Guest Post By: Kristine Thorndyke
Graduate school is a huge commitment. It requires a significant amount of time to attend classes, read the material and complete assignments. It also can be pricey. However, it can lead to awesome job prospects. Keeping this in mind, there are many questions that you should ask yourself if you're considering attending grad school. Have a look at some of the key considerations to whether graduate school is right for you:
1. Are you going to grad school to please yourself or to please others?
Graduate degrees are associated with higher social classes. Once upon a time, only the wealthy could afford to attend college, and among these elite, even fewer went on to graduate school. This is no longer true since student loans and scholarships have come into existence and made grad school an option for people across all walks of life. That said, there still remains this reputation among peers of being highly esteemed for having attending graduate school.
There is a certain amount of pressure that many people place on others to attend graduate school, especially from parents and family members. This pressure can be hard to avoid or ignore, but being able to be honest with yourself as to whether you are doing this for yourself or for others is critical in how successful your experience will be. Are you thinking about choosing graduate school because you want to, or are you trying to live up to some standard that someone else has set for you?
2. Does the field you want to go in really require more studies?
Not all career fields are created equal. Different fields require a different level of preparation. For example, to become a psychologist, you need to complete a doctoral degree and have thousands of clinical hours. On the other hand, many successful software developers usually only have a bachelor’s degree and internship experience.
You will need to do research on whether you need additional education to complete your career goals. You can do this by researching online using credible websites such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s online Occupational Outlook Handbook or even talking to people who are already in the field as they would know from more personal experience.
3. Can you afford to go to grad school?
We mentioned that college and grad school are becoming increasingly affordable through grants and scholarships, but that doesn’t disregard the fact that grad school can be expensive, depending on your financial assistance situation.
Tuition rates on every level of post-high school education are on the rise, and grad school is certainly no exception. The average cost of obtaining a master’s degree is estimated to be between $30,000 and $120,000 depending on the major chosen, the school selected, if it is in-state and whether the school is public or privately funded.
With staggering tuition rates, you want to be sure that you can afford graduate school. There are thankfully a few different ways to pay for it including fellowships, assistanceships, and student loans. Similarly, you can find free graduate school, law school admissions, and other similar graduate school advice services on the internet. If you do opt to obtain loans, you need to be certain that you can pay back those loans with the salary you anticipate.
4. Are you going to grad school to prolong college?
Adulting is hard. Many long for the years of feeling the freedom of being an adult in undergraduate school while not having to assume all the responsibilities of one, especially paying bills. You have to acknowledge that undergraduate school is just a time period in life and not something that will last forever.
Take time to have a reflection on whether you’re just avoiding growing up. Being an adult means that you may have to do some things that you don’t want to do. Most working adults would agree that they’d rather sleep in until noon instead of going to work. It may be unpleasant but grad school is too costly of a way to avoid the truth.
5. Is there a market for a job upon graduating?
So you've worked hard pulling all-nighters, reading thousands of pages, paying thousands of dollars in tuition, and missing social gatherings. You've managed to get that highly coveted master's degree. You begin your job search only to find that no one is looking for someone with the skills you've spent so much time learning.
This is not something you want to learn after you've completed grad school. You should be aware of the number of jobs and the projected growth for the occupation that you've selected. These are not guarantees but it can guide you into getting insight on the likelihood that you'll be able to get a job after completing grad school.
The decision to attend graduate school is not something that should be taken lightly. It requires a substantial amount of money. Most people pay for it with student loans and spend at least 10 years trying to pay off those student loans. A great financial decision as this can have a negative impact on your lifestyle if not properly planned.
However, grad school can also propel your career to heights in which you have only dreamed of. There are even some fields where it is almost impossible to get a job without a graduate degree. Choosing graduate school can be one of your life's greatest decisions. You just have to make sure it is the right choice for you.
Kristine Thorndyke is a graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and currently works remotely in Medellin, Colombia. She spends her time learning Spanish and writing about education and college and graduate school admissions! Keep up with her whereabouts on her blog The Girly Travels!