Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#DevilDiss News 31 March AKA Wait, what?

Yesterday was a banner day.
I sent chapter one of #DevilDiss to my committee.
The chapter was mostly done before I left for SCMS, so yesterday was spent adding the last scholarship and footnotes.
I was nervous, sat there just staring at my computer, unable to pull the trigger and hit send until social media friends pushed me.
My original plan was to have both chapters one and two to the committee by today. But last week when I realized I needed to throw out the work I'd done on these chapters because they were clunky, I knew that wouldn't happen. I was happy to have chapter one finished and sent off yesterday, and am on track to finish chapter two next week once I'm back from PCA/ACA. I had told my committee I wouldn't sacrifice the quality of my work to meet arbitrary deadlines, and this was one of those decisions. Chapter two is solid with tossing everything, but I need to add back in specific textual examples (broad strokes are there and good) and add the footnotes and scholarship. Easily done in the two dedicated #DevilDiss days I have next week.

But this post is not really about that.
There's a book I used to teach called The Pact about three boys growing up in bad neighborhoods who make a pact to finish school and go onto med school. In one scene one of the boys, now a medical student, talks about the other, more privileged students and their advantages, both obvious and not. How the fact that their parent was a doctor, they knew what a stethoscope was, and they grew up hearing medical terms, meant they were better prepared than the boys.
That's how I feel about PhD programs a lot of the time.
I'm not sure how this all works. Everything I know I know from reading other people's blogs and articles. Neither of my parents graduated from college, although Mom took some work related training classes here and there.
Most of the time I muddle through and it's fine.
But then there are days like last night when I feel like I've been whomped.

I have what my committee has called an "ambitious" timeline for completion- all chapters in draft form this semester to committee members. One of the reasons why I thought this would be doable was the sharing/division of work- chapters one and two would go to two members, chapter three to two, chapter five to another. The big goal was in May, or soon thereafter, to have the drafts back with notes so I could spend the summer revising.
This was the timeline I presented at my prospectus defense. Other than concern over it being too fast, there were no other notes.
So yesterday I sent my chapter off to my two committee members. Sat back, too ten seconds to pat myself on the back, then turned to chapter two.
But late last night received an email from one of them that they didn't want to look at any drafts until final, until I'd drafted and revised with my director.
I guess this is how it works? That's the process.
I feel like this is something I should have known. That people with parents with college degrees and advanced degrees would know.
No one said anything to me, so I didn't know.

Which changes things. A lot. My director is lovely but has classes and a workload of their own. And I'm not sure about four chapters (two of which being survey chapters clock in at 40+ pages) getting read and edited/revised for notes in the next month and change.
And after reading blogs last summer about professors not wanting to work over summers, because they have their own work, I wouldn't ask that.
But I was counting on being able to work and revise all summer.
So I'm not quite sure what to do. I have a meeting with my director next week, and I emailed her to let her know that we needed to revisit my timeline.
This is what I'm thinking:
  • Still work to timeline of CH 1, 2, 3, 5 to director by end of semester
  • Write CH 4 this summer
  • Work on introductions and conclusions this summer
  • August: get notes back on all chapters, submit CH 4, intro and conclusion
  • September: revise CH 1, 2, 3, 5
  • October: second draft to director (still in a good enough place that committee can put in letters I'll defend in Spring 2016)
  • November: final drafts to entire committee
Because here's the other conversation no one is having- we get a stipend/TAship here. And it covers food, bills. But it doesn't cover rent. Or books. Or conference travel. I had to take out $8000 in student loans this year to cover those things. And next year, I imagine I'll have to take a little more, as I had to dip into untouchable savings this year to cover stuff. Most TAs I know have boyfriends, husbands, fiancees that they are splitting bills with. And let me tell you what a difference that makes- $14,000+ a year goes a lot further if it's only covering half the stuff. Even more so if your significant other has a "real job" above the poverty line. Even MORE if mom and dad are helping in addition to all that.

The simple fact is I can't afford to not meet my timeline. I have $24,000 in student loans from previous years. I paid off my undergraduate years ago, and my first masters was free through Teach for NY, but the second one was not. And interest is high.
Now I had a professor tell me not to worry about my student loans because teaching in higher ed, they were eventually forgiven. And that's great. But what if I can't get a job? Or can't get one right away- as now people spend several years on the market before landing a job, if they do? How do I afford hundreds of dollars a month in student loan payments?
I'd love to be able to take another year if I needed it. But I can't afford to.
And to me that's another aspect of privilege- the assumption that everyone who is in a PhD program can afford it, is from a certain class, has certain advantages.
So I have some issues to work through, and we'll see what my director says.

What about you? How do you deal with all the extra costs of grad school? Do you have financial support? Are your finances influencing YOUR timeline? Do you feel the class difference of secret handshakes?

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