The Most Annoying Question (In My World)
The Ph.D. student's equivalent to a single woman hearing "When are you going to settle down and get married?" and the married woman's "When are you going to have a baby?" is none other than: "How much longer do you have in school?"
The questions are loaded with expectations of some socially acceptable response. I used to be a person who considered the same questions until my friends started getting married, and they made it clear that they either didn't want children, were waiting to have them, or were having difficulties. It made sense, and it suddenly clicked how rude (not to mention annoying) it actually is to assume that the next step in anyone's life is so general, time constrained, and definite. The same way that there are many circumstances that determine the answers to those other questions, there are many things that impact a student's amount of time spent in school.
Anything from taking time off, deciding to switch to part-time enrollment, course offerings, and plain ol' cash can be the difference between 3 and 10 years of campus life. While I definitely want to be done in 5-6 years total, it's really none of anyone's business when I'll actually be done with my degree, so being asked on a regular basis only encourages me to give ridiculous answers. If you're not a fan of being asked when you'll be done with school, here is a list of 5 useful responses that should get your point across pretty clearly:
"I should be done within the next 20 years."
"I don't know, I think I'll stay in school forever.
"Wait, I'm still in school?"
"I have no idea."
or my personal favorite:
5. *smile and walk away*
Seriously, people, just stop asking. Anything involving research and a dissertation is comparable to working on a large scale abstract painting and having people constantly watch you paint and ask "Is it done yet?"- super annoying. Even if the goal is to finish as soon as humanly possible, the fact is that very few doctoral students know for sure when they'll actually be done with their degrees. Now you know!