To PhD or not to PhD…that is the question.

I am not the first student affairs professional to ponder this question, and surely not the first person to pen a blog post under this clever title. It’s self-explanatory, though. I’m considering applying for full time PhD programs.

Cue excitement, fear, confusion, joy, GRE study books, inspiration, anxiety, budgeting… Generally speaking, I’m overall quite terrified by this prospect. For about three days, I was thrilled with my new decision. And then I started to think about the logistics of it all, which is more than a little overwhelming. Let’s be honest; the internet isn’t exactly a refuge of support and positivity regarding graduate study. What I’ve learned today is that I’m going to live in a box, make as much as someone who works at McDonald’s, that it’s going to take me 8 years, I’m going to end up with $109,000 in debt, and I’m not going to make that much more money once I’m done anyway.

Now, I have a  proclivity toward dismissing most of this negativity, to say “that’s not going to be what happens to me”, and march on determinedly. But there are many important questions to consider given that I am thinking about leaving full-time work for 4-5 years and becoming a student again. How much debt am I actually willing to take on? How much will I get paid?

There is also a pressing, more philosophical question: Do I want to give up practice for research…and are there professional opportunities that balance the two?

Thinking about taking the leap to full time doctoral study feels more and more like exploring uncharted territory. The demons of self-doubt that whisper in my ear that I might not be able to even get into a competitive PhD program are fed by the looming financial anxieties that I foresee. I registered for the GRE the other day, perhaps to provide a little bit of accountability. Once you pay $195 to take a standardized test, that seems like a deposit on committing to this whole process.

I have many, many more questions than answers at this point. In fact, there are questions that I don’t even have yet. I suppose I’ll just have to cross those bridges when I get to them. For now, it looks like I’d better start studying for the GRE.

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