Excelling at failure

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Two and a half years. That’s how long a PhD would take, I think, if only it didn’t involve so much other stuff. Writing papers, giving presentations, marking essays, general schmoozing; all seeds you need to sow if you want to get an actual job later (for which your PhD – which at the time seems like Your Whole Life – is just a prerequisite bit of paper). So the idea that the PhD itself takes a huge amount of time is wrong. As is the idea that you need to be especially smart to do one. “For students that excelled as undergraduates, the sudden and constant barrage of rejection and failure is jarring. If you have an ego problem, PhD school will fix it. With a vengeance”, says the US computer science professor Matthew Might. Though as he points out: “Some egos seem to recover afterward.”

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