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
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
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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