So Who Are You?

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I was reading through some old articles from last year that for some reason I had saved on my computer and I came across this from a column in the Guardian which was done by one of their writers who had gone back to university for a PhD. Re-reading it now I can see why I saved it, lets face it, we all know people who would fit one or other of the descriptions and I always wonder which one people think I am (unfortunately I think its probably something along the lines of No.3, maybe not the Marxism or an actual need to shave in the first place but a pet mouse would be nice).

The eight types of graduate student
Why are we postgrads here? Well, for lots of reasons, says Patrick Tomlin
Tuesday May 15, 2007
The Guardian

When I started this column, I promised myself I wouldn’t let it become a monthly whinge about how poor I am. Partly because that would be as boring as if I stood in your garden and recited excerpts from my thesis, and partly because, as graduate students go, I’m not too badly off.

But I have had to make financial sacrifices to pursue my studies. Given that everyone else has presumably had to do so too, I initially figured that we must all be there because of a pure thirst for knowledge. I’ve since realised, however, that the impulses that draw someone to academic study beyond graduation are a lot more varied than that.

While I’ve only been at it a short while, I am sufficiently aware of the unwritten columnists’ code to know one is expected to make wild generalisations, shun nuance, and present categories in a list format. So, without further ado, I present the eight types of graduate student:

1. The Wannabe Undergraduate
They had such fun as undergraduates that they cannot bear it to end. They prop up the bar, talking to undergrads about their thesis, rather than actually writing it. They judge success by notches on the bedpost and hangovers accrued instead of marks, grades and the intellectual respect of their peers.

2. The Student Who Tried Employment
Some postgraduates have been out into the real world and had a real job, with a desk and a computer and a pay cheque and a lunch break and a pension and appraisals and meetings and everything. And, for whatever reason, they have found it wanting.

3. The Couldn’t-Survive-Anywhere-but-at-University
The group most likely to be cultivating eccentricities – keeping a mouse in their pocket or wearing socks with Marxist slogans sewn into them – while still too young to shave.

4. The CV-Filler
Their primary focus is not what they study, but what it will look like on their CV. They believe this qualification will give them “that extra edge”. Most likely to end up as accountants or lawyers, never employing the knowledge gained.

5. The Prestigious Scholarship Recipient
Rather than worrying about what the subject they study will look like on their CV, their primary focus is who is paying for it. In a reversal of the usual relationship between funding and studying, in which the former is a means to the latter, the funding is regarded as an end in itself and the studying something that has to be endured to be able to call themselves a [insert name of dead white man] scholar for the rest of their lives.

6. The One Who Just Needs Answers
They really are motivated purely by the desire to find answers about their specific area of interest.

7. The Eternal Student
They are not bothered whether their academic career shows linear progress, they’re just collecting qualifications and trying to get every letter of the alphabet after their name.

8. The Polymath
These geniuses could have studied anything, anywhere. They will probably go on to great things across several disciplines, and already understand your thesis better than you do. An unfortunate subset are also charming, witty and good-looking, and therefore hated by everyone.
And which am I? I’d like to think No 6, but I suspect there’s more than a touch of No 2 about me, too.


One thought on “So Who Are You?

  1. I’m a definite #2. Grad school doesn’t pay much, but it’s so much nicer than any other job I could have right now. My cohort also has a few #7s and one #8, but he isn’t hated by anyone. Part of his perfection is that he’s so damn charismatic.

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