How is it possible for a loser to get a phd from a top school?

7 Answers

  • 1 month ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hi. I have a Ph.D and may have some insight.

    1) I was a loser in high school. Then, I had a life changing experience that made me dedicate myself to science which propelled me through undergrad and graduate school. Perhaps this "loser" had a similar life changing experience.

    2) In graduate school I had a chance to meet all kinds of people. Some which were not the most likable of people, but were brilliant. Others that would be considered "burnouts" in other aspects of life, but were also brilliant and quite likable. People can surprise you. Who someone is in one aspect of life is not necessarily the same in all aspects of life.

    3) Even still, some people are just shotty. I have, unfortunately, seen several people spend so much time in graduate school that the PI of the lab they are in simply allow them to graduate without completing their projects to get them out of their hair. Its happened in many labs i have been in and been around. Its not good for science because it de-values the Ph.D and really does mean that not all Ph.D's are created equal. I assume this is part of the reason why we get paid so little for the amount of training we have.

    4) I assume the second half the the question "Top School" is most important. Here in lies the value of networking. If this "loser" of yours worked in a lab during undergrad who was well-networked, and well-published, than the PI of that lab can easily sway a "Top University" to accept a student. This has to do with how a lot of graduate schools work. They have minimum criterion for entering into the graduate school, and those minimums are just that, minimums. Often the school doesnt care how much you exceed those minimums because what is most important is that there is a PI or two at the university that would want to work with you. This is why you need to talk with the PI's who are doing the research you are interested in to see if they are accepting students, and form a relationship with them. Once you have their voice, your name and application gets pulled from the pile, and as long as you reach the minimums for the school, your probably going to get accepted.

    5) To go along with this last point, the paper trail is everything. If you happen to just find yourself in a good lab during undergrad, your name may get put on papers which makes it look like you have been very productive, regardless if that is a true statement. If you happened to apply for, and get, grants that adds a line to the CV. I have seen people who are lazy and incompetent obtain stellar CV's by chance alone. They got a grant, which got them another grant. They did a single experiment which got them on 2-3 papers. They had one skill that is not difficult to do but people just had them do it for all their projects and get put on 8 papers. They worked with a senior scientist who was just super productive and got put on all their papers just because they were part of the team. Conversely I have seen the opposite. Some of the most intelligent hard working people go through all of undergrad and graduate school without landing a single paper because their projects were near impossible and nobody was helping. Unfortunately in academia lines on the CV are all that matter. To tie this back in, your "loser" friend could have just landed a lucky hand of cards that carried him the entire way. I have seen it, it does happen.

  • 1 month ago

    "Loser" in what respect?  Socially or IQ-wise?  And what counts as a "top school"?  US News top 10?

    If it's a PhD in an easy field, then it doesn't necessarily take a lot of brains; even top schools have easy departments.

    If it's a PhD in a hard field (physics, etc.), then the person must be smart or hard-working even if the person doesn't otherwise come across well.

  • 1 month ago

    "Losers" don't earn PhDs. It takes a great deal of ability, dedication, hard work & more to earn a doctorate.

  • 1 month ago

    In some schools, sufficient 'donations' from a rich parent will not only get the loser INTO a top school, but will also buy them a degree. That's how Trump got into and then graduated from Wharton.

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  • 1 month ago

    Most ph.d's are losers. At least, the ones that I've met.

  • 1 month ago

    He or she very likely was a teaching and research assistant which paid them enough to survive as a master's degree student or they had scholarships. Once they became Ph.D student they were eligible for fellowships or if their Ihesis or dissertation chair persons may have had grants that they used to pay the graduate students they are mentoring and advising to be research assistants. They are also eligible for Snell loans from the federal government. Many graduate?students work half or full time and are part time students. This is WHY it can take 10 years or LONGER to earn a Ph.D. in jthe United States. I've seen 2 graduate students fail the oral qualifying examinations to become Ph.D. candidates him the mid 1980s. Their committee refused to retest them. 

    They are NOT losers. They are survivors. 

  • fcas80
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    It depends what you mean by a loser.  If he can get a Ph.D, then he is not a loser intellectually.  Does a loser to you mean poor personality?  Maybe once he finishes the Ph.D, he will improve his personality.

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