"If you have a relative or friend who is an early career academic, chances are you have recently set that poor, damaged soul of hers into an existential death spiral, simply by asking what would ordinarily be a friendly question. For example, with your cousin, pounding booze and scoping bridesmaids, you might follow up: “Well, where do you want to live?” He looks even more miserable, like he just swallowed a scorpion. “Well,” you soldier on, “have you ever thought of moving to [major metropolitan area] and working at [world-renowned institution]? They’re such a big school; they’re sure to have something for someone smart like you.” Now your cousin is beginning to shake."

How do professors get hired? The academic job search, explained.

"Nevertheless, it seems to me that at all levels of academia, almost regardless of field and university, we are suffering from a similar myth: that this profession demands – even deserves – unmitigated dedication at the expense of self and family. This myth is more than about tenure-track, it is the very myth of being a “real” scholar."

The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network

Anonymous said: Please come back. We cynical grad students really miss you. :)

I’m back (and thanks)!  Sorry everyone — grad school is a hectic crazy mess sometimes, which makes blogs and life and such fall by the wayside occasionally, but that’s why it’s nice to share in the crazy here with others. :)  Hope everyone’s doing well!

"Academia, especially in the humanities and the social sciences, is a total culture. It colonizes most aspects of your life. You are never not an academic–the little mental tape recorder is on all the time, or it had better be if you want to be good at this life. Anything is grist for my mill as a teacher and a scholar, and that is as it should be. Graduate school is, if anything, even more totalizing than this. It gets into your pores. Somewhere in the back of your head, your dissertation or your oral exams will be burrowing outwards through your brain tissue with incisors of fear."

Should You Go to Graduate School? | Easily Distracted

Anonymous said: I'm applying to grad programs and was wondering what your take on emailing prospective research advisors. I have gotten mixed advice and fear not that it is too late to email professors at schools with Dec. 1st deadlines.

Oops a little late on this one!  Nonetheless, I think it probably differs between programs/fields (broken record, but seriously, you should ask around your specific departments!).  In my experience, touching base with the person you’d really like to work with for 2-5+ years is never really a bad idea.  They’ll know you by more than just a piece of paper when they see your application, and it might give you some sort of an idea of whether you’d like to work with them for that long too.  Plus many advisors are busy people and may either empathize with your need to do things semi-last minute or not even notice that you emailed last minute.  Take this advice with a grain of salt though, as emailing (particularly later in the game) may be less typical/accepted in certain fields (though it’s well-accepted in mine).

Anonymous said: Do you have the time to participate in extracurricular activities? I am thinking about grad school about a year or two after I graduate, as I am an undergraduate. Currently, I am taking 25 units, thus not allowing me time to participate in extracurriculars, which is a shame. My goal is to get out of college as soon as possible (because I go to school in the same city I was born in) so I can move out and live a college experience during my grad years.

Like I’ve said before, every program/area/department/field is different, so honestly I can’t tell you if you’ll have time to participate in extracurriculars.  I CAN tell you that where I am, many grad students participate in extracurriculars or other hobbies, but some do not.  I know programs where absolutely no one has time for extras, but I think part of the flexibility of time in grad school is learning how to manage your time for what you both need and want to do.  It’s really a matter of finding what’s right for and important to you, so if having a bit of a work-life balance is important to you in grad school, that’s the kind of question you’d want to ask potential programs when applying/deciding.  Anyone else want to weigh in here?

namastelibraryb said: Not an ask, but thank you for this blog. Struggling with a research paper, questioning life choices, glad to know I'm not alone.

You are most certainly not alone!  We’re all in this sometimes quite trying process together, and we’ll all eventually make it to where we’re supposed to be.  :)

thewellnessconfidencial said: I hope this email doesn't come as an imposition but I could REALLY use some advice. Since senior year of high school I've been dreaming of grad school & now in entering my 4th year of uni its time. I've literally researched EVERY school/program in Canada & have SO many questions. Do you think you could advise me? Is there a big difference between a MA & MSc? How many schools should I apply to? What about having no experience (tons of volunteer/internships though)? I SINCERELY THANK YOU IN ADVANC

Hi person!  Definitely not an imposition, but I also don’t think I’m necessarily the right person.  The thing about grad school (and academia in general) is that it will differ slightly (and sometimes greatly) from program to program, area to area, department to department, field to field.   Therefore, I’d recommend you ask grad students at your current university if there are any, faculty members if there aren’t, and of course, our good old friend the Internet!  Seriously, as with most things in life, Google is your friend, and you can find a ton of info out there for programs/degrees you might be interested in, as well as super useful forums and blogs that will discuss a lot of the info it sounds like you’re interested in acquiring.  Best of luck!