I am a 2nd year PhD student.

I regret my choice of grad school severely. The program here has a good reputation and I have no idea how or why it has a good reputation. The program here is absolutely terrible. The location is terrible and depressing, classes are completely useless, the qual system is really terrible (I passed them, I still think the way they're done is awful), most of my cohort are petty and childish (although I've found a few very good people here who I'm super grateful for), I have no support basically. I have met many people in the department that feel the same way: ranging from other grad students to professors.

This program is awful and coming here was one of the worst decisions of my life. I had other good programs I could have gone to.

I've found it much harder to read/do problems/etc. I barely do enough work just to pass classes. I try to focus on the stuff I want to do, but it seems like just by being here the subject is tainted.

Last night I found a problem online I tried working out but couldn't. I spent all day today - I barely ate, I didn't do anything else, I just worked all day long on this stupid problem that had nothing to do with anything. It was a blast! It reminded me of why I love my subject. I failed to find a solution...but it was still very productive and I learned a lot. I let myself get obsessed and I didn't worry about all the issues here.

How do I keep this feeling? How do I stay motivated? The department here feels like it saps all of my will to do any work out. In undergrad I was so determined. I took some time off between undergrad and grad and it only made me more determined. I want to feel like I did today.

I looked into transferring into other programs but it seemed like it would be a huge pain and I've been able to make it through the worst part of the program pretty quickly.

closed as unclear what you're asking by user24098, scaaahu, Buzz, Florian D'Souza, user3209815 Nov 27 '17 at 15:49

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  • you can change school or go to conferences??? – SSimon Nov 27 '17 at 7:06
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    Where is this university? Your phd is not a team effort, spend time with those few people that are positive and focus on your work, why do you care if the other people 'suck'? – Herman Toothrot Nov 27 '17 at 8:37
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    In this question you give no concrete issues or problems with the program. Also if there are "many people", including students and professors, who agree with you, and also a few very good people, then aren't there a lot of people on your side who can potentially offer support? How is it that you have "no support"? To be answerable, I think your question needs to be much clearer about the specific issues you are facing. And I know it's difficult when you're in a situation, but try to take a step back and answer dispassionately. – user24098 Nov 27 '17 at 13:19
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    I just worked all day long on this stupid problem that had nothing to do with anything. — This is my entire research career. Keep it up! – JeffE Nov 27 '17 at 15:17
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    @JeffE: This made me smile. (And OMG: me too...) – Pete L. Clark Nov 27 '17 at 17:50

I think the first thing is to take a break - a week away from your department, in which you read no email and keep contact with no one there. From the text of the question, I understand you may be stressed and burnt out, so you do need the break. If you forget these breaks, burnout can become depression, which would complicate your life even further.

Other than that, try to hang out only with people who stress you the least, and if stressful people are in your office, work more from home, or switch offices. You didn't mention if you had an adviser, or not, but you said you had no support, so it could be an idea to go to an adviser with a less negative attitude, since you don't have a research assistantship to risk.

Another option, is quitting the department for a better graduate school. I had a friend who did that for the same reasons you state, and the fact that he had passed the qualifying exam helped him get into the happier graduate program.

I also want to say that doing research isn't always a happy process. You may work for two years on a project and seem to get good results, but when you do your final check before publication, you realize you had an error in your work and, without it, your results are trivial and useless. That's just a part of life as a researcher that will always depress you.


You have to make a choice: quit and find something else or stay and take the best of it. Staying and not enjoying it is just a waste of time. Btw, what is your PhD about?

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