(This is a repost (crosspost?) of my question from MSE here.)

As the question title suggests, should I apply to graduate school for mathematics? I am currently an undergraduate studying mathematics at some unnamed university in the world about to enter their last year.

Here are some reasons why I think I shouldn’t.

  1. I don’t think I’d be happy doing mathematics all day long. I don’t have a lot of discipline when it comes to “working”, and I tend to get bored quite easily.

    I have strong interests in other areas as well. I could be doing something else with my life! Maybe I’d not be living up to my “true potential” if I decided to become a mathematician.

  2. I don’t think I have what it takes to be a successful mathematician. I don’t think I’m good enough. Also, I’ve been struggling with extreme depression for a while now, and there’s no signs of it disappearing anytime soon. I think this will affect my ability to succeed in graduate school at the least.
  3. (Related to 1 above.) The “real world” is a terrible place, and I want to help make it better. Becoming a professional mathematician would detract from my (already quite limited) ability to make it better.
  4. The (senior-than-me part of the) mathematical community sucks. The few times I have managed to gather the chutzpah to talk to faculty and graduate students over the last few years at my school, quite a few of them just insulted me for various failings and were quite cold even if they didn’t insult me.

    By comparison, the other undergraduates studying mathematics at my institution are, by in large, far more pleasant. But I still get this very empty feeling when talking to them.

    (On a related note, I have a lot of anxiety about talking about math in “real life” and in “real time”. I’m very slow, compared with other undergraduates at my institution. Talking about mathematics in “real time” and assessment of mathematical ability/learning give me great displeasure. Sometimes, I feel as if my self-worth is deeply tied to my mathematical ability? Some related issues are discussed by the liberated mathematician somewhere on her website.)

    I don’t really want to provide specifics, as it’ll make it easier to ascertain my identity… I know for sure quite a number of folks from my institution peruse MSE regularly.

Here is a reason in favor of applying to graduate school for mathematics.

  1. Doing mathematics (and specifically, discovering and producing one’s own mathematics) is the most pure form of Sartrean radical freedom, as stated with different wording perhaps, by quite a few practicing mathematicians.

And so I ask, should I apply to graduate school for mathematics?

(I have already discussed this somewhat with some family and friends, some of whom are also undergraduate mathematics students. But a lot of the discussion was unsatisfactory, so I would like to consult the opinion of informed strangers online.)

Also, for the few people who know/think they know my identity, I welcome you to contact me to talk about this, if you are comfortable with doing so. But please don’t spread the word that “I”, where “I” is replaced with my (speculated) real name, made a post of this sort on online.


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