Choosing to go to graduate school is a real commitment that not everyone realizes until it’s too late. There are many things to consider before making the decision to enroll in a graduate program, such as a costs, living arrangements and even if you will work part time. In some cases, the cost of the degree outweighs the salary increase you’ll get from having an advanced degree.
While there are millions reason to convince yourself that you should or should not go to graduate school, the most important thing is making sure you’re doing it for you. There are many factors that play into graduate school, and the main one is that this is something extra, a next step from your undergraduate career. Just like your high school teachers told you no one would hold your hand in college, graduate school is next-level independence and adulting.
If you’re considering going to graduate school but are dealing with outside opinions, here are some things to consider:
Reasons not to go to grad school
- Its expensive – Most college graduates have debt around $35,000, so adding the cost of graduate school on top of that can be overwhelming. The cost of a Master’s degree can be up to $52,000 according to FinAid.org, with at least ¼ of students borrowing approximately $42,000 to pay for their advanced degrees.
- It will make your parents happy – Since this is such a big investment, the last thing you want to do is make the decision based on what other people think you should do, including your parents. Most parents pay for their children’s education and feel they can decide what their major will be based on that, but grad school is a very different game. If you’re on the fence, take some time to work first and see how an advanced degree can boost your career.
- You don’t know what you want to do – Everyone gets confused about what profession they truly want to spend the rest of their lives doing. And these days, most people wear multiple hats. Don’t allow anything or anyone to place you in a box or restrict your choices. If you want to be a teacher, but also have dreams of being a journalist, take time to explore both options. It’s very possible to work live one dream from 9 – 5 and another on the weekends. Post-grad internships and fellowships are a great way to get experience in different fields when going through these tough times after graduation.
- You’re afraid of entering the real world – Fear is such a silly thing to let hold you back, and trap you in a graduate program that you’ll most likely flunk out of. If you are scared of getting a real job, and having to take care of yourself, waiting isn’t going to prepare you. Unlike not knowing what you want to do, taking time off or staying in school because you don’t want to be an adult is a waste of time. The only way to get past fear is to just throw yourself in the fire. Push past all of your negative thoughts and apply for jobs, apartments and repaying your loans.
Reasons to go to grad school
- You need your masters – In some majors, you absolutely need your masters in orders to use your bachelors, such as social work or being pre-med. With professions that require you to get an advanced degree, then it’s a no brainer – go to graduate school. If you’re sure about the direction you’re going in, there’s no reason to stall your career by prolonging this decision.
- You want to take your career to the next level – Having a master’s degree or higher will definitely open more doors for you. If you went to average undergraduate school, going to a great private school or an Ivy League will bring more opportunities as well. As unfortunate as it can be sometimes, your pedigree actually does matter a lot. Alumni like to take care of their own, and having a graduate degree will often come with a higher salary. If you have the clarity, go for it. Doing it for you will always be worth it.
- You qualify for scholarships – Figuring out where the money to fund graduate school can be stressful. Luckily there are plenty of ways you can make it work. Here are eight ways you can pay for your advanced degree:
o Scholarships + grants
o Grad assistantships
o Research grants
o Employer tuition assistance
o Family loans
o Insurance scholarships
o Private loans
- You’re making a career change – When you’re making a full pivot from one profession to the next, graduate school can be a great way to get your foot in the door and gain credibility. Lots of skills and experiences are transferable, so although you haven’t had linear career changes, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to land your dream job. Graduate school especially impresses employers when a candidate is relatively fresh out of undergrad. But only make this commitment in your career shift if you are 100% it’s the direction you want to go in.
What advice would you give someone contemplating applying for graduate school?