How do you know if you should go to grad school or not?
Oh, man. This question haunted me for months before I graduated. I went back and forth trying to decide if I should immediately jump into grad school or not.
Here are some questions that helped me decide which path was best for me:
What career do you want to pursue?
Depending on the career you’re interested in, grad school might be a must in order for you to advance in your field. For instance, if you want to become a brain surgeon, definitely disregard the rest of this post and go to med school. If you’re like me and you earned a degree without having a specific career in mind, you may not need to plunge into grad school right away.
Contrary to what some people might say, you have options. You can take a year off and travel. You can work for a few years to explore different jobs. If you’re feeling really unsure about what you should study, try looking for a job in a field that you’re interested in. Just for fun. That way you can get a feel for what your career options are before you commit to a master’s degree in that field.
No matter what you do, don’t rush into grad school just to get it over with. If you feel super hesitant, take some time to evaluate which career you are genuinely passionate about. There’s nothing wrong with going back later. It’s best to wait and get a degree that will lead you on a career path that you will enjoy long-term.
Are you only considering grad school so you can avoid the unknown?
Stepping out into the professional world is terrifying. We spend the first two decades of our lives in school. It’s all we know. Then, all of a sudden we are expected to take on real-world realities like job hunting, self-promoting, and bill paying. It’s tempting to react with a “no thanks” and run away from those things. But, at some point, you will have to step out of your comfort zone and become an independent adult. Going to grad school may temporarily postpone some of those responsibilities, but eventually, you have to buck up go out into the world.
Basically, if your only motivation for going to grad school is coming from your fear of entering the school-less world – don’t go.
How much are external pressures influencing your decision?
If going to grad school is something that you truly desire and it feels right to you – then absolutely pursue that path. However, if you find that your only interest in going comes from pressure from your parents or friends, you may want to hold off.
You don’t want to get caught with huge student loans and a degree that you can’t use. Everyone will give you their opinion about what you should do, but the most important one is your own.
What do you want?
If you feel like it’s best for you to take some time to work and discover what it is that you are actually passionate about – do it! If you have a sincere desire to go all the way through and get that degree – go for it! Connect with yourself and figure out what works best for you.
A few more questions to consider…
- Do you have specific schools in mind?
- If so, would they require you to move to a different city?
- If you did decide to go, would you be a full-time or part-time student?
- What does your financial situation look like? Are you prepared to take out student loans, if necessary?
Finally, I believe in the power of a good ol’ pros and cons list. If you’re still feeling stuck, write out the benefits and downfalls of going versus not going.
(Also, Google is your friend. Here’s a handy article I found that explores going and not going to grad school immediately after college.)
No matter which path you take, you’re going to do great. Trust yourself and follow what feels most true to you.