If it's for personal reasons, I don't see what the problem is.
I'm currently debating whether or not to leave the program I'm enrolled in (I don't want to give personal information away, but it's in the 40-60 range). The decision would be for personal reasons, which I think are justifiable. I'm wondering if anyone has any insight into what the ramifications would be down the road.
I'm young enough now (24), that I hope to return to a PhD program in a few years when the personal issues have sorted themselves out. How do you think other schools would view an applicant that withdrew from a program half-way through the first year? Does anyone have experience with this?
There will be always a question mark regarding why you withdrew in the first place. Ideally, it would be "nice" to withdraw after completing at least one semester (or maybe even Masters) and getting good grades. Putting a letter of recommendation from a current professor on file with the school wouldn't hurt either, if your university has access to such service.
It's a black mark on your record. A PhD is a huge undertaking that you have to dedicate years of your life to achieve. When you go for a PhD, your personal life goes out the window, as thus so do any "personal reasons". What adcom would want to fund someone who dropped out because (in their minds) their heart wasn't into it? Like YoungEconomist said, you will have to explain these "personal issues" to the adcoms when you apply again, and even then they will be skeptical.
I would really think long and hard about dropping out. The more years you are out of school, the harder it is to get back in, and as most econ profs I have spoken to said, "your human capital is depreciating". I was thinking of taking some time "off" before doing a PhD, but after what I've heard from various sources, I've decided to storm ahead.
If you can perhaps share with us the personal issues you are having, we could give you some more specific advice. If it's boyfriend/girlfriend problems, that's not a justifiable reason. If it's to think about whether or not you really want to do a PhD, you should have thought of that before applying. You will have to deal with "personal issues" all your life. What if these "personal issues" come up again when you start the PhD program a second time?
I don't mean to be harsh. I am just trying to be realistic. PhD isn't undergrad. Those that leave the PhD program normally never return, damned if I say almost 100% of the time.
Thanks all for your responses - much appreciated. The issue is that I had expected my wife to be able to join me at my school half-way through first year. However, she was just accepted into a different program in another country that is a "can't turn down" opportunity for her. The thought of being apart for 4-5 years is a non-starter.
I guess I'm wondering how this would be viewed when/if I explain this in the SOP of future applications.
Ekon: You might want to look a bit more into how you might get around the problem. It's certainly not a requirement at most schools that you be in residence for the entire dissertation-writing stage, though that would generally help. But it's possible you could finish the core and take up residence at a university near your wife, visiting and otherwise communicating with your advisor and committee.
I agree with notacolour: deal with the long distance stuff until it's time to write your PhD (since you're halfway through your first year, you only have a year and a half left of coursework and the other things that require you to be physically in residence). At that point you can move close to each other, because all your school will need is your job market paper and your thesis chapters. You can discuss the thesis with your supervisor on the phone. I know people who did this, and it's possible.
My suggestion is to tredge on. In my opinion, that's the best thing to do to minimize your time apart, given your academic goals (and hers).
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