I Dropped Out Of Graduate School

I Dropped Out Of Graduate School

October 21, 2019 31 By Stanley Isaacs


I can do this. I can do this. Hi, my name is Wanda, and from 2013 until 2016 I was a graduate student but November 2016, I made a very difficult and important decision and I’m going to talk about it in this video. The gist of it you can probably see from the title but in case you’re not on YouTube, I’ll say it right here. I quit graduate school and it’s something that’s been keeping me quiet for the last few months. I’ve been dealing with the decision and processing it, but I realized this past weekend that it was keeping me from creating anything, really, to share with you on the internet and I realized that in order to sort of clear up my space and clear up… and make room in my brain for new things, I was going to have to talk about it. And this is a really difficult video for me, I thought about scripting it, I thought about writing a couple bullet points down on a post-it note, but to be honest it just… it makes… it makes me really really nervous and I’m just going to talk about it. This is going to be m,e this is me right now, telling you that I quit graduate school and it was simultaneously the best thing I ever did, and the hardest decision I’ve ever made. And anybody out there who might have stumbled on this video who is a graduate student or an under- graduate student, or anybody in school thinking about leaving school…You know the feeling. This is not easy, and what’s worst is it’s not talked about. Half of all people who go to graduate school do not finish, and yet, we don’t hear their stories and… and I was tired of being in hiding. When I made the decision to leave graduate school, I didn’t do it with my head in the sand. I did it proudly, and confidently, and delicately. But I was not quiet about my decision, and I didn’t want to just fade away and pretend that the last three or four years did not happen at all because if I’m being completely honest with myself it’s been the biggest lesson of my life so far and so I really want to share it with you guys because I know there’s a lot of people out there who might not be dealing with being in academia very well and I think that this is worth talking about. I don’t want to go too far into specifics, if you know me personally and you want to have a conversation about it, please feel free to reach out to me, send me a private message, send me an email, call me. But I don’t regret going to graduate school. If there’s anything I do regret is not noticing how it was affecting me personally, mentally, and emotionally sooner and not making this decision sooner. The biggest thing that I was afraid of quitting graduate school is I believed that people would hate me, and be disappointed in me, and never want to work with me again, or you know, just think really negative things about me but if I can share one story with you from my decision to quit graduate school it’s going to be the last day. The day when I put in all of the paperwork, when I saw the people in my department for the last time, and when I thought the dean of graduate education for the last time, and when I walked off campus knowing that I was finished, for now. Quitting graduate school was something I honestly thought about from the first year of my program. And in no way do I want to place blame on anyone here. If there’s anyone I blame, it’s me and if I blame myself, for any of this, it’s: not being prepared, taking things too personally, letting myself burnout too fast, not taking care of myself to prevent that. And letting things get really bad before realizing something had to change. I don’t regret quitting graduate schoo,l if I’m honest, the last three months, there’s been a huge weight off of my shoulders. I feel like I can be a productive human being again. I feel like I deserve to be happy again, and like I deserve to pursue the things that i love again. Those are feelings that went away a long time ago, and I’m glad to see them back. and I don’t regret going to graduate school because it has changed me forever. I met incredible people, fantastic scientists, people with some of the biggest hearts, that made me feel seen when I otherwise felt invisible. People that made me want to live again. I quit graduate school for financial reasons, and for the effect of having on my mental health. A few months ago I headed back to school, to try give it one last really good try, to make things work, and I changed all of my habits and I took better care of myself, and i found that it still wasn’t going to work out for me and that’s been really hard to deal with because I’ve seen a lot of my cohort members, a lot of my friends succeeding, and graduating, and growing up, and being professionals in their field and I can’t help but be jealous. I’m sorry, I am jealous of you. But i’m also really really proud of you because you got out of graduate school what everyone hopes to get. In this particular instance, in this particular experience, I did not but that’s okay because I learned a lot anyway. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about the kindness of others, it’s incredible, it’s immeasurable, I’m trying really hard not to cry. I didn’t know such kindness existed in people, and that’s a lesson that no piece of paper would ever give me. And as strange as it is on my last day, when I said goodbye to my department, my professors, and got a hug from the graduate education from the dean of graduate from the dean of graduate education I realized that I had finished my journey in this particular instance of being in academia and I did succeed in some ways in a lot of ways actually. So much so that first week after quitting I talked about it as if I had graduated which is really weird if you think about but that’s how ok I felt with my decision. And now, three months later, I can tell you that I’m thinking about going to graduate school again, pursuing academia again. I’m doing a couple of other things in the meantime; I want to make more creative content, I am transcribing a lot of documents and a lot of things for a lot of people and I’m really enjoying it. and I’m doing work that is outside of academia that I find fulfilling at this time but I’ve always loved school and I’ve always loved learning and anyone I’ve talked to you when i mentioned i’m thinking about going back say, “of course you are, you’re Wanda that was inevitable.” So in all of this, what I’m really trying to say, is it’s okay to quit sometimes. Our society likes to tell us but it’s not, but I think the reason that that’s even a thing in the first place, is that we’re encouraging people to try their best. And for the three years that I was in graduate school, my best was not always a hundred percent, I could have done better and I think about that every single day. But at the same time Iam i’m seeing a new path unfold in front of me and I’m hoping that my community and my village that I’ve built around me will be excited to see where we go and I really mostly just wanted to talk about this because i know not enough people talk about it, and that really is worth talking about because a lot of people leave graduate school without saying a word, without communicating to anybody that they’re gone, or why or what happened, It is seen as so shameful that some people would rather do that, then say it out loud I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think in order to learn from our mistakes, and from our failures, we have to recognize them as failures and admit to ourselves and see the lessons that we learn from it and move on. If you hide your head in the sand and you never move on. I wrote letters and thank you notes when I left and I handed them out to people, and demanded to be seen, because the three years prior I felt invisible. But here it’s a big lesson, to anybody who’s thinking about quitting anything: you’re not invisible you exist, you have your story, and it is worth telling. There’s so much more to this story, but I think that’s all I’m going to say about it for now. And if you’re wondering why I’m wearing this superman shirt it’s because anytime i’m really afraid to talk about something or to deal with something I wear this. I quit graduate school but it’s okay, and it doesn’t mean I’m done learning.