Dropping out of PhD - what's next?

posted
02-Jul-18, 11:57
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Hi everyone,
I'm currently at the end of my first year of a fully self-funded PhD study and I need to make a choice whether I should pay another year of tuition fee or to drop out. Maybe someone else is or was in the same situation...

I was quite successful throughout my BSc and MSc both academically and personally (i.e. social life). I enjoyed my previous studies and the quick results (papers, exams...). Then I started working and it really bored be like nothing before (two different jobs on two different continents). I wanted to get out of it and thought a PhD may be the right thing, since I've always enjoyed uni.

However, a PhD is absolutely different. I don't really have any contacts here and don't know how to change this. My PhD topic averagely interests me and I'm sure I could somehow do it if I had more motivation. Social life etc could contribute to this. However, is this the issue? Currently, I'm coming into uni 6-7 days a week and trying to force myself to do some work. However, I mostly procrastinate. I'm already considering to quit, but have no plan for afterwards. The alternative of doing some boring and meaningless stuff in an office simply kills me.

Was anyone in the same situation? If so, what did you do about it?

I very, very much appreciate any sort of report on your experience. Thanks in any case!
posted
03-Jul-18, 10:41
by Nad75
Avatar for Nad75
posted about 2 months ago
"Currently, I'm coming into uni 6-7 days a week"

First off, don't do that. Make sure you schedule in dedicated 2 'no work' days where you plan a movie, go hiking, window shopping, etc. I like to work the weekends, so my days off are usually Sunday & Monday or split during the week. Even just drinking at home and binging on a Netflix series for the day is really good for resting your brain and makes you motivated to work on the thesis the next day. I know it's tempting to just go in everyday, but it really kills the interest.

Even though the PhD is mostly self-directed, treat it like you have a boss expecting a piece of work at the end of the week. Write a daily target in your planner (like reading 3 articles and noting or writing 500 words). Hitting the target at the end of the week is self-motivation and stops you from procrastinating. You could also try exercising in the morning, I found out that quick-starts my energy for the day.

I also found out that it's not helpful to spend the year mostly reading and noting (even though this is expected for the massive literature review)...I can only do about two days of reading then I start working on the writing and go back and forth. You could try to find a conference or two for the upcoming year as well, writing a paper for it/presenting/arguing it out and networking really boosts the confidence.

For social life, you could try joining some clubs. although it's summer so people will most likely be gone till the autumn.

I also was out of academia for a decade, so what helps me is reminding myself that I don't have an actual boss and making me work unpaid overtime! :) I also like job-searching online, it helps to know how much I can make after the degree & figure out different places in the world that I'll move to.
posted
03-Jul-18, 10:48
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 months ago
Hi, nordsee,

Take two weeks off and have a think about if you want that PhD or not. If you don't need that PhD (aka you don't want to go into academia), I would suggest that you consider doing something else since you are paying for it.

Doing a PhD is different from a BSc or MSc. You work on a single project in depth whereas in BSc and even MSc (not MRes), they are coursework based and each course is for a short period of time. If you are a person who likes constant change and excitement, a PhD is definitely not for you.

Go have a look at jobs that have constantly changing work environment. Eg. sales rep, field scientist, application specialist, environmentalist, marine biologist/forest ranger, etc
posted
05-Jul-18, 11:09
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Thank you Nad75 and tru for your replies and the advice. I really appreciate it.

@Nad75 I'm cutting it down now to 5 days and 9-5 and will see how this goes. However, I just spend a week back in Germany without doing anything and I expected my motivation to be higher again. Well, it was pretty good on Monday, but now it is simply getting worse again... I'm not entirely confident about the issue here, but reading what @ Tru wrote, I see at lot of matches to my personality and came up with similar thoughts already.

@Nad75, I think I will do the two week thing and then see whether @tru's reply is the situation here.

Thanks again!
posted
06-Jul-18, 04:25
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for Becky1210
posted about 2 months ago
Hi, I just quitted my PhD in my second yr maybe I can give you some thoughts. Some background: My research was interested to me that I don't mind to work all day and night.I have excellent research progress and received two scholarships, but I am just a hard working student have some interesting character and not too good academically. Excellent researcher. In another words, I am not too good at the subject I chose. My lesson was do what you are good at because if you are really good at something, you will thrive in your field. You will feel good about yourself and found meaning from your work. You mentioned "meaningless, boring, forces, kills me" sounds like a red flag which I think definitely not to ignore. Beside having a OK social life that keep you in the program...are you good at or even passionate about the subject?
posted
06-Jul-18, 11:33
edited about 7 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Hey nordsee,

I think it's great if you have a good idea that you want to quit your PhD (that's what the original post sounded like). Most people who post on here about quitting are struggling and feel like they want to quit but do not really want to quit (eg they want a future career in academia, they know they're just going through a temporary rough time, they only have a short time left and think they may as well finish).

