Note: I have a science PhD. This somewhat colors my opinion here.
I have heard from many people: if you have to pay for a PhD, you shouldn't be doing it. In the sciences, if you're not getting paid
to work on your PhD, it's a sign you shouldn't be doing it.
There's several levels to this: you don't want to be in debt up to your eyeballs, especially if you're going into a field with low pay (humanity academics). It's also a sign that you may not actually be an outstanding student. If you didn't excel in undergrad, you are quite probably deluding yourself to think that you'll be a rock star in a PhD program. If you are trying to get a faculty job, you need
to be a rock star. It is not at all easy to be one of those rock stars, even if you're someone who killed it in undergrad.
Originally Posted by Jodum5
One question, why are you split between an advanced degree in History and English? Isn't that like being split between an advanced degree in physics and biology? My point being these are two totally different paths.
This is also a pretty good point. You should be 100% balls-to-the-wall passionate about something to even consider getting a PhD. I'm not even talking "damn I like chemistry," but "Damn I like the chemistry of transition metal compounds and am tremendously interested in learning more about their quantum mechanical principles in the gas phase, because my previous research in solid-phase work was not fulfilling." Fill in something relevant for English/History. You might not have an exact topic in mind (I didn't know mine when I went to grad school), but you should be way into at least a subsection of your chosen field. If you can't even decide which field
you want to study, maybe you should question why exactly you're going to grad school. "I wanna be a professor" probably isn't going to get you through.
There's also the economic considerations, but you know that. Getting a PhD in the humanities actually lowers your lifetime earnings potential. You'd damn well better love it, especially to consider going into debt for it (even working for free for five+ years).