Catherine Watt mert0088 at sable.ox.ac.uk
Thu Jan 18 11:41:43 EST 1996

I would like to add a comment to the discussion about working for a while 
before attending grad school. I am a PhD student in England, and did my 
undergraduate study in Australia, so some of what I say may not apply in 
the States.

I took several years 'off' before I started my graduate studies. This was 
partly because I had found my final year as an undergraduate fairly 
difficult, and wanted a break, and partly because I 
wasn't sure what field I wanted to go in to.

I think the maturity you gain by waiting is valuable, but should not be 
overestimated. In my experience graduate students here all experience 
feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence. This must in part be due 
to the completely unstructured nature of a PhD in Britain. One is 
effectively told to go off and do some research, and come back with a thesis 
at the end! This is a very different experience to working for someone, 
where one is given a task to perform (which may be quite complex and 
responsible), and then generally given some feed back and even thanks at 
the end of that task.

When I started my PhD I found the hardest thing to deal with was the lack 
of feedback. This is hard for everyone, but the strange thing was some 
people said to me 'I guess it's easier for you because you've had some 
work experience'. 

What I really want to say is that whenever you do your studies, make sure 
you look after your ego. If you are feeling that your work is no good 
(which you are bound to think at some stage) don't just sit in a corner 
worrying. Talk to your supervisor, who will probabley tell you that it's 
fine, or else help you work out how to improve it. Write things down and 
show them to her/him, then you're bound to get some feedback.

Well, I'm off to follow my own advice and write a couple of pages of 
notes to give my supervisor tomorrow. 

All the best!

Catherine Watt (2nd year PhD student, 28 years old)
Dept of Zoology
University of Oxford

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