If you're not finding PhD life fulfilling and don't think it is necessarily for you, then one idea is to explore your career options. You could do this by looking at job profiles, taking those tests they have, talking to people, and importantly, thinking about what parts of your past and present experiences you have enjoyed vs. not enjoyed (or hated!) - and what it is that distinguishes those parts and what careers might offer things you know you enjoy. Once you have some options of what you think you would like to do you can then go about planning the steps that will take you to that role. If a PhD isn't necessary then leaving sounds a sensible plan!

If, on the other hand, you want to stay on and finish your PhD (eg maybe you really want to have a doctorate, or maybe you want to be an academic or something else that needs a PhD) then other people's advice here sounds a good plan.

All the best!
Tudor
posted
06-Jul-18, 13:10
edited about 23 seconds later
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Thanks for the further replies and suggestions!

@Becky1210

Why exactly did you drop out then? Didn't want an "average" PhD? Didn't expect a thriving academic idea? What are your doing now?

However, what you are describing pretty much sounds like me. I'm very hard working and really have to say my BSc and MSc were simply a lot of work, but that's it. The BSc was even harder...

My topic is used to be interesting, but this is decreasing now. Not entirely sure about the reason yet. Anyway, it is definitely not keeping me awake at night...

@Tudor_Queen:

yeah, I don't think it is a short term low, since it's going several months now and only getting worse even after my one week holiday. However, I want to rule out any other reasons which are influencing my attitude towards my PhD studies, as I always wanted to become an academic and to stay at uni. However, the environment at my current uni is not what I'm used to from both my BSc and MSc uni. A lot of people seem to be very isolated. Can't tell whether is this willingly or unwillingly.
Yes, I'd love to have a doctorate, but if I don't stay in academia it's just a fancy title and doesn't really have any further use for me.

So, I better come up with some alternative pathways before I leave the programme or have to pay another year tuition.

Thanks again!
posted
06-Jul-18, 14:00
edited about 18 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From nordsee:


yeah, I don't think it is a short term low, since it's going several months now and only getting worse even after my one week holiday. However, I want to rule out any other reasons which are influencing my attitude towards my PhD studies, as I always wanted to become an academic and to stay at uni. However, the environment at my current uni is not what I'm used to from both my BSc and MSc uni. A lot of people seem to be very isolated. Can't tell whether is this willingly or unwillingly.
Yes, I'd love to have a doctorate, but if I don't stay in academia it's just a fancy title and doesn't really have any further use for me.

So, I better come up with some alternative pathways before I leave the programme or have to pay another year tuition.

Thanks again!


It's so so important to be happy (and in turn productive) in your context. And one institution to the next can vary so much! Can you switch to somewhere else that would seem a better fit for you? How far in are you? I know several people who have done this and have never looked back.
posted
06-Jul-18, 14:06
edited about 1 minute later
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From profkmorrell:
It's difficult without knowing more about your situation but my experience has been that most people who do a PhD think of quitting at some stage. They also do tend to find it very isolating. Doing a PhD especially in the social sciences or humanities is almost like becoming a monk. It does sound like you have been struggling for some time with this, I feel for you. If you really think other kinds of work would be very dissatisfying then it may be worth persevering with your PhD because you will have greater autonomy in academic study than in many occupations. [...] .


I'm impressed by your reply. Thank you so much for it.

As you say, I've already contacted student services two days ago and got a first counselling appointment for in two weeks. I'm really hoping that the root of the issue is elsewhere and that counselling may help me to identify this.

In my first review, my supervisors expressed their satisfaction stating that my progress is quite more advanced for someone at my stage. I have to say, I was quite motivated at that time and produced a lengthy report / review concerning the technical aspect of my studies. I enjoyed working on it and learned actually quite something. However, now I'm on the political science part of study and don't really find a lot of useful things (or I don't recognise them as useful). This said, my background is not political science...
This situation is getting worse for about 6 months now. From my lead supervisor's facial expression and can clearly see that the level of satisfaction has decreased. Clearly, the current situation is quite different to when I started. I'm not really producing anything, which has to with two things a) I can't really find a lot of relevant things and b) I procrastinate like crazy despite coming into grad school and "working" from there.
posted
06-Jul-18, 14:10
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Quote From nordsee:


yeah, I don't think it is a short term low, since it's going several months now and only getting worse even after my one week holiday. However, I want to rule out any other reasons which are influencing my attitude towards my PhD studies, as I always wanted to become an academic and to stay at uni. However, the environment at my current uni is not what I'm used to from both my BSc and MSc uni. A lot of people seem to be very isolated. Can't tell whether is this willingly or unwillingly.
Yes, I'd love to have a doctorate, but if I don't stay in academia it's just a fancy title and doesn't really have any further use for me.

