I loved grad school. I have serious nostalgia for grad school. If I could be a grad student forever, that would rock.
In fact, my job as a faculty member is a lot like being a grad student. I do research, I teach, I write grants, I write manuscripts, I work with students less experienced than myself, and I build collaborations.
What about grad school was not awesome? You get to do research on exactly the topic or subsubfield that you chose to work in, you get to hang out with a diverse bunch of smart people with really similar interests, you presumably are traveling to conferences and sharing your work with others, and you have ample opportunity to shape your professional trajectory and identity in the direction you want. Sure, you don’t get paid much, but enough to get by. If you are in grad school later in life, it would cause some anxiety about saving up for retirement, I imagine. But in all, grad school rules.
Of course this might not be true for everyone. There are many kinds of graduate students, with many kinds of attitudes connected to many kinds of experiences. Labs are different, PIs are different, projects are different, and recreational pursuits vary. Some people have a horrible time in grad school. This I understand.
If you read the comics, grad students are pitiable creatures. They’re chronically poor and have no future. I’m not the only one tired of how the media consistently portrays grad school as financially insecure. In the context of the latest media sequester freakout, Joe Hanson agrees.
Humor often relies on stereotypes. In PhD Comics, the caricature of the miserable grad student is the basis of the humor. It’s often funny, and I’m a regular reader. I just hope people don’t buy into this stereotype as a mirror for their own lives, which is a recipe for misery.
The same for Matt Groening.
I’ve met plenty of grad students who wallow in misery. Please, don’t be one of those people. It’s great in the funny pages, though.
I realize that, as a fat cat tenured professor, this message might not be welcome to those who are unhappy. I’ll tell you this much: if you’re unhappy in grad school, then I don’t think you’d be happy as a tenured faculty member either. This point is mostly moot, as I think being happy in grad school is nearly prerequisite to landing a faculty position.