I am currently a third year undergraduate at a good university studying computer science. I am planning to apply to top graduate schools when I finish my undergrad and I need a bit of advice.

In the first two and half (5 semesters) of my studies, I took the most challenging CS/Math courses in my university and did very well in them (GPA 4.11/4.30). I also joined two research groups and have 2 publications where I am the first author, published in reputable journals. I also have a very good relationship with my 2 research advisors.

Now in my sixth semester, I decided to go on an exchange semester and things just started crumbling. First of all, I couldn’t integrate well in the culture and I was left very lonely with no new friends in the area. My Girlfriend of 5 years broke up with me, my mother got into a car accident which affected her health, and I started taking depression medication due to that. I also gained a lot of weight which lead to some health problems. Needless to say, this term is coming to an end and I can’t wait to leave this place. I am going to probably fail 2/4 courses, and in the remaining ones, I will barely pass. I am expecting a 2.0 GPA at best.

Now I know this won’t go unnoticed by graduate school admissions. I am just wondering what steps can I take as of now to document all of this so that I can justify the poor performance in the exchange semester during my graduate application?

DISCLAIMER

I am about to complete my Ph.D. (< 2 m.).

I had a very busy advisor, brilliant and intelligent, but acting as an ‘obstacle’ rather than an ‘incentive’ to complete the thesis (regrettably, a textbook case).

I got a rather good postdoc position at a US university (not frustrated 😉 ).


Here are detailed some arguments (using some references from the web) why I think we SHOULD reduce the number of PhD offers and, as a result, the number of PhD students. The expected (positive) effect would be an increase in the quality of research, guidance, health, and career of those enrolling for a PhD. Ultimately, the money not used for PhD funding could also be redirected to senior researchers (postdoc, tenure-track) and help better balance the ‘experience pyramid’ of the research ecosystem.

Are there any good counter-arguments why we SHOULD NOT reduce the number of PhD offers?

  1. There is an oversupply of PhD positions.

Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia,
the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job
openings. […] America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees
between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new
professorships. […] In Canada […] universities conferred 4,800
doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time
professors [1].

According to figures from the Royal Society (UK), only 3.5% of science
PhD graduates end up pursuing longterm careers in university research,
and fewer than 0.5% eventually become professors [3].

Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now
seem short of PhDs [1].

  1. 1 is partly explained by the low cost of PhDs.

PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With
more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries
more teaching, with less money [1].

From the point of view of a lab head, for example, each graduate
student is a source of cheap, clever labour that can do the grunt work
needed to make the next discovery [3].

  1. Lack of guidance from supervisor (partly explained by 1).

I know of professors with 10+ PhDs [6]

The supervisor-supervisee relationship is generally awkward and
confusing, and sometimes – maybe even often – uncomfortable and
challenging. At my university there is no required mentorship
training. Everyone has experience throughout their graduate and
post-doctoral training, but in most cases, there is no formal course
or body that guides staff in best practice. Most programmes that do
exist are optional and ignored. [5]

  1. Students do not start PhD for the good reasons

In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that
they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or
put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to
this. [1]

  1. A lot of PhD drop-out (partly explained by 3 and 4).

In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years
after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most
students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49% [1].

72.9 per cent of the 11,625 students from the UK or the EU who began full-time doctorates in 2010-11 will obtain a degree within seven
years.[7]

Doctoral attrition rates remain high in North America, at an estimated
40% to 50% (Berelson, 1960; CGS, 2009; MERS, 2013; Nettles & Millett,
2006). However, they vary across disciplines, being higher in the
arts, humanities, and social sciences and lower in the natural
sciences (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; CGS, 2009; Elgar, 2003; Nettles &
Millett, 2006). […] Perceived competence appears to be the
cornerstone of doctoral studies persistence (completion and dropout
intentions) and is predicted mainly by autonomous and controlled
regulations and advisor support.[8]

  1. No economic and background advantage of PhD compared to Master’s

PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices
struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to
have little interest in students who are leaving academia. […]
Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting
six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world
where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented
simply to a wide audience. […] PhDs in maths and computing, social
sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees.
The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree
in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in
medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it
high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a
3% premium over a master’s degree [1].

