Graduate Student Barbie

UPDATE January 28, 2014: Now available in doll form! Courtesy of reader Deanna Foster who writes, “A very good friend of mine is doing her PhD, and I was inspired by your blog to give her a “Graduate School Barbie” for Christmas. I made some modifications to a barbie I picked up at WalMart. She really enjoyed it – thanks for your blog post!”

xmas2013 A

xmas2013 C

xmas2013 B

UPDATE November 26, 2013: Now available at the USA Today!

UPDATE November 4, 2013: Now available at the Huffington Post!

UPDATE August 8, 2013: Currently this post is at ~300,000 views (298,742 to be exact). THANK YOU INTERNET!

UPDATE December 6, 2012: Folks, I am deeply humbled by the attention this post has received. Here are recent stats:


Welcome!! Over 48,000 of you, most likely current or former graduate students, stopped by to say hi and laugh just yesterday alone. Most of you found this post via a link shared on Facebook or Twitter. I’m so glad you are here, and I hope the post made you laugh and cheered you up. I drafted this post at an incredibly low point in writing my dissertation. I felt horribly alone in the struggle to finish and honestly just felt so hopeless about ever finishing. I still cycle through these emotions. At another low point recently I glanced at my blog stats and was just flabbergasted by how many folks have visited this past week. A great many of you have left comments, shared your experiences, reblogged the post on your own blog, shared the link with others, and liked the post. You cannot imagine how beautiful this gift is to receive from you, and I don’t know how to truly express my gratitude to you all. Even though we must all overcome our own individual struggles to complete our own PhD/graduate school journeys, I am forever grateful that to plainly see that we are, truly, not alone here. Thank you for stopping by, and I truly hope your journey is successful, fruitful, productive, and OVER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. THE ONLY GOOD DISSERTATION IS A GOOD DISSERTATION – GET ‘ER DONE!!

* Results may vary but not by much

Graduate Student Barbie (source and major props for awesomeness)

A new gift idea for your loved ones: Graduate School Barbie (TM).

Graduate School Barbie comes in two forms: Delusional Master’s Barbie (TM) and Ph.D. Masochist Barbie (TM).

Every Graduate School Barbie comes with these fun filled features guaranteed to delight and entertain for hours: Grad School Barbie comes out of the box with a big grin on her face that turns into a frown after 2 weeks or her first advisor meeting (whichever comes first). She also has adorable black circles under her delightfully bloodshot eyes.

Comes with two outfits: a grubby pair of blue jeans and 5 year old gap T-shirt, and a floppy pair of gray sweatpants with a matching “I hate my life” T-shirt. Grad School Barbie talks! Just press the button on her left hand and hear her say such upbeat grad school phrases like, “Yes, Professor, It’ll be done by tomorrow”, “I’d love to rewrite” and “Why didn’t I just get a job, I could have been making $40,000 a year by now if I had just started working with a Bachelor’s. But noooooo, I chose to further my education, I wish somebody would drop a bomb on the school so that I’d have an excuse to stop working on my degree that’s sucking every last drop of life force out of my withered and degraded excuse for a soul…” (9V lithium batteries sold separately)

Grad School Barbie is anatomically correct to teach kids about the exciting changes that come with pursuing a higher education. Removable panels on Barbie’s head and torso allow you to watch as her cerebellum fries to a crispy brown, her heart race 150 beats per minute, and her stomach lining gradually dissolve into nothing. Deluxe Barbie comes with specially designed eye ducts. Just add a little water, and watch Grad School Barbie burst into tears at random intervals. Fun for the whole family!

Other accessories include:

Grad School Barbie’s Fun Fridge (TM) Well stocked with microwave popcorn, Coca-Cola, Healthy Choice Bologna (99% fat free!),and a small bottle of Mattel Brand Rum ™.

Grad School Barbie’s Medicine Cabinet comes in Fabulous (pepto-bismal) pink and contains Barbie sized bottles of Advil, St. Johns Wort, Zantac, and your choice of three fun anti-anxiety drugs! (Barbie Medicine Cabinet not available without a prescription).

