I was almost kicked out of grad school, twice.
The biggest requirement for graduate students in psychology is that they complete a trial research project by the end of their second year. They must form a hypothesis and a way to test it, collect and analyze data, write it up in a manuscript, and defend their project before a panel of three faculty that make up their committee.
After several false starts, last winter, I felt that I had finally managed to find the proper direction to take my project. Me and two RAs analyzed copious amounts of data, and I wrote what I felt to be a pretty good paper. It seemed well-received when I presented it in two talks (one at the developmental brown bag and one at a trial research conclusion celebration), so I wasn't concerned going into my defense. At this point, my committee judged my project to be insufficient. It was not of the caliber they expected from a second year graduate student, and did not address many problems that they saw in the theoretical background. I needed to search through the literature and come up with a new coding scheme. That was at the beginning of July.
As any of you who know me at all would know, I was rather preoccupied this summer with the minor event of marrying my lovely wife, Laura. This is not really an excuse, just an aside. My summer was already busy, and it had just become much moreso. I worked my ass off to find literature on spatial language that could work as a new coding scheme. I found a system that my advisor, my 1 RA (since one had left for the summer), and I agreed was a good one.
Then I got married and went on my honeymoon. This left me largely out of touch with my work for the better part of 3 weeks (week of the wedding, week between the wedding and the honeymoon, and the week of the honeymoon). It is at this point that I should inform you, that although my committee members are brilliant women, they are not the best at communicating exactly what they want. So although they had told me (or I understood them as having told me) they wanted to see a comprehensive literature review and methods in order to approve my project, what they meant was that they wanted the entire project in its finished form.
At this point, I wasn't so sure I really wanted to be a grad student anymore. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a professor anymore. I wasn't sure I wanted to do research ever again.
But I wasn't about to walk out of the University of Chicago without getting at least my masters degree. I convinced the committee to give me one more chance. I would finish the entire project from lit review to finished paper in 1 quarter, they would be involved every step of the way to keep me honest, and thus, if I failed, it would be their fault too.
I finished my paper draft the week before Thanksgiving. I met with my committee today expecting to discuss revisions to the draft and set up another meeting for my defense. The committee decided that today's meeting would be my defense! After being thrown for quite a loop, I explained my findings and how I interpreted them. They made some suggestions for how I might look at them differently, but overall, said that I had done quality work. They signed my form, and I can now begin to worry about what I should do for my dissertation and how I can finish my coursework when the one course I have left isn't being taught.
I no longer have to worry about losing half of my family income. I no longer have to worry about searching for a new job. I no longer have to worry that I shouldn't spend too much time with my psych department friends for fear of having to explain that I was getting kicked out of school.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!