One of the big grad school lies

There are a lot of lies about grad school. But this one has been particularly prevalent in my department recently:

The only one who determines whether or not a student finishes is the student.

This is a huge lie. Yes, you as a student are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. But there are many other people involved that will determine whether or not you ever make it to graduation.

The second largest piece is your supervisor. And supervisors who don’t get this (or forget about this) can end up significantly delaying your graduation. For example, a supervisor who continually puts of reading your dissertation chapters is not enabling you to graduate. And a supervisor who puts off helping with publications is doing the same – and also possibly screwing with your future job hunt. Sure, you could just submit the publications on your own, but good luck with that – since your supervisors name is likely on it, it’s really not cool to be submitting work that other members haven’t approved of. But you really can’t submit your final dissertation without your supervisors approval (at least not if you actually want to graduate).

Other pieces of the puzzle include your department chair / grad chair (as they usually have to sign off on your progress), your defense committee (if you don’t pass, you don’t graduate), and the review boards at various journals and conferences (it’s really difficult to graduate without publishing).

So, while grad school often feels like a very lonely place (even when you’re surrounded by friends in the same situation) with a very “everyone for themselves” attitude, there’s actually lot of people who need to work together to get every grad student across that final stage. Unfortunately, every time one of these avenues puts up a roadblock, you can just imagine your graduating day getting pushed farther and farther away.

(Yes, I’m currently bitter as my supervisor is engaging in both of the above mentioned activities. Sigh.)


5 thoughts on “One of the big grad school lies

    • Yeah. It’s kind of funny (in a not so funny way) how acceptable it is to pay people top dollar to supervise people who are making very little. And then not actually care how well they supervise.

  1. Absolutely. It also can’t be forgotten that some teachers make it almost impossible to pass their courses. During my fiance’s first Masters, he had a professor who made the homework and exams so difficult with a promise that if you didn’t ace everything, you would fail, that all five of his students were near break down by the end of the first month. Despite his department knowing this prof being an ongoing issue, they refused to do anything about it. Thankfully this time around he found a much better school that actually, surprisingly cares. I hope that it gets better for you! Or at least, that you come out the other side better for it.

    • Thanks! And what a crappy situation for your fiance. There was a course during my first year here (I didn’t take it) where the final assignment was a set of open problems in the community. Um, yeah, putting it in an assignment with a couple of weeks to work on it isn’t going to suddenly enable these problems to be solved after all this time. It was really stressful for those students, and I know that course ended up with some reworking of the grades.

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