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Relationships and Phds

artie1artie1 Registered User Posts: 392 Member
My son is in his freshman year and is already very serious about a young woman at his college. They are already talking about their future together.

I know it’s early yet and anything can happen, but he wants to go on for a Phd as does she. Anyone out there have experience with dealing with couples both going for Phds?

Assuming they stay together (big assumption I know), and knowing that the acceptance rates for Phd programs are normally under 10%, my guess is that they would probably not end up in the same city since they would both need to cast their nets wide to land a Phd program spot. That being the case they would need to carry on a long distance relationship for 6-8 years after college.

That doesn’t sound like a recipe for a successful relationship.



Replies to: Relationships and Phds

  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,727 Senior Member
    I wouldn't worry about it. My dh got his PhD at Caltech, while I was getting a Master of Architecture at Columbia. I also had another gap year where I was traveling around the country and he was still a senior in college. It was a long four years. But 40 years later it seems like a drop in the bucket. We saw each other for all the holidays and I joined him for the summers. One they are writing dissertations they may have some flexibility.

    I worry about my son. He's about to be a Navy Officer, his longtime girlfriend is working on her PhD. I know his first job is likely to be on an aircraft carrier somewhere, but after that he could be anywhere.

    At any rate freshman romances rarely last.
  • Fishnlines29Fishnlines29 Registered User Posts: 1,539 Senior Member
    @Massmomm haha, I like that saying!

    I agree and of course we have to worry about our kids, but you can't predict the future especially when it comes to relationships! Just try to go with the flow :)
  • bopperbopper Registered User Posts: 8,183 Senior Member
    edited April 20
    IF they are still together 4 years later and IF they do well in school and IF they still want to do PhDs then they will have to decide for themselves at that time.

    BTW I married my freshman sweetheart after we graduated and we found jobs in the same area.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,073 Senior Member
    The likelihood that they stay together for the next three years, that they both decide to pursue PhDs, and that they are both accepted into PhD programs they want to attend . . . probably adds up to less likely than that they stay together for another x years after all that happens.

    So, yes, it's not that likely that they have a future together if those are really their plans. Don't tell them that; let them find out for themselves. Also, give them the opportunity to make different choices if the relationship is really important to them.

    For some examples:

    I am friends with a youngish couple who started dating in college. They both wanted to be English professors. One got his PhD at a top-5 program. The other got her PhD at a second-tier public university in the same city as the first one's prestigious program. The one with the prestigious degree has tenure at a mid-level public university. (In that field, any kind of tenured position is fabulous.) The other is a part-time contract instructor at a small Catholic college in the same city. They are wonderful people, they have three great kids, and they are very, very happy.

    My wife and I were friends in college, but didn't get involved romantically until just after I graduated. I was a year ahead of her, and headed to law school in California. We wrote lots of letters that year. When she graduated, she deferred any graduate school plans, moved to California, and started looking for jobs. A year later, she applied to the Kennedy School and was accepted, but I got a job offer I couldn't refuse in Washington, and she decided not to go to the Kennedy School. Instead, when I went to Washington, she went to law school in Philadelphia, notwithstanding that she had established California residency and could have gone to Berkeley practically for free. After a couple of years in Washington, I moved to Philadelphia and we got married. At the time, we were planning to move back to California when she finished law school -- she spent the summer before our wedding working in San Francisco -- but then she changed her mind about what she wanted to do, and ended up accepting a job in Philly, where we have lived happily ever after.

    When she was in college, my daughter was close to a PhD student at her university, which was in Chicago.The PhD student was involved with a guy she had met in college. For a few years, they lived about 1,000 miles apart, she in Chicago and he near Boston. Then he got accepted into the Iowa MFA program. At that point, she had basically finished her coursework and was working on her thesis, so they got married, and she could live in Iowa City 4-5 days a week and come to Chicago for a couple of days a week. There were a couple of years in there where she was teaching someplace else every semester, and he taught at a boarding school in New England, but she finally got a tenure track job at a fine university, and he got hired as a writing instructor there.

    In other words -- people can make things work with some flexibility, some compromises, and a willingness to make some career sacrifices for the relationship. That's OK.
  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia Registered User Posts: 2,632 Senior Member
    @artie1 It partly depends on the field that each wants to pursue. If they are in different majors, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to get into appropriate graduate programs in the same geographical region. Even if it's the same major, it's not impossible. However, if they both pursue academic careers, then matching in the same area is a lot tougher than if one is pursuing academia and the other is employed in the private sector. That said, I know many academic couples who got together in grad school and made it work.

    I agree with previous posters, though, it's too early to be thinking about this.
  • mom23travelersmom23travelers Registered User Posts: 419 Member
    I met my husband at college freshman orientation. We got married between junior and senior year of college. He went straight on to grad school and got a PhD. I followed him, worked for a year then got a Master's Degree. When I graduated and got a job he was ABD (all but dissertation) so he followed me to another city 8 hours drive away and commuted back and forth to meet with his prof. One year he was even a TA, teaching classes in that other city and just coming home on weekends. We made it work.
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 52,299 Senior Member
    Another vote for the "don't get ahead of yourself with the 'what-if's".

    While long term and long distance relationships are doable (one of my DS's met his gf freshman year of college, began dating senior year, and they maintained the relationship long distance while she was in grad school and he was working, many states away. She will be finishing up and has accepted a job near him... that starts in several months. Its doable, but its their choice, not yours.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,642 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    We had a plan. I met my future wife when we were both in PhD programs in different fields. So we would only have a problem once we graduated and moved into the job market.

    Although this doesn't apply to a first-year undergraduate who thinks he may have found his mate, I wouldn't let the "future PhD" aspect get in the way of a nice romantic relationship. One that might or might not last for another month, or 6 months, or year, etc. Not only do relationships evolve and usually dissolve, but so do life plans. Let things happen.
  • SlitheyToveSlitheyTove Registered User Posts: 6,338 Senior Member
    And then when they both get their PhDs from the same institution, then they'll have the so-called two-body program and they'll have to find tenure-track positions in the same institution, or end up at different places. That being the case they would need to carry on a long distance relationship for decades. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for a successful relationship.

  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,642 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    @SlitheyTove Indeed, and this is why there are very few dual-PhD marriages in academia. Finding equally satisfactory academic appointments for both spouses is extremely difficult, or requires real compromises on career opportunities for one or the other. However, if only one has an academic career (that was true of my marriage), or perhaps neither ends up in an academic career, there are many alternatives. Chemists, engineers, computer scientists, statisticians, financial specialists, etc., work in many industries.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 29,769 Senior Member
    We know a couple who met in grad school. She got her PhD first. She wanted to stay near him so accepted a post doc in Boston while he was still in NY. After they got married, he had to follow his advisors to Germany or start all over again so they moved to Germany where she is doing more post doc work.

    Folks can make things work if it matters enough to both but freshman year is WAY too early for parents' concern.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,727 Senior Member
    We have friends who have managed to have a shared professorship at various institutions. They were more interested in teaching than doing research. They definitely had to make some compromised in the quality of the institutions where they worked. (She was offered tenure at Vassar, he wasn't.)

    Many of the other two Phd. families I've known one person of the couple has had to make compromises.

    OTOH, I know quite a few who've been very successful. Here in the NYC area there are a lot of places where you can do medical research, so you don't have to be at the same institution.
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