  1. PhDs face significant mental health issues (partly
    explained by 3 and 4).

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or
developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent
study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659
students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were
studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an
important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of
mental health issues in academia. […] On the plus side, having an
inspirational supervisor partially offset these risks. So did interest
in an academic career, even among students who thought they had little
chance of ultimately making it. [9]


References:

[1] Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time
https://medium.economist.com/why-doing-a-phd-is-often-a-waste-of-time-349206f9addb

[2] Too many PhDs, not enough tenured positions
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/content/too-many-phds-not-enough-tenured-positions#survey-answer

[3] Too many science PhDs? Not if unis train them for careers outside academia
https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/sep/15/university-producing-too-many-science-phd

[4] The Scientific Century securing our future prosperity
https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294970126.pdf

[5] Not all PhD supervisors are natural mentors – some need training
https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/jul/28/not-all-phd-supervisors-are-natural-mentors-some-need-training

[6] How many PhD students are too many?
How many PhD students are too many?

[7] PhD completion rates, 2013
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/phd-completion-rates-2013/2006040.article

[8] Dropout intentions in PhD studies: A comprehensive model based on interpersonal relationships and motivational resources
http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2015_Litalien_Guay_Contemp_Educ_Psych.pdf

[9] Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges
https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2017/04/phd-students-face-significant-mental-health-challenges

DISCLAIMER

I am about to complete my Ph.D. (< 2 m.).

I had a very busy advisor, brilliant and intelligent, but acting as an ‘obstacle’ rather than an ‘incentive’ to complete the thesis (regrettably, a textbook case).

I got a rather good postdoc position at a US university (not frustrated 😉 ).


Here are detailed some arguments (using some references from the web) why I think we SHOULD reduce the number of PhD offers. The expected (positive) effect would be an increase in the quality of research, guidance, health, and career of those enrolling for a PhD. Ultimately, the money not used for PhD funding could also be redirected to senior researchers (postdoc, tenure-track) and help better balancing the ‘experience pyramid’ of the research ecosystem.

Are there any good counter-arguments why we SHOULD NOT reduce the number of PhD offers?

  1. There is an oversupply of PhD positions.

Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia,
the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job
openings. […] America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees
between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new
professorships. […] In Canada […] universities conferred 4,800
doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time
professors [1].

According to figures from the Royal Society (UK), only 3.5% of science
PhD graduates end up pursuing longterm careers in university research,
and fewer than 0.5% eventually become professors [3].

Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now
seem short of PhDs [1].

  1. 1 is partly explained by the low cost of PhDs.

PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With
more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries
more teaching, with less money [1].

From the point of view of a lab head, for example, each graduate
student is a source of cheap, clever labour that can do the grunt work
needed to make the next discovery [3].

  1. Lack of guidance from supervisor (partly explained by 1).

I know of professors with 10+ PhDs [6]

The supervisor-supervisee relationship is generally awkward and
confusing, and sometimes – maybe even often – uncomfortable and
challenging. At my university there is no required mentorship
training. Everyone has experience throughout their graduate and
post-doctoral training, but in most cases, there is no formal course
or body that guides staff in best practice. Most programmes that do
exist are optional and ignored. [5]

  1. Students do not start PhD for the good reasons

In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that
they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or
put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to
this. [1]

  1. A lot of PhD drop-out (partly explained by 3 and 4).

In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years
after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most
students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49% [1].

72.9 per cent of the 11,625 students from the UK or the EU who began full-time doctorates in 2010-11 will obtain a degree within seven
years.[7]

Doctoral attrition rates remain high in North America, at an estimated
40% to 50% (Berelson, 1960; CGS, 2009; MERS, 2013; Nettles & Millett,
2006). However, they vary across disciplines, being higher in the
arts, humanities, and social sciences and lower in the natural
sciences (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; CGS, 2009; Elgar, 2003; Nettles &
Millett, 2006). […] Perceived competence appears to be the
cornerstone of doctoral studies persistence (completion and dropout
intentions) and is predicted mainly by autonomous and controlled
regulations and advisor support.[8]

  1. No economic and background advantage of PhD compared to Master’s

PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices
struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to
have little interest in students who are leaving academia. […]
Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting
six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world
where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented
simply to a wide audience. […] PhDs in maths and computing, social
sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees.
The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree
in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in
medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it
high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a
3% premium over a master’s degree [1].

