Never gonna give you up … never gonna say goodbye…
- Rick Astley, English poet
- Rick Astley, English poet
When I was in my master’s program, I attended a meeting at which various professors spoke to graduate students about pursuing PhDs. We were told that, if we plan to go on to pursue doctoral degrees, we should anticipate spending an additional five to seven years in graduate school. Having a master’s degree would not truncate that. Few, if any, of us would prove an exception to this rule, or so we were told.
I’m now two months shy of completing my fifth year in my PhD program. As of March 20th, I’ll celebrate my one-year anniversary of becoming ABD. A firm graduation date still eludes me, however. I can now say with the greatest of confidence that I will not be graduating before August. Quite possibly, I will not graduate until December. And maybe, just maybe, I won’t graduate until May 2014.
Why the delay?
Well, I shared that anecdote from my days as a master’s student for a reason. I want to remind people that I am not unusual in taking this long to complete my PhD. I know several PhD students who have been in my program even longer than I have. The thing is, now that I know a May 2013 graduation date is not in the cards, I have to do more than complete my PhD requirements. I have to strategize. I could graduate in August. It’s entirely possible. But it might not be wise of me to do so. If I graduate in August, I’m unlikely to have a job lined up for the 2013-14 academic year. That means I’ll be out of work, with a PhD. That’s like opening a jar of mayo and leaving it on the counter. If it sits unused for too long, it starts to become a problem. It starts to smell funky, and nobody wants to touch it. According to those who know better than I, until I get a job, I should postpone graduation for as long as I possibly can.
Here’s the good news. The philosophy department recently informed me that my funding has been extended through May 2014. In other words, if I am interested in sticking around, I will continue to receive a tuition waiver and a modest stipend for at least one more year. They’ll even put me back at half-time TA status, which effectively doubles the stipend I am currently receiving. Admittedly, this takes a huge weight off of my shoulders. I know the department is pretty good about keeping students on that need it, but it’s never something that they guarantee. Until this latest offer was presented, I didn’t know for sure what my options were for the fall. Now I have something of a safety net. And it’s a safety net I’m pretty sure I’ll fall into. By waiting until (at least) December to graduate, I’ll be able to participate in the big round of job applications that takes place in October without sitting on an unused PhD. I’ll also be able to maximize my job prospects before going into repayment on my student loans. If it weren’t for the necessary evil of student loans, I wouldn’t feel nearly so rushed to complete my PhD. Unfortunately, I can avoid repaying them only by remaining in a position where I rely upon them.
To summarize: Tallahassee, I’m here to stay. At least a little bit longer.