Grad School Barbie’s Computer Workstation. Comes with miniature obsolete PC (in pink of course), rickety desk, and over a dozen miniature Mountain Dew cans to decorate your workstation with (Mountain Dew deposit not included in price. Tech support sold separately).

And Grad School Barbie is not alone! Order now and you’ll get two of Barbie’s great friends! GRADUATE ADVISOR KEN, Barbie’s mentor and advisor in her quest for knowledge, higher education and decreased self esteem.

Grad Advisor Ken ™ comes with a supply of red pens and a permanent frown. Press the button to hear Grad Advisor Ken deliver such wisdom to Barbie as “I need an update on your progress,” “I don’t think you’re ready to defend yet”, and “This is no where near ready for publication.”

Buy 3 or more dolls, and you can have Barbie’s Thesis Committee! (Palm Pilot and tenure sold separately.)

REAL JOB SKIPPER, When Barbie needs to talk, she knows that she can always count on her good friend Real Job Skipper ™, who got a job after getting her bachelor degree. Press the button to hear Real Job Skipper say, “Sometimes I wish I went for my masters degree” and “Work is so hard! I had to work a half an hour of overtime!” Real Job Skipper’s Work Wardrobe and Savings account sold separately.

WARNING: Do not place Grad Student Barbie and Real Job Skipper too close to each other, as there have been several cases of children leaving the room and coming back to find Barbie’s hands mysteriously fused to Skipper’s throat.

164 thoughts on “Graduate Student Barbie

  1. Grad school Barbie’s family also doesn’t recognize her – they haven’t seen her since she graduated from college, and on the rare occasions when she does make an appearance, the dark circles under her eyes and frown marks on her face have aged her beyond recognition. Then there’s the fact that if she does leave the library or lab long enough to actually eat a cooked meal, she can’t keep her eyes open for more than 10 minutes – hardly long enough to enjoy Mom’s home cooking.

    When I was in grad school I’d get a lift home by security after the library closed, have a bite to eat and keep studying. My husband and I were living with my mom, because she lived within walking distance of the hospital. One night as I went to bed at around 2:30 a.m., my husband muttered: “Who is it?” My response: “Do you know where you are?” We saw each other by appointment!


  2. Sadly, graduation doesn’t solve Grad School Barbie’s problems. If she’s lucky, she turns into Assistant Professor Barbie, with whole new publish or perish anxieties, tenure woes, and “when do I get to have a life, again?” issues. Grad School Barbie needs a TARDIS to go back in time and reconsider.


    • Because a TARDIS really does make everything better. And to make it perfect, through in The Collectible Matt Smith as the Doctor Doll! Life would be a beautiful thing then!


  3. I think it’s a symptom of her delusion that she thinks she would be making $40,000.00 per year with a bachelor’s. I work at Walmart with a Bachelor’s and I make minimum wage, and there are lots of other people with bachelor’s degrees of all sorts working at Walmart in my town.


    • Not being able to find a job with a bachelor’s in political science is the exact reason I have been torturing myself with grad school (plus racking up massive amounts of student loan debt). If I could have made $40,000 right out of undergrad, I’d be doing it without complaint.


    • My friend went to college for a semester and is making $40,000 base and has earned over $30,000 in straight commission. (She does sales for an internet/cable company). So it’s all about networking and knowing how to sale yourself. Having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job but it can help put you above others in some careers


    • Too true. I’m 20+ years in the workforce (post-masters). After years of searching, last year I landed a job making $33K. I’d be grateful to have made $40K with a bachelor’s degree.


  4. Barbie should also have bottles of energy drink and stress tabs. Her system is also confused- she’s hungry, but when she eats even the slightest food, she gets sick! And when Skipper plays with her or talks with her, she seems just staring at nothing!


    • Interesting interpretation. I read it as the folks who got real jobs made the better monetary choice, i.e., earning and enjoying life instead of paying and watching that choice hurt you, current economy and difficulties in findings jobs notwithstanding.


      • It’s not a matter of better choices – I think that this smacks of the insecurity grad students misinterpret as judgment from others.

