To Go or Not To Go to Graduate School? That is the question.

This blog post has been updated by Will Lewis, Associate Director of Employer Relations & Communications on May 9, 2024 for relevancy, inclusivity, and formatting.

For as long as I can remember, I knew that I was going to graduate school. When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, job searching was not an option. I was applying for graduate school. I had never spoken to a career counselor about my plans for higher education and was never asked important questions about my motivations. I paid no attention to deadlines or personal statement critiques. I knew I was going to graduate school, period.

I was naive.

Luckily, I had a mentor who helped me determine why I wanted to attend graduate school and what I wanted to study. She reviewed my documents, wrote me a recommendation, talked to her old professors, and discussed the importance of graduate assistantships. She is the reason I am in student affairs and enjoy counseling students today. 

As a Career Consultant, I now realize how close-minded I was to life’s possibilities. Graduate school did not have to be my path. There are several things I wish I would have known before deciding to go to graduate school:

Graduate School is not like undergrad.

  1. Graduate school requires more commitment. Classes are often longer and the projects require more time, research, and collaboration with classmates.
  2. You will know your professors, especially if you want to be successful. They want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Graduate School ≠ more money.

  1. Going to graduate school does not necessarily mean that you will make more money than your peers who only hold a bachelor’s degree.
  2. For some career paths, a graduate degree is a necessity - such as Counseling, Social Work, some University professions, health professions, etc. However, not all career paths require a Master’s degree and some employers may value work experience more than a graduate degree.

Graduate School is specific.

  1. Graduate school is about making you an expert in your field. Whereas undergrad is about breadth, grad school is about depth.
  2. Graduate school is not for exploring. You should only go to graduate school once you have decided that it will get you closer to a specific career goal.

Bottom line:  If you do not know what you want to do, DO NOT GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL. Graduate school is not a gap year. It is designed to prepare you for something specific and jumping from program to program is not an option. Only attend graduate school if you know specifically what you want to do and why you are going in the first place. Be sure to make a wise and educated decision about whether or not graduate school is for you.

For other tips on deciding to go to graduate school, click here.

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