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Did you or your kid drop out of graduate school?

bopambobopambo 1264 replies58 threads Senior Member
My S is about to leave graduate school before completion, it's been a long painful haul. He's lost his love for the academic subject and is an anxious depressed mess. I support his decision, but I wonder what comes next. I'd love to hear some stories about other people who faced the same decision and what they did afterword. Thanks
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Replies to: Did you or your kid drop out of graduate school?

  • bopambobopambo 1264 replies58 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    abasket, thanks so much for your astute answer. You're right about the term "drop out" and I appreciate you pointing out that it carries negative weight. I realize that by using it I was passing a bit of judgement on his situation. We've hung in with emotional and financial support for quite awhile, and maybe that prompted him to stay longer than he would have otherwise. He must go, he needs to regain his self confidence and find a more gratifying path.

    Thanks for the reference to your brother, I know that my smart able son has much to look forward to.
    edited September 24
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 16412 replies99 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    My good friend left her graduate program before completing her degree. While it has somewhat limited her career in the field (chemistry), she has not regretted her decision.

    I left my grad program early, but I was going part time while working, so it didn’t affect me immediately. I never really did anything in life that the degree would have benefited, so I don’t regret my decision.
    edited September 24
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42825 replies2306 threads Super Moderator
    Is your son seeing a counselor? To be honest, I think his mental health is the most important thing to consider at this point.
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  • bopambobopambo 1264 replies58 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Mainelonghorn, I have followed your discussions about mental health and I appreciate your input. I have urged him to seek counseling and he actually had 2 zoom sessions (because of pandemic) with a psychologist, but stopped because he didn't think like her. I don't know how to get him to go through the process of finding someone else. . Any suggestions? He seems so much more hopeful and happy since he made the decision, maybe he'll be OK.
    edited September 24
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  • bopambobopambo 1264 replies58 threads Senior Member
    MainLonghorn, he spoke to the psychologist when he was trying to get help in the hope of finishing the degree. I think I need to see what happens now that he's made the decision to leave before really knowing if he's got ongoing difficulties, but I appreciate any feedback you have.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 42825 replies2306 threads Super Moderator
    I'm glad he spoke with someone. Yes, seeing how he does now might be a good idea. Now that the pressure is off, maybe he can move forward.

    I think I was probably a lot like your son while looking for employment as an engineer after being laid off in 1990. I just wasn't happy with the jobs I'd had. I finally confessed to DH how miserable I was, and he agreed I should look for a new type of work. Once I made that decision, I was fine. But it was wrenching getting to that point, since it meant I would be earning less money.
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  • colorado_momcolorado_mom 9773 replies85 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Yes, but it was while I was working ... paid for by my employer (classes after work, engineering / systems science). I completed my 5th course and didn't sign up for any more because we were expecting our first baby. In my case, I don't think it impacted my career. In some ways, it may have made me more employable when my department had layoffs (twice) and I was able to find work in other divisions.

    I do know 2 guys that left full time engineering grad school. It seemed to turn out OK.
    edited September 24
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1650 replies28 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    I dropped out of my PhD program before completion. I did complete grad school as I have masters degrees. I burnt out on school and working and being a parent, and the degree wasn’t for my then career field so it seemed like the right thing. I do sometimes wish I had finished, but I also know I made the right choice for myself at the time.
    edited September 24
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  • alhalh 9009 replies50 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Apologies in advance to those who are tired of negative news. And for not being an answer to the question.

    It's difficult to imagine what will happen to universities the next few years. Already some graduate programs have suspended admissions. Research travel is on hold. There are faculty salary cuts and hiring freezes. Some are expecting departments to be eliminated.

    These are unprecedented times. Leaving may be the very smartest choice.... taking his knowledge and education and figuring out what makes sense in the new economy.

    My millennial kids have excellent jobs only peripherally, if at all, related to their graduate degrees. I can only imagine that will be increasingly the case. Their classmates staying in academia are hanging on by their fingertips.


    edited September 24
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 11045 replies137 threads Senior Member
    I didn't finish my grad degree either. My program lost it's funding and transferring wasn't an option at the time. It ended up putting me on another career path which I enjoyed for years.
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  • 2plustrio2plustrio 464 replies7 threads Member
    I have an adult teen who has struggled his whole life with learning and mental health and behavioral challenges. A small tech school with a dorm was fine for the first year but he moved in with friends this summer. He ended up dropping a summer class after a voluntary inpatient mental health stay. And I had to bail him out of jail on labor day (it's being dropped and more so a misunderstanding with roommates who have their own mental health challenges).

    I know its hard to see your kids struggle even though they are adults. Your son hitting pause on school while he figures things out is a very smart thing for him to do. Applaud his self awareness and help him figure out the next best options.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6912 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I think that this is common.

    Graduate school is very focused on one narrow area. I do not think that it is possible to 100% know that the area is right for you until you jump into it and start digging.

    I know someone who got their bachelor's, started a two year master's program, dropped out half way through, worked for two years, returned to get a master's degree in a different field, and did very well in life. "Lost his love for the academic subject" is a very good description of what made this person drop out of the first master's program. "Absolutely loved it" was his description of his second master's program, but it took him a few years to figure out what field was the right one. I have heard of people stopping their PhD and taking a master's and getting a job. I think that this is very normal.

    Your son might want to take a few weeks to relax, and then look for whatever jobs are available. Over time he will figure out the right path to take as a next step.
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  • bookwormbookworm 9386 replies76 threads Senior Member
    I’ve posted many times about my sons struggles in grad school. What was helpful were 2 summer internships. He also took off a year to work at one of those internships.

    My best friend in Boston has an office in Cambridge. His specialty has been working with MIT &harvard grad students, postdocs, and profs. Forgot to mention he is a clinical,psychologist.
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  • bopambobopambo 1264 replies58 threads Senior Member
    edited September 24
    Thank you all, your answers have been tremendously helpful for me and he's making the best choice for himself, whatever comes next.
    edited September 24
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  • compmomcompmom 12164 replies82 threads Senior Member
    My first reaction was to the comment that he has lost interest in the subject area. That is a classic symptom of depression.

    I think everyone is having a hard time with COVID, first of all. What kinds of changes was he dealing with due to the virus? Were his classes switched to online? Was it an in-person master's to begin with? Was he living there? Has he just started or had he done a year? (You don't need to answer....)

    Second, if he has had a history of depression or anxiety, those mental health issues could affect how interested or motivated he feels.

    So if he takes a break and gets treatment, whether the right meds or therapy or both (ideally) is it possible he might return? Or is a change in path likely?

    And how much of a factor is the current COVID dystopia?

    I don't think any decisions are possible right now. When you aren't motivated and can't do the work, the best course is to leave, of course, and parents can only support that.

    However, the future seems pretty uncertain for many reasons and it is always possible he might return. Or...maybe this will result in positive changes over time.

    One positive may be getting counseling- and I hope he finds the right person (we use the Psychology Today therapist finder and then search reviews....)
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