The other evening I attended a presentation put together by the Rackham Graduate School that addressed the issue of reaching candidacy. The presentation included a panel of professors and a panel of graduate students who had already achieved candidacy. They addressed a bunch of questions about communicating with your committee or mentor, the amount of time you should allocate to studying and preparing, etc.
As a Ph.D. candidate, at least the way I understand it, you take a bunch of classes, go through some research rotations and, at the end of your first year, you take the most intense written examination ever. The following year, you have an oral defense of your research proposal. If you pass, you become a candidate. If not…let’s not talk about that. No, no, I think you get a second chance. It really depends on how your department feels but after having put so much money and energy into shaping you into a proper scientist, they really don’t want you to fail. I’m sure (or hope, anyway) it would be downright embarrassing for them if you failed under their watch. I feel pretty confidant saying that if you work hard and smart, you’ll do ok. But, I am a little scared because it seems like there is a whole lot of stuff that we need to know and be able to do. It is kind of overwhelming to think about.
So, as things are progressing along the semester with classes and research, I’m starting to think a little further ahead about my qualifying exams and what to do with my summer. I’ll make sure to keep you posted!