Jan 28 2012
A conversation with a student got me thinking about completing college in 3 years vs. 4 years. He was attempting to do this and was very stressed as his time was an incredibly precious commodity. Some of this oddly applies to me as a graduate student.
The perks are money and time; college is ghastly expensive and continues to rise in cost. If you attend school away from home, living expenses are not trivial, particularly in a city like Boston. Time- it is nice to finish early and have extra time for one’s career.
However, what about the experience? Although I tend to think the idea of college as an experiential thing for people to do is not a wise decision (it is an expensive experience), I began thinking about the idea of the college experience and what acceleration does to it. If you want to look at things as strictly a career experience or preparation for your career, you are losing time for internships and really soaking in knowledge. A concern with me is that I may not in principle have the knowledge or wisdom of someone who has marinated in the literature for years and years. You can conceivably pile on experiences, although that will likely lead to stress and experiences that may not be as rich.
Looking at the broader picture of experience, having the time to talk with others and just relax is nothing to discount. People say it’s the people and the fun in life that matters more so than the grades. I think both are important, but to tell you the truth, a friend of mine from undergraduate and I were reminiscing about college. It wasn’t about research (we were both physics majors) or things we academically excelled at; it was the time we spent with people. One of my friends’ favorite memories was a 100% social thing we did with the professors.
Then again, who knows? Time doesn’t guarantee anything such as good experiences. For me, I feel like I am doing a pretty good job of keeping myself viable with the research (and my research interests began much before I started my doctoral program) though extra time would be nice. However, I also cannot discount the whole pragmatic side of things which is grant money isn’t available for more than 4 years for me, and I’ve used up two by end of this semester.
I suppose it’s really about weighing one’s options, balancing stress and work, and being pragmatic but kind to oneself. For myself, I’ve been scaling back in other aspects that maybe are hobby or just not a priority. I hope the student doesn’t stress out too much and either figures out how to really balance things or makes shrewd decisions on what is most important.