To Go to Graduate School or Not

Joshua Rothman writes about The Impossible Decision, that is, the decision of deciding whether to go to grad school or not and concludes there are too many unknowns confounding the process. Although he disagrees, I favor the response of his friend who gave a rational perspective, using statistics and saying:

focus on the “base rates”: that is, on the numbers that give you a broad statistical picture of outcomes from graduate school in the humanities. What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate students report feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.) To make a rational decision, he told me, you have to see the big picture, because your experience is likely to be typical, rather than exceptional. “If you take a broader view of the profession,” he told me, “it seems like a terrible idea to go to graduate school.”