I am in my fourth year, and like many of my colleagues, I am freaking out about what I will be doing next year. I am in honours psychology, and a lot of people I know in my program say they would like to go to graduate school. Many are already in the process of their undergraduate thesis. Anyone in the program will tell you how important an undergrad thesis is: any adviser will tell you the same thing; any graduate student you come across in PAS will say the same thing; and I’m 100 per cent confident almost any upper-year student on campus will tell you how important an undergraduate thesis is. </p>
And then there’s me: I would like to go to graduate school, but I don’t want to do an undergraduate thesis. I can practically see the shock and awe in my advisers’ eyes as they remark at the gall I have for daring to attempt to apply to a graduate program without an undergraduate thesis. I tell them, “Well, I do have some research experience,” and they reply how that’s good, but we both know it’s not good enough — it’s just proof I can follow orders and fill in an Excel sheet.
I almost feel like an exile when I mention to my friends, both inside and outside the psychology department, how I sort of want to go straight into the workforce after university. There are some interesting career-development programs for recent grads at very appealing companies. But then I get this depressing wave of dread at the idea I will only have a bachelor’s degree to my name. Which is nothing to laugh at, for sure, but it almost feels incomplete without an additional degree to it. Maybe that’s just society’s influence on my mind, where just a B.Sc. is “OK” and you’ll get nowhere in life without a master’s or a PhD. At the same time, however, a PhD is unnecessary for my career goals, and some companies don’t hire PhDs because they are overqualified.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one of my friends who knows what they want to accomplish after university (both undergrad and/or graduate school). All my friends want to go to grad school — they know exactly what program they want to go in. As we talk, I think to myself, “Okay, so what do you want to do with that degree?” Maybe they want to do research for the rest of their lives — that’s fine, sounds terrible, but whatever, it’s their choice. I want to move on; I don’t want to be in university forever, but I don’t want to be at an office nine to five while my friends are still in school, studying half the time and partying the rest. It just seems like a lonely place to be.