Grad School Wisdom

“True wisdom begins when we accept things as they are”

I came across this quote while watching cartoons. It was quite unexpected. And yet it was perfect.

With so little time to my comps, I am naturally stressed. Every PhD student I have spoken with describes the comps as one of the lowest and most stressful moments of the journey.

I admit that I am fortunate in that I had 4 weeks to exclusively focus on the exam. I had no other classes, no teaching duties, and very few RA responsibilities.

However, I am not fortunate in that my exam is closed notes and closed book. I do not understand why this has to be the case. Other majors in the school are allowed notes. And I know of several schools that allow notes as well. Furthermore, when writing papers, I will never have to cite something without the opportunity to look it up.

Memorizing the material does not upset me. But I do feel it has detracted from my focus of synthesizing what I have learned. The learning process for each activity is significantly different. We are going to be tested on our ability to synthesize, sure. But we also have to memorize.

I have devoted more than a few hours lamenting this fact. And I have been struggling to balance one set of activities over the other. Naturally, I have prioritized synthesizing. This activity is a lot closer to the ideal of being an academic: reading and writing and thinking and learning and imagining the possibilities of new things.

But with so little time to go, it has become apparent I must simply accept this is what my test will be: it will require memorization. As hard as it is to believe, I have never had to memorize before. I have always taken the time to learn. And I am including all the econometric proofs I had to learn for my methods classes.

I will now stop using my time pondering why my comps are structured this way, and instead focus on creative ways to ensure that all the pieces of information I need in order to talk about these topics intelligently (or as close to that as possible) are stored in my brain by next week.


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