how to freak a grad student out (tip #251): random qualifying exam committee shuffle

Admit it.  You're always on the lookout for cruel new and unusual ways to freak your grad student out.  It's obviously not enough for you that s/he is already always in full-on freak-out mode for one reason or another anyway.  You just have to make it worse, right?  Well, time to rejoice because I'm now compiling tips on how to freak grad students out from my experiences on the receiving end of such torture. 

So let's preface by saying that I'm already super freaked out since I'm supposed to be studying for quals and I haven't been for oh, the last two weeks.  And I keep promising myself that today will be the day that I'll get back into super hardcore studying mode everyday.  So I'm freaked out.

So today, I tried really hard to study.  But I was distracted by a number of things, only a few of which actually pertained to grad school.  Just when I was getting ready to hunker down for a long day of studying, an email pops up in my inbox that fills my heart with fear.  Why?  Because its subject was: Qualifying Exam Assignment - mylifemypace.  Oh crap.  They figured out that I should have taken my quals last quarter.  Masochist in me clicked on the email anyway and it took forever to load while my major professor blabbed away about the Mercedes SL500 (seriously, can't you see I'm in the middle of something?).  When it finally loaded, it wasn't what I thought it was, but it wasn't good either.  Apparently one of my committee members decided that she couldn't serve on my committee and backed out.  I was just now being informed that she had been replaced.  Well, thanks for letting me know after I had gone over what you told me to study.  And making me waste my time meeting with yet another committee member, who may or may not be nicer than you (though I really hope he's nicer because I could really use a nice person on my committee to balance out all of the not-so-nice people).  Argh and the prospect of having to study another whole bunch of random stuff just because someone says so is enough to make me sick.

So there you have it.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to me to be studying my ass for something this scary only to have something as important as the composition of my committee just randomly changed out of nowhere on me.  So if you want to freak out a grad student studying for quals, a random qualifying exam committee shuffle is the way to go!

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  1. how to freak a grad student out (tip #323): ask her to take her qualifying exam earlierHere's another way to freak a grad student out.  And it's almost as cruel as randomly changing one of her qualifying exam committee members.  It's rather simple, really.  Ask her to change the time of her qualifying exam from afternoon to morning so that she can't possibly spend the morning either sleeping because she stayed up really late the night before preparing or doing last minute studying/freaking out.  Not only that, but make sure that you're having her change the time for a completely non-life-threatening reason such as simply because you felt like it.  Even better yet, also make sure to request this change as close to the actual date of the exam as possible so that it'll really catch her by surprise.Yep, that's exactly what the chair of my committee wanted.  And that's what she got.  I was counting on Evil Committee Member to shoot the request down, but she didn't.  So now, I get to fail my quals that much earlier on January 24th.  My husband thinks it's a good thing because I'll be fresh and will get it over with.  But I just think it's going to make things worse than they already are.  I'm so screwed ...
  2. random qualifying exam committee shuffle: the aftermathSo I finally got to meet with my replacement qualifying exam committee member today.  Let me just say that these meetings must be designed as preliminary tests to see if they're going to be nice or mean during the actual exam.  Because just getting into the same room with these people is in itself a challenge.First, there was the committee member who wasn't there.  Nope.  Door closed.  No note.  Nothing.  What else could I do besides stand around waiting (like an idiot) assuming that she was just running late?  So that I did.  For 20 minutes before I decided to wander around looking for someone I had never before seen in my life.  As expected, that turned out to be a rather fruitless search.  Though I did pass a lady in the hallway otherwise occupied with talking to other people twice in my search.  Lo and behold, when I walk back to the committee member's office, it was her.  I swear it was a test to see if I would wait it out or leave.  I can understand being caught up in conversation for five minutes, but not 20 and not such that you don't notice a confused grad student wandering by multiple times during your conversation.Then there was the committee member who ultimately backed out.  Her test must have simply been whether or not I was able to find her office.  Because damn was it hard to find.  I felt like a rat in a maze after awhile, what...
  3. and that’s why i called it the dreaded phd qualifying examIt’s always hard to get back into the more annoying things in life (such as setting up my quals) after enjoying the more fun things in life (such as having a nice semi-relaxing weekend with my non-crazy family). I almost convinced myself not to check my email today, but knew better. And things were going well at first. Committee member #1: December is good. I like certain days of the week. Committee member #2: December is good except for a few dates. And then there was committee member #3: December is not good at all. D’oh. Eh well, that’s to be expected considering I’m trying to schedule this all at the last minute. On to committee member #4’s (who is also the chair of the committee) response: WTF, why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Okay, so maybe those weren’t his exact words, but close enough. I proceeded to start freaking out once I read this response because committee member #4 is by far the scariest member of my committee and also the chair of my committee, who I really didn’t want to piss off. So I freaked out for a good fifteen minutes or so before deciding to ask my older and wiser major professor how to proceed with this turn of events. Instead of being helpful, he just kept right on rubbing it in my face, saying “That’s why I told you to contact your committee earlier. You’re going to fail now that the chair of your committee...

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