Friday, September 5, 2014

TO Ph.D. OR NOT TO Ph.D.?

I started my third year of graduate school last week, and while the courses I'm taking are interesting and I'm feeling that euphoria of knowing it will all be over soon, I have also spent a lot of time reflecting on why I did this in the first place and where I will go from here.

The idea of continuing on for my Ph.D. has been bouncing around in the back of my skull for some time, but I made a decision today to forever (probably) scratch that off my bucket list. I've been drawn to USC's (University of Southern California) graduate program for three of reasons: 1 - If you're lucky enough to get into the program, THEY PAY YOU! Getting a Doctorate--for free??? So tempting.  2 - Unlike most Doctoral programs that offer studies only in literature, USC has a lit/creative writing hybrid. Very cool. And 3 - It's within driving distance from my house. Doable.

What are the drawbacks? I counted seven. First, they only accept 3 - yes, 3! - fiction students each year. Talk about competitive.
 

Second, students must select several specialized areas of study from a list. Children's literature is not on that list. Bummer.

Third, students must show a proficiency in a foreign language. What??? I'm still on level one of Rosetta Stone Spanish. I highly doubt I'll master the language between now and next summer.

Fourth, the program is five years long. That wouldn't be a problem if I was, say, 25 or even 35, but as of today I am 46 years old. I'd be over 50 by the time I get that degree, the age at which most people start thinking about retiring!

Fifth, why the heck do I need a Ph.D. anyway? It seems to me that the only reason to get a doctorate in literature is to become a university professor. And while I do intend to teach, it is not my end all goal. I will teach not because I really want to teach (though I really do enjoy it), but because I need some money to help put my five kids through college! I do not want to teach full time. I don't want tenure. I don't even want health insurance. Just a little something extra for the kids' college funds.

Sixth, I want to WRITE! My passion is writing. My dream is to make enough money as a writer SOMEDAY so that I don't have to do anything else! The M.A., the teaching, all that is my back up plan. Graduate school has seriously interrupted my writing. Tacking on another five years of doctoral studies - I might as well just stop writing all together.

Seventh, the most important reason of all. I'm a mom. During the past two years, I've spent between 5-10 hours a week going to school, one or two nights each week, not including my study time. It's not much really, but I want to spend more time with my kids, not less.

So I am not, NOT doing the Ph.D. thing. I'll soon have my back up plan securely in place with my M.A. and a part-time adjunct professorship at a local city college. I'll hang with my kids, write some more books, and hopefully give my writing career a kickstart. And when I graduate, I'm going throw myself the biggest party in the history of...whatever. I will definitely be celebrating.

4 comments:

  1. My first bonus I see to going to USC, getting to take classes where Deborah Harkness is your professor! Sorry, just had to say that cause then I could live, for a moment, vicariously through you! ;-) You will be amazing what ever you choose but you will be the first Dr in our family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do admit I am tempted by "Dr. Reyes"...

      Delete
  2. That's really cool you've made it so far! Right now I'm applying to UCLA to get my MA in Library / Information Science. I'm already stressed and I haven't even begun yet, well I'm more nervous than stressed. I don't think I'll be getting my phD, but I think you're reasons for not getting it are probably stronger than the reasons to get it. Spending time with family and living life is more important than anything. And heck, after you begin to write and sell tons of books you can always go back (I don't think you're too old at any point) ;)
    Anyway, I know I don't stop here often but I had to when I read the blog post title on my feed lol >.< I'd love to hear more about your experience getting your masters (did u go part time? How did you like USC?)
    Good luck, and you should be VERY proud of yourself, missy!

    -diamond @ Dee's Reads

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Diamond! Thanks for popping by. I had always planned to get a higher degree, but what I really wanted was an MFA. Unfortunately they run about $40,000. I settled for an MA at half that price. In truth, while the MA will enable me to teach at a city college, and the courses have been interesting, I've taken exactly one class so far that has added anything of value to my experience as a writer. An MFA would have allowed me to teach at the university level - it is the creative writing equivalent of a PhD. And I think I will always regret not going for it. But I really couldn't bring myself to borrow that much money knowing I may never earn enough to pay it back. If I ever do decide to get a terminable degree, it will probably be the MFA, but not until I'm earning enough money that I know I will be able to afford it. And I will be really old by then. Lol!

      Delete