Is Grad School Right for Me?

As I began to look at job applications my senior year of college, it seemed as if there had been an increase in jobs preferring or even requiring potential candidates to have a Master’s degree. That’s when I thought, “Is graduate school right for me?” My senior year of college I also remember getting nervous because several of my classmates were talking about their grad school applications. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to grad school. I knew it would be a very time consuming application process on top of all my difficult senior classes and if I didn’t get in, I would be very disappointed.

Here are five questions I asked myself to figure out if graduate school was right for me.

  1. 1. Can I afford it?

    After finishing undergrad, you might have already accumulated a lot of student debt. Attending grad school will probably add to this debt as well, which might not be something you can take on at the moment. The first thing I did was look at my FAFSA and figure out my undergrad loan pay off plan. I also watched a lot of videos on how to pay off student loans. I came up with a feasible loan plan that allowed me to go to grad school.

    Also, something to keep in mind is that many schools offer graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships, research positions, fellowships, etc. that will cover a portion of your tuition. Many of these positions are open to incoming graduate students.

  2. 2. Does your future job prefer or require a Master’s degree?

    5 people having a business meeting

    The second question I asked myself was if getting a Master’s degree would further my career. In my situation, the job I would want does require a Master’s degree or PhD, so I knew it was right for me. If you are in a competitive field, getting a Master’s degree might also help you stand out from other applicants.

  3. 3. How long is the program?

    The Lalastack Of Old Books And Glasses

    I had just graduated from undergrad and I had to make sure I was prepared for 2-4 more years of school if I decided to go to grad school. Of course I felt a little burnt out after working hard for four years (well, technically 16+ years), but I personally felt that I could power through since I love my field of study so much!

  4. 4. Is now the right time or should you work before?

    planner, coffee, empty

    Right after undergraduate was a good time for me to apply, but it is not the best time for everyone. Many people do prefer to get a job, work for several years, and then go back to school - which is great! I would recommend that you look at your career path, goals, finances, and see what time is best for you. Also, some graduate programs require at least 3 years of real life work experience before applying.

  5. 5. Why do you want to go to grad school?

    Female software engineer

    Many people joke that grad school students are just avoiding the “real world”, which may or may not be true in some sense. But there are many other reasons to go to grad school. For example, those with Master’s degrees can make an annual average of $12,000 more than those that don’t have the degree. Another reason is that it may make you more competitive in the applicant pool. Lastly, the most important reason to go to grad school is because you are passionate about the topic and want to learn more.

Once you have figured out that grad school is for you, you should decide on the degree that will further you in your career field, look into what schools offer those programs, do a campus/class visit if possible, and identify professors that you would want to work with in the future. It can be a very stressful application process, but it can be well worth it in the end!