said, so if you check through old posts you might be able to figure it out. So while it's not bad to ask, don't be offended if we choose to not respond.
    Til now I always got by on my own
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  6. #26
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by XanthusARES View Post
    There is a certain modicum of anonymity throughout this forum. Some people have no issue saying where they are at, others prefer to keep it anonymous because of future job prospects. A lot of us have at one point or another said, so if you check through old posts you might be able to figure it out. So while it's not bad to ask, don't be offended if we choose to not respond.
    I agree with Xanthu on this. Most of us want to keep anonymity to some degree. I know that I am readily identifiable by anyone that wants to dig through my old posts and do some searching around department web sites. At the same time, I don't want it to be obvious who I am because there are some potential costs of people emailing me out of the blue or professors seeing things on this site that I have said and disagreeing. I have given opinions on schools that some people may disagree with and have probably said some things that are just stupid. There also isn't much upside to people knowing that I contribute on here. That said, my advisor knows who I am on here and has said it is good that I am getting some information out there for applicants. I have also made some connections through my participation on here after getting to know someone on the forum.
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  7. #27
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    You can easily find my name in some of the old posts and there is only one marketing PhD student with my name in Singapore. So much for anonymity
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  8. #28
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Thank you all for all the insights. All of your posts certainly makes sense about being anonymous. You guys are cool. I am glad I found this forum
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  9. #29
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by hattrick View Post
    Are the first 2 years harder than the next 3-4 years doing research and preparing your dissertation?
    I'm going to play devil's advocate here and say I think it depends a lot on the structure of your program. Second year was impossibly difficult for me. There are honestly big chunks of time during first semester of my second year that I don't remember. I was teaching for the first time as the sole instructor for a junior level course and taking 4 courses myself, all while trying to push forward research and to develop a new topic for my comps paper. It was awful.

    I remember talking to more senior students and faculty back then, and the students said that second year was a piece of cake and the pressure didn't really heat up until the (name the year they were in at that point). Junior faculty tended to look back on their time in their respective Ph.D. programs as the most free they ever were, with nothing but time to work on their research. I remember being terrified that if it was going to get worse than it was, I wasn't going to make it.

    I'm in my fourth year now, and it's stressful, but not the same kind of stress. I worry about actually getting things done but much less about my ability to get things done, if that makes sense. Obviously the looming job market is stressful, waiting on reviews is stressful, fleshing out a dissertation is stressful, but none of it is quite as bad as that semester of my second year.
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  10. #30
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    Re: 2016 Ask a Current Ph.D. Student Thread

    Hello again. I am currently applying to Ph.D. programs. After I receive all the required recommendations, I want to send a gift as a token of appreciation to my 3 recommenders. I'd thank them for putting the time to submit a dozen or so recommendations for me. Have any of you done this? Any suggestions? Thanks.
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