So, I better come up with some alternative pathways before I leave the programme or have to pay another year tuition.

Thanks again!


It's so so important to be happy (and in turn productive) in your context. Can you switch to somewhere else and take your funding?


Unfortunately there is no funding. I was so keen to do a PhD that I decided to finance it with savings, parental support, part-time jobs.

As far as I know changing the university would to start again.
posted
06-Jul-18, 14:19
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Ooops, I edited my reply while you responding to it! It is slightly different now (I noted that you didn't have funding and added something else).
posted
06-Jul-18, 20:31
edited about 33 seconds later
by Pursue
Avatar for Pursue
posted about 2 months ago
I have benefited also. Maybe also add more to the procrastination part. How to overcome it!

Quote From profkmorrell:
It's great you are getting help. Thanks for the feedback, I'll try to add more.

Often in my view the 2nd year can be the hardest. It's difficult to generalise but often the first year is all new and a bit more structured so it can go by fairly quickly (also you have an end of year exam to concentrate on). By the time you are in the later stages 3rd/4th year you have a block of work behind you and can feel the pressure of deadlines coming up so it is still anxious but drives focus. It's hard to generalise but the 2nd year can feel like drifting which is a different kind of anxiety and often more uncomfortable for some.

When you say you can tell from their facial expression... it is perhaps better to get clarity and I would suggest be quite direct about your concerns - it's your life so don't rely on mindreading. It's their job to help you and it's in their interests too. You can do this in a way that manages your image still - ie you don't want to give the impression you really want to stop.

If you were doing well initially you definitely have the ability and the question seems partly about motivation. One positive thing you should be able to do with a PhD is steer and shape it in the direction of things that give you interest. For instance, if you are really keen to talk to some people you could look at bringing in that kind of data source. If you like reading and secondary data sources you can steer things that way.

Another positive on procrastination this might sound a bit crazy but the best general suggestion I can offer is really work hard on your morning routine. If you get the first hour right it helps so much. And also start this the night before writing a 2-3 minute plan for the day. Again I can try and say more just let me know :)
posted
06-Jul-18, 23:27
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From nordsee:


yeah, I don't think it is a short term low, since it's going several months now and only getting worse even after my one week holiday. However, I want to rule out any other reasons which are influencing my attitude towards my PhD studies, as I always wanted to become an academic and to stay at uni. However, the environment at my current uni is not what I'm used to from both my BSc and MSc uni. A lot of people seem to be very isolated. Can't tell whether is this willingly or unwillingly.
Yes, I'd love to have a doctorate, but if I don't stay in academia it's just a fancy title and doesn't really have any further use for me.

So, I better come up with some alternative pathways before I leave the programme or have to pay another year tuition.



It can be tricky. But it sounds here as though maybe you are able to try other things to make your present situation work for you. Good luck with everything. : -)
posted
09-Jul-18, 13:27
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:
Ooops, I edited my reply while you responding to it! It is slightly different now (I noted that you didn't have funding and added something else).

Yeah, not being funded gives certainly more flexibility (you can't loose anything if you don't have it), but its it actually possible to transfer to another institution and to be still in 2nd year (which will start soon)?
posted
09-Jul-18, 13:31
edited about 27 seconds later
by nordsee
Avatar for nordsee
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From profkmorrell:
It's great you are getting help. Thanks for the feedback, I'll try to add more.

Often in my view the 2nd year can be the hardest. It's difficult to generalise but often the first year is all new and a bit more structured so it can go by fairly quickly (also you have an end of year exam to concentrate on). By the time you are in the later stages 3rd/4th year you have a block of work behind you and can feel the pressure of deadlines coming up so it is still anxious but drives focus. It's hard to generalise but the 2nd year can feel like drifting which is a different kind of anxiety and often more uncomfortable for some.

[...]

Another positive on procrastination this might sound a bit crazy but the best general suggestion I can offer is really work hard on your morning routine. If you get the first hour right it helps so much. And also start this the night before writing a 2-3 minute plan for the day. Again I can try and say more just let me know :)


I'm in my first year and would love to have some structure. All I get in structure is sometimes a little push from my supervisor in a certain direction. But I personally feel that I either end up in dead ends or that in areas where I can see the wood for the trees. I'm doing a PhD in the UK and the overall time should only be three years in total.

You are right, I should be clarify what I think my supervisor is thinking.

yeah, I'm already doing the morning thing and it clearly works best, although not satisfactory.

Postgraduate
Forum

Copyright ©2018
All rights reserved

Postgraduate Forum

Masters Degrees

PhD Opportunities

PostgraduateForum is a trading name of FindAUniversity Ltd
FindAUniversity Ltd, 77 Sidney St, Sheffield, S1 4RG, UK. Tel +44 (0) 114 268 4940 Fax: +44 (0) 114 268 5766