Yes, you read the title of today’s blog correctly. Graduate school isn’t for everyone, and sometimes a certain graduate program isn’t right for you – there’s nothing wrong or shameful about that, and there’s no reason to stay in a doctoral program and amass debt and lose time if you know it’s not right for you. It is estimated that a quarter of US science and engineering PhD students leave their graduate program within the first 3 years. Overall, about half of graduate students end up leaving their doctoral programs. While there are various reasons for this – harassment, health crises, discrimination, financial concerns – sometimes it’s a matter of the program not being a good fit, or there may be more personal reasons.

Reasons for Quitting

The reasons for leaving a doctoral program can be varied: you’ve lost interest in research; you want to pursue a different career path or passion; you are disheartened by what you see in academia; or the specific program is just not a good fit for you. Dysfunctional program environments, toxic faculty members, and even the traditional bootcamp-like dissertation process can all be factors that contribute to disillusionment, burnout, and unhappiness.  If you feel like you may want to quit your doctoral program, sit down and really list the reasons for leaving. If it’s early on in the program, you might need to factor in an adjustment period. If you aren’t getting along with your mentor or advisor, perhaps a different advisor can make all the difference.

If it’s a gut feeling that this isn’t for you, or you’ve lost interest in the field, these are bigger issues. If you’re being harassed for any reason or discriminated against at all, these are valid reasons not to stay in an unsafe or harmful environment.

Things to Think About

What’s going on lately? If this is a new consideration, it might be worth taking a look at what’s behind your wanting to quit. Are you burned out? Talking with someone and working through issues, or even taking a semester or two off can be a game-changer.

If you’re at an impasse with your thesis or dissertation that is making you want to quit your program, consider putting it aside for a bit and working on something else. Taking a few weeks off in the short-term could save you a lot of time in the long-run, or even jump start your work when you come back to it. Hiring a professional editor like for a consultation might be helpful as well. While we cannot write anything for you or tell you what to do, having an objective outsider go over your work or hear about your research and then providing critical feedback can be immensely helpful in pointing out any shortcomings, potential avenues in which to go for research, or discussing what does and doesn’t work.

Do you know you want to quit but feel guilty or like it would be a disaster? Let’s put it this way: a major earthquake is a disaster. A major health problem is a potential disaster. Dying young is a disaster. Not finishing a doctoral program or switching to another one? Not a disaster. Just a minor blip in your larger life story. You are more than your accomplishments. You are more than your degrees. In the world of academia and higher education, it can be easy to forget this.

Take an honest look at what your degree will get you. Do you plan on being a college professor? What is it you plan to do with your graduate degree? Do you need the degree? Are you going into massive debt for something you’re ambivalent about? Can you advance in your field without the degree, or will it benefit you in the long run? If you stay in the program, can you find supports that can help you see it through? What will the effects be on your mental, physical, and emotional health if you stay in the program?

If you can find an objective person like a counselor to discuss this with, it might be helpful for you. Someone who does not have any personal ties to you, like a family member, friend, or academic advisor, can provide some unbiased feedback about your situation and provide you with a variety of options, as well as listen to your concerns and help you work through complicated thoughts or scenarios.

Whatever your decision, Thesis Editor is here to help. We can provide dissertation or thesis assistance if you stay in your program, as well as consultations, research help, and data analysis assistance. If you decide to leave your program, we can help with revamping your CV and resume, as well as help you prepare for an interview. This is a big decision, and whatever the right decision is for you, is the best decision. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer and how we can be of assistance.
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