Krystale Littlejohn

PhD Candidate

Location: Palo Alto, CA

"During the first few months, I had doubts about whether or not I had made the right decision."

Swamped with work. That’s how I felt in 2007—my senior year of college. I was a double major, writing two theses, working several hours a week, and participating in various activities on campus. I knew I wanted to earn an advanced degree and I had planned on applying to graduate school as soon as I finished up my undergraduate work. Instead, as application deadlines drew closer, I wavered about that decision. I told myself I was just too exhausted to apply. I really did want to become a professor, but coming from a low-income background, I also knew that with my bachelor’s degree, I could earn a living and live a happy life; I didn’t need a PhD to do that.

My plan was moving forward smoothly until one of my professors encouraged me to apply for PhD programs. After our conversation, I knew I should give it a try. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply to a few programs; I could always say no if I got into a Master’s program that felt right for me.

A few months later, I was accepted to a program at Stanford that perfectly matched my interests. I had applied thinking the program was a long shot, but now I was faced with another difficult decision: Would I pursue the program a full month before applications for other Master’s programs were even due? Did I really want to spend several more years in school? Did I want to move? I wasn’t sure, but I did feel certain I had to at least try. I entered the doctoral program that fall, a few months after graduating.

During the first few months, I had doubts about whether or not I had made the right decision. I wondered whether I should have taken some time off first. Everything changed when I started teaching and doing research. I was fascinated by the work and I loved mentoring students.

Though I was originally filled with uncertainty about pursuing a PhD, I’m now just a few short months away from earning my degree and I couldn’t be more certain I’ve made the right decision. I’ll achieve my goal of becoming a professor later this year when I start my new job as an assistant professor of sociology at Occidental College. I couldn’t be more thrilled.