        The Real Job Skipper bit implies that grad students work harder than the otherwise employed, have made difficult choices with lower returns, and are more demonized by the economy. The working world of today is not the 80’s – many graduates (of BA’s or otherwise) are struggling to find employment. Expense accounts are not brimming – and I work for a company whom everyone assumes wallpapers their offices with bills.

        The whole bit seems to ignore that they chose to be there. Choose your choices or cut and run.


      • The joke surely is not in the interpretation of others, but in your own confusion over why you could have picked such a bad, unreasonable and SM choice… Try doing both: I work full time AND am a full time PhD student (I know, it doesn’t add up, hence my dark circles). And seriously, this is an ever going situation: work colleagues think you “study” because you are afraid of the “job market”. Yet, my full time job always seem like such a vacation! With coffee and lunch breaks, and even week-ends! And you get a pay check! Wow… (oh yeah… and rich friends all have a bachelor as my poor friends all have a MA. go figure).


    • How petty and uniformed? I work 80 hours a week in my lab trying to get my PhD making less than you. We do work harder than you just to graduate! Maybe you studied history or something but making it in the world of Neuroscience is quite different. So please… give me a break!


      • Er — Firstly, ellegentsia’s original complaint re: “petty and uninformed” was about jobs vs. grad school, not discipline vs. discipline. I’m in the humanities and my husband is in neuroscience, and I can assure you that we work equally hard. He’s just better-funded. Secondly, a BA in history will not get you a career in history, so a historian with a BA and a “real job” is almost certainly not working in her field, and her current job says nothing about her academic discipline.

        I find both comments hasty: a satire of grad school life need not also include a fair and balanced assessment of other choices. A defense of “real jobs” is not a slap at AFG’s choices.


  5. How about Grad student barbie–music school edition, complete with stacks of music papers, over-inflated ego (coupled with zero self-esteem), and a medicine cabinet stocked with anti-depressants, beta-blockers, and lots of vodka?


  6. Just love this. As a current doctoral student, it would be great to be able to buy a Ph.D. Masochist Barbie doll. Thanks for the laugh!!


  7. Pingback: Graduate School Barbie |

  8. Pingback: Funny shit. Would be funnier if it wasn’t so painfully true. « what a fucking privilege

  9. I loved this! I was graduate school Barbie with newborn…crazed; exhausted and more often then not streaked with spit up.


  10. Pingback: Graduate Student Barbie via @karenzgoda « Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

  11. Pingback: PhD stuff: One too funny and one to help! « Sites of transformations?

  12. Wow, the Real Job Skipper bit was upsetting. I have so many friends in grad school, and while I appreciate how hard they work, they are also generally people who have their education paid for them and get to live off their parents. They don’t usually bring up the source of their funding, though, and instead prefer to whine about how hard school is while simultaneously lording their pursuit of higher knowledge over those who work their asses to the bone to pay bills. You think Real Job Skipper wouldn’t like a higher degree? Did it ever occur to you that not everyone can make grad school happen for themselves, and that a bachelor’s degree is the most expensive worthless item on the job market today? How many people graduate with mountains of debt even though they worked all through college, only to find that they can barely get a job at Subway? I get that grad school is a LOT of work, but don’t act like some kind of martyr. The stab at Real Job Skipper is exactly why grad students get such a bad reputation for being stuck up and detached from the real world. People at real jobs have bags under their eyes and shitty computer stations where they pull all-nighters and don’t have time to eat real food, but they don’t get the satisfaction of knowing they are definitely working toward something. They could be laid off any day, and then no matter how hard they worked, they are back to square one. A grad student knows that if they put in the ridiculously long hours and dedication, they will eventually come out with something they can lord over everyone for the rest of their lives. This was a funny post, but get off your high horse and recognize that hard work is hard work and there is no Real Job Skipper with some easy lifestyle she got handed to her because she made the selfish choice not to further her education. There’s just people with trust funds or rich spouses, and people without them.


    • To be fair, some of us (myself included) are working as many hours as Real Job Skipper and have been combining this with grad school for the last 8 years. There is no external funding except what I bring in with my own two hands. There is no guarentee that there will be a job waiting for me especially since up to 70% of all new faculty positions are adjunct, non-tenure track and there are mountains of debt to pay off. Working 3-5 jobs while trying to finish school is something I would wish on no one. This is not something to hold over someone’s head, it’s more of a “here’s what you could be in for” heads up for others like me who had to learn all this the hard way – if you don’t NEED grad school to get where you want to go in life don’t do it!


