“How do I communicate to my advisor that I want to quit my Ph.D. program?”

Someone asked me this question on YouTube and I had to think long and hard about it before responding.

I’m a champion for Ph.D. students and I often want people to finish their Ph.D.s. This is true especially if they are an under-represented minority like me.

But I also realize that a Ph.D. is not the right path for everyone. And it goes without saying that there are lots of successful people who don’t have a Ph.D. Some don’t have a university degree at all.

In any case, telling your advisor you’re quitting your Ph.D. program is a difficult conversation no matter how you slice it. It’s common to feel guilty about letting your advisor down. You might experience guilt for letting down the people who have invested in you in various ways. However, it is important to remember that this is YOUR life and you need to do what’s best for you. Even if it means leaving academia.

Watch the video below as I answer this question.

Quitting your Ph.D. might feel like a nerve-racking decision for you. But thinking through your future career goals, and if a Ph.D. fits in that future can help you come to a satisfactory conclusion.

If you’re thinking of quitting your Ph.D. program, take a step back to reflect. Reflect on what you truly want for your life. Consider your goals and whether a Ph.D. aligns with those future plans. If you have the opportunity, take some time away from the Ph.D. program to see how that feels. Write down your thoughts and reasons. The pros and cons.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings before the conversation will help you to stay organized and on track. When you do have the conversation, use those thoughts you’ve written down as your guideposts when you finally discuss it with your advisor. Be prepared for your advisor to be disappointed. But don’t be guilted into staying if you have done your evaluations and realized a Ph.D. is just not the path for you.

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