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Thread: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

  1. #16
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by jredmo2 View Post
    Hopefully this doesn't take this thread off-topic, but the NYT just published this article about the current situation for law school grads:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/bu...me&ref=general

    I realize you're not in law school, but a lot of those issues, I imagine, exist with any graduate degree (or perhaps even bachelor's degree). I don't think it's necessarily a revelation that students are over-optimistic about the career opportunities that their degrees will afford, and perhaps it is unfair to criticize colleges for a nation-wide employment problem. But a lot of the number-fudging and misinformation mentioned in the article is simply unethical.
    There have been a number of articles on this topic. I have enjoyed my career but I wouldn't recommend that anybody go into a legal career thinking that is an easy, guaranteed road to riches.
    Last edited by RedsBaron; 01-11-2011 at 09:02 AM. Reason: corrected typo
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron View Post
    There have been a number of articles on this topic. I have enjoyed my career but I wouldn't recommend that anybody go into a legal career thinking that is an easy, guarenteed road to riches.
    I agree. I enjoy my career, but easy is the last word that comes to mind.
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron View Post
    There have been a number of articles on this topic. I have enjoyed my career but I wouldn't recommend that anybody go into a legal career thinking that is an easy, guaranteed road to riches.
    So true.

    This is a bit off track from VPs original post, but are my thoughts on law school:

    1. Only go that route if you really love dealing with the law. You're going to be dealing with a heavy debt load, so if you don't love what your doing, you're going to be looking for work in a non-legal field with a huge debt your co-workers don't have.

    2. Go to the best school you can get into. Despite what law schools say about their good reputation and employment rates, there is still a big snob factor in the legal industry. I've known some of my fellow grads who had top notch grades, did law review and served on the Student Bar Association who got passed over or even dumped from jobs because a candidate from a "better school" came along. The funny thing is, some of these better schools weren't necessarily more rigorous. On the contrary, I've had friends take courses at other law schools on a visiting basis who learned that the "better school's" classes were actually easier to get good grades in than our school. As the grads from the "better schools" find fewer jobs at big law firms, I've been seeing more of them applying for the lower paying jobs at smaller firms and other employers that used to be the landing spot for quality grads from "lesser" schools.

    3. Be aware that many law schools will grade on the curve. This probably didn't sound so bad when you were an undergrad and might have been the person who set the curve. But in law school, everyone is someone who used to set the curve. Our school had an unwritten policy whereby the overall curve for all classes was set so that only the top 10 students (less than 10% overall) would end up with a GPA of 3.5 or better. The other 140 students had to battle it out to make a B or C average. Those who got a D average or lower usually dropped out.

    4. If you end up at a school that doesn't have a big name and/or you aren't in the top end of your class, a law review editor, or on the moot court/mock trial team, intern, intern, intern. If you get a good internship, keep working it during the school year if you can. If you're lucky, they might have a spot for you when you graduate. If you decide to take time off for that last semester, be careful. They might find an intern they like just as much and give the job to them instead.

    6. Don't slack off in your job search after school thinking you have some time to find a job. Depending on what state you live in, the bar exam may be offered 2 times a year, which means that in 6 months, you'll be competing against a new batch of freshly minted lawyers before you know it.

    5. The good thing about law school is that once you pass the bar, you are licensed to practice and, should you not find a job elsewhere, you can always hang up a shingle and start your own practice, which is what I did after getting tired of all the rejection letters. You'll have to dig and scrape to find clients (I recommend trying to find an experienced attorney to mentor you) and you won't make squat your first few years. But I've heard if you can make it on your own for two years, the next 3-5 is still tough, but you'll at least be able to make ends meet, and then if you make it through that, the next 20 years or so can be quite profitable if you keep working hard.
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  5. #19
    Vavasor TRF's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by vaticanplum View Post
    In a word: jobs. I decided to get a terminal degree because I wanted to teach at the college level; grad school has confirmed that the ONLY thing I want to do with this degree is teach at the college level. Then I read stuff like this and kind of want to throw myself off a bridge. The jobs barely exist and are getting slashed even more every day.

    I *like* school just fine, though I don't seem to be as enamored of it as a lot of my classmates, or rather, they seem more willing to completely give their entire lives over to it than I am. I absolutely love teaching. I think I am good at it. But I don't think I love it enough to take on random adjunct positions here and there, supplement it with jobs I don't care about, worry about insurance, not qualify for public service loan forgiveness (you need to be employed full-time by a non-profit), and worry about job security every six months. It just looks very bleak at this time and I don't know that the investment is worth it.

