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COVID-19 Has Me Reevaluating What I Want From Grad School

In 2018, I began my graduate school program with certain expectations, and a year and a half later, I am debating whether to continue remotely or not at all. 

As the fall semester grows closer, many students have been forced to reflect on the worth of degree programs and careers amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s uncertain and frustrating. After my grad school program moved entirely online, I've had to examine what I want out of my degree — and I have more questions than answers. 

Will I be able to learn online?

Since my program has announced it will be entirely virtual in the fall, I have growing concerns about my ability to learn from behind a computer. Before the pandemic, graduate school was a way to connect with my professors and peers face-to-face. Online classes were never my thing, and I’ve struggled to follow along when following a lecture over video conference. As such, I’m debating whether an online program is worth the tuition cost of a semester that I expected to be in-person. 

Taking a semester break as a part-time student would push my graduation further out, and as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, it's difficult to predict what campus life looks like for 2021. While I'm avoiding rushing into any big decisions, I must find a balance with what feels right for me and what makes sense for the reality in which we live.  

What job market will I be entering? 

For students like myself who may be mid-way through a program, questions also arise whether the careers we are preparing for will even be around post-pandemic. Some jobs have moved entirely remote, and every aspect of the job search and interview process has moved online. Finding positions in a liberal arts field was already stressful enough before the global pandemic and it’s much worse now with limited job prospects.

Is all the effort worth it? 

Without social interaction and a structured work environment, I have had a lot of time to pause and reflect on my purpose and career goals. Is my degree program pointing me in the direction I want to go in my career? Am I making the most of the tools I am given in class to learn? Unfortunately, these broader questions are challenging to answer amidst a world that is changing daily. 

Where to go next?

Though I am faced with a lot of uncertainties right now, I trust myself to make the right decision for my path in life. For those struggling with similar questions, know that it's completely normal. There is no manual or student handbook for attending school mid-pandemic, and every student's situation is incredibly personal. 

It's important to acknowledge that our student experiences are not what we expected, and it's okay if you end up pivoting your degree program or career plans. 

While change is always difficult, reevaluating life goals and readjusting expectations are valuable lessons that we are all having to learn right now.