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At what point should a student decide they shouldn't try to be a researcher anymore, assuming they still have the desire? My personal situation is that I have ample cognitive ability (in the opinion of my professors and me), but the "mental" side just doesn't seem up to the challenge and my grades are sporatic, even as an undergraduate. I would have to drop a lot of money on a Master's program to get into a PhD program highly ranked enough to possibly make it research-wise, but that would only (possibly!) work if I succeed. Part of me feels like indulging my dream further would just build up to a worse let-down, even though I have no competing priorities such as creating a family, becoming rich, etc.

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    Could you explain that part about your "cognitive ability" vs. your "mental side"? – Johannes Bauer Jan 15 '14 at 16:45
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    The "mental side" I guess has to do with outputting effort on demand, regardless of emotional circumstance overall and towards the particular work (most of my life). Recently, my mood has severely declined too (hard to tell how bad it is, because I don't know others ). So its some mixture of not "faking it" well, and having to "fake it". – anon Jan 15 '14 at 16:58
  • Without risking uniquely determining myself, I soared through the department's hardest upper division courses while doing lower divisions too in my first 1.5 years, then started flubbing in easier classes. – anon Jan 15 '14 at 17:12
  • What discipline are you talking about here? – Irwin Jan 15 '14 at 17:12
  • Mathematics(charcount) – anon Jan 15 '14 at 17:43
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No one can answer this question but you.

Having said that, some points to ponder:

  • There exist funded research based masters programs. Depending on the field and geography they will vary substantially in quality, but conceivably you could delay answering that question by going somewhere for a Masters and seeing how well that goes.
  • Grades are going to have an effect on you getting in. In terms of success, what really matters is grit. Smarts get you somewhere, but you need to learn to tolerate challenge and failure to succeed in research.
  • If you have nothing else on your plate, in terms of family or ambitions, then now is the time to experiment with possible paths. So long as you don't define your self-worth based on success in a PhD, the worst that could happen is you decide research isn't for you.
  • Is it research you want to do, or is research just the only entrance into a field you can see. Sometimes people think they want to do research, but it's because that is the only job they know in that field. Maybe spend some time thinking about alternative entrances into the field you're interested in!
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  • Thank you. I knew no one could really answer but me, but advice can yield insight; yours was helpful. – anon Jan 15 '14 at 17:02

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