I wasn't the best student when I began university. I can come up with many snowflake excuses, but the bottom line is that I wasn't mature enough to study at a college level and I eventually dropped out. Shortly after, I decided to enroll at my local community college (after working at a gas station and realizing how much that sucked), and it took me a bit, but I finally got it and started to succeed in college. I transferred to a small state school and graduated with a pretty respectable GPA and an honors degree. Not terrible for someone who completely flaked out for two years. In any case, I made a decision that I wanted to apply for graduate programs and pursue a Ph.D in order to become a professor, like ones that I admired at my state school. The first time around, I was rejected by every school I applied to. I wanted to be honest on my applications, so I sent in all of my transcripts, including the first one which flaunted my 1.6 GPA in one year of study. Maybe it was naïve of me, but I tried to rationalize that the 1.6 from the first school and the 3.8 from the state university are both part of who I am. Whatever.
Two years after graduating, I received my first letter of acceptance from a well-known state university with a respected program in my field. Excellent. I was happy because I proved to myself that I could turn my life around from the bottom that I had reached 7 years ago. I feel like I have finally done something good or reached some goal in my life. Also, I was pleased because I can say a big “suck it” to all the schools who rejected me in the past. Now, maybe that's immature, but it doesn't bother me too much. I think we can all be a little immature sometimes.
To the point of this post: I started reading College Misery about 3 months ago, and it has really opened my eyes. I had one professor who wrote a recommendation advise me that I shouldn't try to enter this career because of the uncertainty of job prospects for new Ph.D's, and that he even gave the same advice to his own daughter. Ok, I believe it. But, the turning point in my mind is when I started reading this website. I never thought about how soul-crushing this line of work could be. I imagine exciting research, engaged students (like I was during my second tour), a good salary, and other benefits. The reality is much more jarring – boredom, apathy, and in extreme cases, alcoholism and severe depression. Is this the life that I want? Certainly not. I started to consider other options. What can one do with a history specialization? Good question. I've lived abroad for the last two years and have acquired one language fluently and another at B1 level (in a bilingual country). This, combined with a knowledge of world history has persuaded me to apply for a job in the State Department after I finish an MA. I considered the government my enemy up until now, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I were working and living abroad, something which I already feel comfortable doing.
However, this all is mainly for advice.
Q: Can you all give me some of your thoughts? I feel like someone with my checkered education history already has little chance of finding a dream job in academia. If I do get a job, will it be worth it? Should I do what my instincts are telling me at the moment and look for something else?
- Living in Exile