I am now at the point in my graduate school career where I have completed my last round of classes and am preparing to take my preliminary examination. This is the exam that will admit me to doctoral candidacy, which means that I will be all but dissertation (ABD) in my graduate career.
I've taken my comprehensive exams (same concept as prelims) at my masters institution already and passed them, so this is beginning to feel a little old. I'm tired of cramming everything I've ever learned in my graduate career into my head so that I can sit for the exam and spew out all the knowledge and references upon request. When I say "sit for the exam," what I really mean is a period of self-flagellation as I ponder every question about every class I've ever taken, write an appropriate response, and pray that I haven't left anything out...for eight hours in one day, in a room, by myself.
Don't expect to see much of me over the next eleven days as I go into final crunch mode on studying. I'm already studying 6-9 hours a day, and have been for the past two weeks, but I'm about to move it to about 12-14 hours a day as the date draws nearer. I can't promise much surfacing activity during that time, and unfortunately, the Monday after I take prelims I have to be back in the classroom to teach at 8:40 a.m.
Graduate school. There is a reason there is a 50% (or more) attrition rate. It's hard and after a while it doesn't matter how smart you are; what matters is the determination, the ferociousness, the work ethic, and the bravery required to complete this degree. It's astounding how much work goes into this degree, and sometimes it's not even about work -- it's about your personal life, your family, your friends, the isolation of it all can be overpowering. Without a doubt, enrolling in a doctoral program is like being able to only run a mile, and then signing up to complete a triathlon, training for it, doing it, being completely exhausted and bone-tired, but still dragging yourself over the finish line, amazed that you had the audacity to complete the dang thing.
I'm at the 20 mile marker right now -- got a few more miles and milestones to go. Wish me luck -- but I'll see you at the finish line.