    My program is only two years and I'm definitely finishing one year. I think it makes the most sense to stick it out, but I still wonder. I started this topic on a night when I was up half the night choreographing a movement piece to consonants in a Shakespeare monologue for my Saturday 9 am class. With a chest cold. Those don't tend to be my finest moments.

    It's interesting to hear people's take on things...those of you who did quit, did you feel that the financial investment you had put in was a waste? It's also interesting to hear of Yachtzee not considering himself an academic and being pulled in directions he didn't want to be, which is something I deal with too.
    I work for a community college in Texas. The state is cutting what they spend on us by 20%. their portion is 1/3 of our budget. but our enrollment is up 15% from last year, and is expected to rise again this fall. Teaching, at least at the Community College level in Texas is thriving.

    Stick to it is my suggestion. Don't deny what you are and what you are good at.
    Suck it up cupcake.

  6. #20
    Lover of Trivialities Doc. Scott's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    I went straight for my MBA directly after getting my undergrad. This was against advice that I should work for several years first and let my employer pay for it- but then I wandered into a test lab and did well enough on the GMAT that my undergrad school offered me a free scholarship. So it became a much easier decision to just stay another 14 months.

    I can't really say how much it's actually helped me in terms of income or advancement, as I still don't manage anyone directly ten years down the road- but I do think I'm probably happier than I would have been if I'd a) gone to law school or b) gone back to more academia to be a college professor. Those were my original two plans, at least (I graduated in 2000 and made the only major job change of my career in 2005, so I lucked into making changes during largely good economic times.) At some point I probably will have to retrain- but it'll likely be something related to what I already do. I'm in my mid-thirties now and starting a family- and it's hard to start over without making some major sacrifices that I don't really want to make.

    There's a lot to be said for having a job that you don't have to think about when you're not in the office. Sure, I'm not going to have that vacation house in (fill in name of nice-weather locale here), but few lucrative/high-powered jobs let you leave your work at work all the time. People have a tendency to look at what's wrong with their careers instead of what's right. This isn't meant to sound "sour grapes"- but it deserves to be said.
    Last edited by Doc. Scott; 01-12-2011 at 02:44 PM.

  7. #21
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    I thought I wanted to be an English professor, or at least get an M.A. in Creative Writing. I went for a year as a non-traditional grad student, which meant that I enrolled after everyone else and got stuck with lousy, lousy classes that didn't interest me. I had a great relationship with one of the two professors, but I didn't get along with the other one. Plus I got really sick with a wicked respiratory infection during my entire second semester, so I ended up having to drop my classes. Afterwards, I realized that after 5 straight years in college, I was really tired of being a student, so I decided not to go back. Good choice, me!
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    My wife quit law school after her first semester. She actually really enjoyed the work, was getting excellent grades, but just realized she wasn't going to be using her law degree in any meaningful professional way.

    I think it can be the correct choice. It was for her.

    VP, what I would ask is not necessarily if you want to take some of the ancillary teaching positions, but if you were to decide not to teach at all, what would you do. And how would the second year of your graduate program(and the degree) help or hinder that professional goal. It may be best just to stay with the program until you figure out what you want to do, and whatever you do it's not like having a PhD by your name would be a detriment.
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by vaticanplum View Post
    In a word: jobs. I decided to get a terminal degree because I wanted to teach at the college level; grad school has confirmed that the ONLY thing I want to do with this degree is teach at the college level. Then I read stuff like this and kind of want to throw myself off a bridge. The jobs barely exist and are getting slashed even more every day.

    I *like* school just fine, though I don't seem to be as enamored of it as a lot of my classmates, or rather, they seem more willing to completely give their entire lives over to it than I am. I absolutely love teaching. I think I am good at it. But I don't think I love it enough to take on random adjunct positions here and there, supplement it with jobs I don't care about, worry about insurance, not qualify for public service loan forgiveness (you need to be employed full-time by a non-profit), and worry about job security every six months. It just looks very bleak at this time and I don't know that the investment is worth it.

    My program is only two years and I'm definitely finishing one year. I think it makes the most sense to stick it out, but I still wonder. I started this topic on a night when I was up half the night choreographing a movement piece to consonants in a Shakespeare monologue for my Saturday 9 am class. With a chest cold. Those don't tend to be my finest moments.

    It's interesting to hear people's take on things...those of you who did quit, did you feel that the financial investment you had put in was a waste? It's also interesting to hear of Yachtzee not considering himself an academic and being pulled in directions he didn't want to be, which is something I deal with too.
    A few thoughts, which may or may not help you:

    *Despite what you may hear in the news, the unemployment rate for those with master's degrees is ridiculously low (~2%). A master's degree doesn't guarantee employment or a great job, but it does provide some measure of financial insulation and meaningful stability over the course of one's career.