    • This is probably the most ignorant comment I’ve ever seen. The reason grad students get angry at the “real life skippers” is because they are envious of them. People always “hate” people who took another route in life because they think that maybe that path would have been easier or better than the one they chose, when in fact any path you choose is gonna suck.They never said that skipper didn’t do any work or wasn’t as good as grad school Barbie. Okay? This whole article is supposed to be a joke. It’s sarcasm and satire, not a biased rant about how some people are bad and others aren’t.


    • I was a “Real Job Skipper” as a paralegal for big, scary corporate law firms for 8 years and then I decided to go to law school along with a bunch of my paralegal friends. As I type this, I’ve got a g-chat from one of them asking why we decided to forgo steady paychecks and LOTS AND LOTS of paid double-time for this torture (not to mention the Rolls-Royce benefits). But when it was the other way around, we were wishing we had the easy life of a student: go to class, read and then take a final. What’s the big deal, right? The comment about “Real Job Skipper”, as other commenters have noted, is not about making a judgment about people who have jobs or their choices. I sometimes wish I was back at work and feel jealous of my friends who work and are “real adults”. See, right there…it’s like I feel like my friends with careers are “real adults” and I’m suck in some limbo wondering if I’m going to pass my classes and someday get a job. Oh and I’m 31 and don’t have anyone bankrolling my legal education, unless you count Uncle Sam.


    • Grad students are “generally people who have their education paid for them and live off their parents”? That statement is incredibly uninformed and laced with misplaced resentment. I stress all the time about trying to pay my bills, working my part-time job in retail when I should be studying, researching, or writing, and wondering how I’m going to pay my student loan debt if I can’t find a job after I graduate. Additionally, we also worry about how to pay for the debt incurred from our own undergraduate degrees. You are grossly stereotyping graduate students as a “trust-fund” type, which is not only unfair but inaccurate. Also, you claim that graduate students “lord” their education. Completing a master’s, Ph.D, medical degree, etc. is an incredible accomplishment and those students have a right to be proud of their many years of hard work. They have completed an intensive academic curriculum and countless hours of independent research to earn their degrees and titles. Also, I think it is insulting to Real Job Skipper’s to say they are not working toward anything. You suggest that people in the workforce cannot find satisfaction without a graduate degree and that their jobs are meaningless and unrewarding. Ignorant and condescending. Finally, to suggest that the difference between people in grad school and those in the workforce has to do with money is erroneous. The selection process to get into an academic institution is quite rigorous. It requires stellar grades, recommendations, and test scores, writing samples, intriguing personal statements, an excellently crafted resume or CV, generating relationships with scholars out of thin air, an articulate interview, and a strong thesis. Graduate programs are seeking dedicated intellectuals who will make a difference in their field. One does not simply qualify by the size of their bank account.
      Although it might be esoteric to you, this joke reflects a shared experience for graduate students. It is obviously not meant to be harmful and you have taken it out of context – a classic faux pas.


    • Hardworking Skipper, the satire does not have to speak to you. It’s not about you. It’s about grad student Barbie and HER perspective.


  13. I’m in chapter 1 and I will feel like I will not make it. Such a sea of information…wondering if I will ever get it all organized. Enjoyed the posting but I hope I don’t look as terrible as poor ole over educated Barbie. 🙂


    • Hi Mary, thanks for writing and sharing. I won’t lie, it’s tough, but you already knew that. How is chapter one coming along? What would be helpful? I highly recommend the book Destination Dissertation – it has very practical, step-by-step guidance. GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GOING!!


  14. Old Matt Groening joke from School Is Hell: Graduate School — because some people never learn. I don’t know what the worst decision of my life was, but getting a PhD was high up there.


