Question: I’m getting ready to graduate and don’t know whether or not I should apply for a graduate program. How do you know if graduate school is right for you?
There are a variety of reasons why students choose to pursue graduate degrees. With the rising numbers of college graduates, graduate degrees can make applicants more marketable. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “Should You Go to Graduate School?”, the most sought after jobs require graduate degrees.
If you are 100% sure that you want to pursue one of those “in-demand” jobs, graduate school is probably your next step. But if you are still reconsidering your undergraduate major, then you might want to rethink some things.
Things to Consider
Why do you want to go?
Do your career goals require a graduate degree? Will a graduate degree help you make more money in your career? Going to graduate school simply because you “enjoy learning” or because you “really like the college experience” are not always enough reasons to commit to a graduate program.
Likewise, graduate school is not meant to be a way to avoid getting a “real job” after graduation. Undergrad and grad studies are two vastly different things, and both have different expectations.
However, if you are interested in conducting meaningful research, or you are passionate about a certain field of study, then graduate school is probably the right next step. According to a U.S. News article, “Why Go to Grad School? The Best and Worst Reasons”, graduate school is a perfect place for people who want to contribute new information to their fields of interest.
Have you done your research?
What career options are available with your major? How much money do people in your field make on average?
To begin your research, we suggest visiting the Career Services Network’s, “What Can I Do With This Major” web resource. Taking time to visit the BLS Occupational Handbook web resource is also a great place to research potential salary earnings for different professions. Determining potential salary ranges will also give you a better perspective on whether or not a graduate degree will benefit you in the long run.
How long will it take?
What is your personal timeline? Do you have enough time to complete the applications or entrance exams? When are the deadlines to apply and enroll?
According to a Princeton Review article, “Should You Go to Grad School Right After Undergrad?“, most graduate program submission deadlines are in the fall. Potential applicants will want to consider whether or not they’ll have adequate time to explore programs, prepare for any required standardized tests, and complete applications with the other demands that come with being a student. Many students choose to take a gap year (or years) and apply once they’ve gained some experience and can prepare to apply without feeling rushed.
How will you pay for your graduate degree?
What do your current finances look like? How much will your degree program cost you? Will you have to work full-time while completing your degree?
Graduate programs are expensive. Most cost $30k to $100k, depending on the program. Though some offer funding—a lot of programs do not.
Considering that, you will have to determine what is realistic for you in terms of tuition—and whether or not you will have the time to work part-time (or even full-time) to fulfill all of your financial responsibilities.
For some students it may make more sense to enter the workforce right away—and then, perhaps, attend graduate school down the road (graduate programs will always be there; they won’t go away just because you decide to wait two, three, maybe even ten years down the road to attend). This will depend on what is required of your career field, though, and whether or not you will need a graduate degree right away.
If you’d like to connect with someone from the Career Services Network to talk about potential graduate study, please feel free to log into Handshake at your convenience and schedule a one-on-one advising appointment. We’re here to assist!