  1. PhDs face significant mental health issues (partly
    explained by 3 and 4).

Approximately one-third of Ph.D. students are at risk of having or
developing a common psychiatric disorder like depression, a recent
study reports. Although these results come from a small sample—3659
students at universities in Flanders, Belgium, 90% of whom were
studying the sciences and social sciences—they are nonetheless an
important addition to the growing literature about the prevalence of
mental health issues in academia. […] On the plus side, having an
inspirational supervisor partially offset these risks. So did interest
in an academic career, even among students who thought they had little
chance of ultimately making it. [9]


References:

[1] Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time
https://medium.economist.com/why-doing-a-phd-is-often-a-waste-of-time-349206f9addb

[2] Too many PhDs, not enough tenured positions
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/content/too-many-phds-not-enough-tenured-positions#survey-answer

[3] Too many science PhDs? Not if unis train them for careers outside academia
https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/sep/15/university-producing-too-many-science-phd

[4] The Scientific Century securing our future prosperity
https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2010/4294970126.pdf

[5] Not all PhD supervisors are natural mentors – some need training
https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/jul/28/not-all-phd-supervisors-are-natural-mentors-some-need-training

[6] How many PhD students are too many?
How many PhD students are too many?

[7] PhD completion rates, 2013
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/phd-completion-rates-2013/2006040.article

[8] Dropout intentions in PhD studies: A comprehensive model based on interpersonal relationships and motivational resources
http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2015_Litalien_Guay_Contemp_Educ_Psych.pdf

[9] Ph.D. students face significant mental health challenges
https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2017/04/phd-students-face-significant-mental-health-challenges

I’ve been struggling a lot recently with stuff thats been going on, I’m in therapy and receiving help but I’m still having a really hard time. I have a professor who’s always asking if I’m doing okay even though I’ve never told him anything about what’s been going on. The other day he came up to me and told me if I needed anything, or even just someone to listen, I could come to him. I kind of want to talk to him, but I’m scared of bothering him and I don’t know how I would go about it.

If I should talk to him, should I go to his office hours and ask? Or should I send an email because he doesn’t have office hours for another week?

I am looking towards a postdoc position at a US institution. Do university employers typically contribute to/pay for health insurance coverage for dependents of the employed (i.e. my wife and child)? As a PhD student, my health insurance was covered, but we had to pay $2000 up front each year for my wife’s health insurance…

I am a 4th year Ph.D. student from India. I don’t get any help from my advisor. He has always been demotivating me. In my entire 4 years, I have never got any moral support from him. I don’t get any work-related him too. I am on my own.

AT the end of the 1st year, he told us he will not help us, he won’t give us any recommendations, he wants a minimum of 4 journal from each of all and said we can leave if we want. But none of us could, since we knew, if we did, he will create a problem for us.

Infact, now situations have turned really bad. He calls me up asking me to write a small review of my 4th work. I send it to him. After 2 days he again calls me up saying he did not ask for it. Since he communicates visa phone, I have no way to prove he is being dishonest. Thinking he may have forgotten, I tried to remind him to which he asked me not to argue with him.

My paper recently got rejected. He calls me up to say that he has given me independence regarding work. On my first year, he called his students into his office and told them that he will not help with their work, will not give any recommendation, and he will not interfere in our work dynamics. We were on our own from the beginning, yet now he changed this situation into such as if he gave us the liberty to work alone, which in the real scenarios is basically the fact that he is incapable of giving any contribution to anyone’s work. The worst part is he talks to all his students without respect, calling them at odd hours, telling them they are not working. But no one is ready to say anything to him since their PhDs depend on him and we know if we revolt, he won’t give us our PhDs even if we have worked hard.

I am going through a lot of depression right now. There is no provision to complain to a higher authority regarding his behavior. One girl tried to complain to the HOD, she was denied PhD from my institution and her phd had to be obtained from another university with extra 3 years (6+3=9 years). Please tell me if there is any way to solve this problem other than leaving Ph.D. under him and starting fresh under someone else? Or should I just keep working for my papers suffering in silence? My question is, to what limit should I tolerate?