  15. Pingback: Graduate Student Barbie « Advanced Design & Typography 2012

  16. Pingback: Navigating Graduate School and Beyond: A Career Guide for Graduate Students and a Must Read for Every Advisor by Sundar A. Christopher « L'etudiante de la mer

  17. Pingback: Around the Web | Savage Minds

  18. My Barbie gains weight each semester as her addiction to chocolate and Double Bubble and fried cheese and Greek pizza and Diet Coke… Oh my gawd. I need post doc therapy and liposuction.


  19. I made $40K with a bachelor’s back in ’97 and then stupidly went to graduate school, racking up $35K more in student loan debt. You know how much I made in my first job outta grad school? You guessed it: $40K.


  20. Pingback: A Get Holiday Gift Idea for Grad Students… « thequirkyprof

  21. Thanks for letting me laugh at your misery. And thanks for making me feel better about not getting an MA. lol although I gotta say, the description of Grad School Barbie sounds like she would be awfully similar to Working Mom Barbie or Working Dad Ken.


  22. I have been out of my PhD program for thirty years now, and I actually have fond memories of the comaraderie in the lab, the long experiments and the excitement of doing science. We worked really hard and lots of us played hard I don’t recall thinking it was so terrible. Yes, taking the qualifying orals was awful and the dissertation not much fun, but I think I did not have such negative feelings about it.


    • Congrats!! I’m glad you had a different, much more positive experience than most of us here. I have not seen so much camaraderie as competition. I wonder what changed, guessing there is much speculation to be had here!


    • As my committee members said to me several times when I was finishing, “I’m glad I don’t have to get a PhD now! I don’t know that I’d be able to do it.” I think a lot has changed in terms of expectations, time demands, job outlooks, and the relationships between graduate students and faculty. Some camaraderie is still in the lab (although I’ve known of several experiment-stealing cut-throat relationships), as is the excitement of doing science, if you have enough energy leftover after running experiments, teaching, grading, and writing (all in one day, every day).


  23. Fantastic. Thank you for this. Defending my dissertation proposal next week. Eek!

    Of course there should be an “Unemployed REAL JOB SKIPPER,” who provides more solidarity than the original RJS. And the “ONLY SLIGHTLY INDIFFERENT BRATZ” dolls, who are so sick of GSB’s complaints. I know a few. You try doing what GSB does, haters.

    Well done, Karen.



  24. What made R1 political science grad school hell in the late 80s to mid 90s was–try to top this–arriving caring about books and justice and individuals, but discovering that all of the other GS were Invasion of the Body Snatchers Ken, humorless white guys calculating the Soviet Threat throw weight Schelling deception ratio factor analysis PROBIT. When the Soviets sort of evaporated in the middle of their diss, they switched en masse to quantitative modeling of “interactions” defined without a soul, e.g. not war but “militarized dyads.” How naive was I.


  25. I am almost sixty.There are great child rearing gaps in my education. I didn’t laugh nor crack a smile . I swear. I am now going to bed for the rest of my life and re-write sentences and paragraphs in my head until i fall into a deep sleep. And tomorrow?I am going to do it again .


  26. LOL! Hilarious. Thank you sooooo much for this post… one in which all of us tired and drained (it was only in grad school that I learned that these are two completely different states of exhaustion) grad students can find solidarity and commiserate together. I am literally writing this response during a break from writing my VERY LAST final papers in my last semester of my Master’s program. Thank you for a smile and for such encouragement. It’s always great to know I’m not alone.


  27. I loved reading this grad Barbie description. Remember those feelings well. I am a professor now and it was worth sticking it all out. Love my job, colleagues, and my schedule.


  28. Pingback: Friday Finds | With Faith & Grace

  29. This was reported in the Cult of Fiscal Responsibility and I, Satan Hereself, who is the lone arbiter of everything as well asthe Empress of the Universe, by virtue of completing three and a half useless degrees (BA/BFA Fine Arts and Philosophy, MS in Counseling, Masters of Divinity and ABD in Women’s Ethics from a now defunct institution), award you a PHD with Highest Honors and a tenure track position, as well as complete loan forgiveness, on the basis of your contribution to the sum of human and alien knowledge, based on this post. Congratulations, and welcome to The Omniversity of Recognition, Respect and Curiosity.


