Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Go To Graduate School…

As a recent Doctor of Philosophy, it’s my job to inform youth (high school seniors and undergraduate seniors) what higher education involves.  This is the first of a series of blogs I will post.  Five reasons you shouldn’t go to graduate school:

1) If you are doing it because you don’t know what you want to do.

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Graduate school is a full blown commitment.  You are dedicating your LIFE to what you study.  You are Michelangelo on your back for weeks painting that Sistine Chapel ceiling.  You need to LOVE what you do in order to withstand the lack of blood flow to your fingers.  If you don’t love what you do, you will stop caring about everything around you and you will have wasted 5-6 years of your life instead of finding that something you care about.

2) If you are going under the impression a graduate degree will get you a better/higher-paying job.

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I will post more about this in another blog.. but, this is the WRONG reason to get a higher education.  There is absolutely NO guarantee you’ll get a better job or a higher-paying job or any job for that matter.  You go to graduate school to learn.  Because you love to learn.  Because you love to help others learn.  WHY THE EFF ELSE WOULD YOU GO?!

3) If you don’t get funding.

BIGGEST MISTAKE is to go to graduate school without funding.  If 1) or 2) are true… and you don’t get funding.  You’re the biggest idiot ever (here’s looking at myself).. because if you don’t love what you do but you are thousands of loans in debt… you’ll feel trapped and will never be able to switch careers.  Or, if you can’t find a job to pay those loans back, you’ll be in debt forever.

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4) If you don’t know EXACTLY what to study.

You’ll have the greatest success in graduate school if you know exactly what kind of research you want to do.  You can take the correct classes and find the best adviser for your research.  If you go in blindly, you’ll end up taking the wrong classes and doing someone else’s research.  You’ll write your thesis on a topic you probably don’t care about, and that’ll be the experience that determines the jobs for which you’ll be eligible… trapping you in an area of research you’ll NEVER CARE ABOUT.

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5) If you’re going because all the cool kids are going.

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We’ve had it drilled into our heads: go to college.  you won’t get a job if you don’t go to college.  In a sense, this is true (I will write about this more later).  However, it’s also not so true because now we’re getting it drilled: go to graduate school, you’ll get a BETTER job if you go to graduate school.  Now, millions of kids are getting bachelors degrees and this devalues higher degrees.  In addition, half of those kids will try graduate school, making master’s degrees a dime a dozen and PhDs aren’t as rare as they used to be.  There is NOTHING wrong with a trade like electrician or mechanic.  Not everyone is meant to have a full blown college education.  Many people are better with their hands than with book learning.  Please don’t go because it’s what everyone else is doing.

What you should do:

Take time off from school.  Find something you want to do.  If that something requires you to go back to school, then so be it.  If it doesn’t, then you just saved yourself time, money, and pain.  Travel if possible.  If not, work jobs that humble you, that open your mind, that help other people.

Of course… what you should do and what is possible for us to do are two different things, unfortunately.

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Graduate School is really liiiiike

So many posts, but not one about my research.  In the About Me section, I claim to be a graduate student of Mathematics.  WHERE is the proof? (pun completely intended)

I’m done with classes.  The struggle of learning and the feeling of incompetence isn’t as prevalent as it once was.. WHY NOT?  I feel like graduate school should always be a struggle.  I feel like research should be so much harder than classes.. because I’m delving into worlds unknown, paths unexplored, mathematics not yet discovered.

This is what research is really like:

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This is why I watch so much television and read so many books.  Someone else’s life is so much more exciting than mine.. because they may be accomplishing so much more.

It also doesn’t help that my advisor is the stereotypically crazy Japanese teacher, like from Karate Kid.

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They have their ways I guess.  Except, mathematics isn’t karate.. there are different types of learning and different styles of solving a problem.  None of mine are acceptable.  My advisor is also a bit more on the harassing side.. unlike Mr. Miyagi.. or maybe they are just alike behind the screen:

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But seriously, I enjoy my research because of all the applications I get to explore.  I know some Mathematicians who don’t even know how to, if they could, apply their stuff.  I’m super excited that I can apply mine to SO MUCH.  Summary:

I am currently studying the Nonnegative Matrix Factorization.  I see those wtf-faces.  I know what they look like.  My face looked the same way only one year and a half ago.  It’s not hard to understand.  Wikipedia does a good job of giving a general overview.  We’ve done more beyond the scope of Wikipedia, but if you are interested, that’s a good place to start 🙂  There are applications like gene pattern analysis, text mining, sparse coding, image processing, and so many others.  Maybe you’ll enjoy that part as much as I do.

So this is muh post about muh research.  And now you know why my posts are about other stuffs instead of this stuffs.  When you don’t make significant progress for months on end… well, why inform others that you are at a stand still?

Hashtag GradLife.