I have been gradually working on qualifying for graduate school in occupational therapy since 2012. I have BA in Art Education with a GPA of 2.99 – I had depression twice and it effected my GPA; so I decided to upgrade it by taking courses, and the schools in Canada look at CGPA going back 60 credits. Now, even though I have been achieving A’s, my CPGA is only 3.2, as I can do courses part-time only. I have some discontinued courses in my transcript (then and more currently), and I am concerned about being judged for this. The advice I was given from an advisor was to take easy courses that I was also very interested in. I have not done any research yet, nor published anything, but am seeking to volunteer in a lab, and I will continue to work as a patient attendant in the sunmmer/holiday period (I have since 2010). Will these gaps in my transcript be held against me? I am 41 and truly want to become and OT and do research that makes an impact with healthcare providers. It is incredibly competitive to get into the professional MSc, let alone the combined MSc/PhD which is what I want to do. Is there any way to improve my profile? Thank you so much for any/all constructive feedback, I truly appreciate it.

I graduated in 2016 with a 2:2, which I feel was lower than what I could have achieved.

I had had some minor issues before starting university, however I had an amazing support system and managed to get these in check. I completed my first year with only the normal issues (homesickness at first and adjusting to living away from home) until just before the end. I failed the last two exams of the year, partly due to the same issues that reoccurred later.

I had been struggling with one of my elective modules and after talking with my tutor, he recommended not worrying about it as I could fail 20 credits and as a 10 credit module, it would not affect my grade. However, the day of I woke up and completely panicked, zoning in and out all morning. I walked to the exam, and blanked and ended up in my department building instead of the exam hall, which was 20 minutes away and I had to run down a very steep hill to make it to the exam. But I made it and sat the exam.

I injured my knee while running. The problem with this is that my main coping method is exercise and I was on crutches. I then managed to completely space out for the last exam of the year. Meaning I failed both these modules, which was my 20 credit allowance. Despite this I averaged a high 2:1 for the year.

I went into my second year, with added roles and responsibilities. I had lived in catered accommodation in first year and moved to self catered in my second year. I became the social secretary of the physics society and started another sport (total of three) I had been a super human in my first year and wanted to do more. This turned out to be a bad idea, as my mental health started to decline, and my grades took a hit.

I then tried to pull them back up in my third year, but poor living conditions caused a physical health decline, which then exacerbated the mental health problems to a point where some days I couldn’t get out of bed.

The main problem being that in my third year I was living with some really shitty people and they were really scathing of mental health issues, meaning I didn’t seek the help I needed and am now getting and didn’t apply for special circumstance. Hindsight really is 20:20.

I have taken time out of my career to get this sorted and to make sure that I am taking the right path for me. I have now ruled it down to three possible paths and want to apply to see what I can do.

I just want to know whether I should mention these issues and the steps I’ve taken in my time off to overcome these, on my personal statement. I don’t seem to get anywhere else to put this and none of my previous lecturers know about this to mention on any references.

I am currently in my first year of PhD at a good university, and despite everything being “in order” (my supervisor is happy with my progress, I am doing well with the teaching, a have a good life alongside my studies…) I feel that, below the surface, stuff isn’t really so “in order”.

For the past 3 years I have been followed by a psychiatrist and a psychologist and diagnosed with OCD, Anxiety, ADHD and Autism. These conditions led to me taking an interruption during my Master’s (which I then completed with top marks) and to having “special arrangements” in my previous job before starting a PhD.

For the past months, in fact since I started my PhD, my conditions have been an ongoing issue affecting my quality of life on a daily basis. (I have difficulties developing a relation with my housemates, I barely manage to be in the office because of social anxiety, etc.) Anxiety has not improved and, in the past weeks, I feel it has been worsening and can feel I am flirting with a burn-out.

On a couple of occasions, the student advice service has advised I took an interruption. Speaking to my “advisor” (each student is assigned a staff member as advisor alongside their main supervisor), they seemed to hint at the fact it wouldn’t be as big a deal as I might be making it to take an interruption.

Part of me really wants an interruption. I feel I need some time off to “catch my breath”, the past years have been extremely demanding and I feel I’m not able at present to work at my best. However, part of me also feels guilty about it. I know that there are a lot of students who would like my same opportunity (academic offer, funding, etc..)

In short, I guess I’d just like some advice. Should I apply for a 3-6 month interruption?