  30. You are not alone! Thank you so much for this post. People may make of it what they wish, but I would imagine that for most of us it is just a ray of sunshine during an outrageously stressful time. Oh, and reading about Real Job Skipper actually made me laugh out loud! 🙂


  31. Grad school that you love followed by a richly fulfilling (and certainly not stress free) career is my hope for all of you. After doing time in 2 Ph.D. programs, I found that ministry (with a M.Div.) was my place. I wish you all such joy.


  32. Pingback: Graduate School « aadagrads

  33. Pingback: Graduate Student Barbie « Hinda Tzivia Eisen

  34. Hi Karen,
    The good thing about it is it does eventually end. I went to graduate school working full time and with 2 kids under 3. I call those those “the missing years!” I defended my master’s thesis in January of 1997. There is life on the other side!! Good Luck an just keep plugging along!!


  35. Thank you. I am getting ready to defend my PhD dissertation after eight long years during which time I translated volumes of Latin, gave birth to two little girls to add to the two kids that I started my doctoral work with, lived through the death of three of my four living grandparents and a younger cousin, subcontracted a bigger home (not a dream house) for my rapidly growing family, learned to read German in addition to Hebrew, and managed to stay married. Quite a struggle! I am both thankful and sorry that I am not alone. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, well maybe my “real job” friends 🙂


  36. Finishing my next to last semester of my masters in nursing (nurse practitioner), and this is so spot on–it made me and my classmates around the country laugh and nod along as we read. Thank you so much for this and good luck in your scholastic adventures!


  37. I finally finished yesterday – and I’m 50! Nearly killed me (was in the hospital twice). I may stay in bed now for a month!! One of my girlfriend’s sent me Barbie – I’m Barbie’s half dead grad school mother!! lol


    • I’m with you, Rebecca–52 and supposedly finishing. Passed my defense a month ago and still re-writing to please five committee members in four different departments. I’m closer to quitting now, at the very end, than I was years ago. If I can’t write like the chair wants me to, what’s the point? This is beyond frustrating.


  38. Pingback: Grad Student Barbie

  39. Pingback: Graduate School Barbie (link) « Americano Macchiato, Grazie

  40. Pingback: The Reluctant Blogger | Crazy World, Simple Life

  41. God, grad students act like they’re martyrs. I have a “real job” near a major research university and have rented out rooms in my house to graduate students. With the exception of med students, I work more hours and have pulled more all-nighters than any of them–including the law students. Although they put on a facade otherwise, going out with friends is a regular occurrence for them. It is typically not for me due to my “real job.”

    It’s like grad students want to feed some myth that they are continually overburdened with work. I think it’s more a matter of PROCRASTINATION. Hey, how about instead of going out the next few Friday nights, you stay in and work, so that at the end of the month you aren’t whining and complaining about “how little free time” you have?

    The typical grad students, at least the ones I’ve found to rent from me, are (and this is generalizing) 1) 23-year-olds who breezed through undergrad due to their easy/useless major or 2) individuals who never had a demanding career in the real world, so of course grad school would seem like the hardest thing ever for individuals from these two groups, and those from the second group would consider themselves to have had a “real job” before (even though it was nothing of the sort), hence the supporting myth that those in grad school work “so much harder” than people with “real jobs.”


  42. Pingback: Compromised | night owl speaks

  43. Pingback: Grad School Barbie vs. Panda Care Barbie | Stoned on the couch? We can help.

  44. Reblogged this on ░░░░░░░░░Our greatest fear ░░░░░░░░░is not that we are inadequate ░░░░░░░░░ It is that we are ░░░░░ ░░░░░░░░░░░░ powerful░░░░░ beyond measure ░░ and commented:
    Read this about a year ago and Huffington Post just published it a month ago. Amazing how much traction this little post blog got recently. Either way, I can totally relate


  45. Karen,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve laughed myself to tears of relief and joy reading your posts – just to know that, indeed, I am not alone…and yes…it will end.

    Mary, ABD/Adjunct in New York City


  46. Pingback: Allow me to introduce myself | asouthernsmile

  47. Hi there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came
    to give it a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m
    book-marking and will be tweeting this to
    my followers! Fantastic blog and brilliant design.


  48. Pingback: Grad School Barbie | Put That On Your Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s