    *Re: the risk/reward tradeoff for eduction, I recommend taking the broader, long-term perspective. Networking with your fellow graduate school cohort and professors may yield far more dividends than the actual "education" provides. For instance, my sister got an MFA in theatre, and managed to get a job teaching a few college courses at her alma mater with a big helping hand from an old drama professor.

    *Hopefully you are on an MA track rather than in a PhD program. The Economist had a report on PhD candidates a few months ago, and it was particularly troubling for those in the humanities, who work for pennies on the dollar. PhD candidates face a trap of working merciless hours during school, interminably long durations in completing thesis requirements, and poor career prospects after graduation.

    *If you are on a strict 2-year MA program as opposed to the PhD route, I think you're more likely than not to walk away with something valuable from the experience, regardless of the field of study (arts, humanities, etc.).

    *If you love teaching but don't enjoy the other stuff that comes with post-graduate education, then I recommend pursuing the teaching opportunities with a laser focus and scale back your effort on the rest of the graduation requirements. There are lots of ways to get caught up graduate school activities that "you should be doing" but are irrelevant in the bigger scheme of life and career. And if you successfully focus on the teaching, you'll probably carve out a more enjoyable educational experience in the end.

    There are lots of other considerations in these big life decisions--what are your realistic career alternatives, sunk costs, how does this affect family or other important relationships, as well as your long-term financial commitments.

  10. #24
    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Thanks everyone for your perspective. You confirmed some of my own suspicious and also raised things I hadn't thought about. I'm still very much on the fence, not sure what I'm going to do. We will see.
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  11. #25
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    I didn't seriously think about quitting law school because at the time, fortunately, the tuition wasn't that high and I had no obligations -- I'm glad I stuck with it, but my career has turned out way different than I thought it would -- partially because of family decisions and partially because of the subject matter I am practicing.

    The funny thing is that I detested law school.
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  12. #26
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by Strikes Out Looking View Post
    I didn't seriously think about quitting law school because at the time, fortunately, the tuition wasn't that high and I had no obligations -- I'm glad I stuck with it, but my career has turned out way different than I thought it would -- partially because of family decisions and partially because of the subject matter I am practicing.

    The funny thing is that I detested law school.
    I'm exactly the opposite. Enjoyed law school, for the most part, except exams at semester's end. Did very well. Not crazy about my life in the law so far.

    VP, sorry to hear it hasn't been working out. Hopefully, the Russia chapter is revitalizing things.
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

  13. #27
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by cincinnati chili View Post
    I'm exactly the opposite. Enjoyed law school, for the most part, except exams at semester's end. Did very well. Not crazy about my life in the law so far.

    VP, sorry to hear it hasn't been working out. Hopefully, the Russia chapter is revitalizing things.
    I hated law school but I have generally loved practicing law.
    Law school was a huge adjustment for me. As someone else posted in this thread, law school is made up of students who are all used to setting the curve. When I started law school I arrogantly assumed I would still be the guy setting the curve, only to learn that major league pitching was a lot tougher than the stuff I faced in AAA. I lost my arrogance in a hurry.
    The practice of law is demanding and comes with a lot of headaches but I truly have enjoyed it.
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by cincinnati chili View Post
    I'm exactly the opposite. Enjoyed law school, for the most part, except exams at semester's end. Did very well. Not crazy about my life in the law so far.
    I think I would've hated being a traditional "firm-working" lawyer. I'd enjoy being able to do stuff without checking pnc.com to make sure I had enough money, but I think I'd be miserable every day at the office.
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  15. #29
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor View Post
    I think I would've hated being a traditional "firm-working" lawyer. I'd enjoy being able to do stuff without checking pnc.com to make sure I had enough money, but I think I'd be miserable every day at the office.
    I'm trying to reassure myself that I merely work for very very difficult people, and that could happen in various lines of work. Still at this point, if I had it to do over again, not worth an approximately $130K investment. Hopefully, I'll feel differently in a couple years.
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

  16. #30
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Has anybody here ever quit grad school?

    Quote Originally Posted by cincinnati chili View Post
    I'm trying to reassure myself that I merely work for very very difficult people, and that could happen in various lines of work. Still at this point, if I had it to do over again, not worth an approximately $130K investment. Hopefully, I'll feel differently in a couple years.
    While I have never been in solo practice I have always practiced with good people whom I liked and I have always had a lot of control over what I did.
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