With the economy on the decline, graduate school is becoming an increasingly attractive option, if only because it provides a sense of security and purpose in an economic climate that does not. Still, applying to grad school on a whim is ill-advised. So, how do you know when grad school is right for you? Use the following checklist as a guide and you’ll be well on your way to self-enlightenment (and possibly a graduate degree).
Go to grad school if you need:
- A graduate degree for your profession. For example, if you aspire to be a doctor, lawyer or professor, you’ll need graduate credentials.
- Unique intellectual and personal fulfillment. Graduate school is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not the time to figure out what you want to do with your life — ideally, that’s what your undergraduate experience was for. A graduate degree can be empowering, but only if you want to become an expert in one specific field.
- Specialized skills. Some subjects, like physics, involve advanced techniques, theories, and experiments that are best learned in a focused classroom with experienced professors.
- To move up the career ladder. If you’re hungry to increase your earnings and/or be promoted to a leadership position in your organization, a graduate degree can certainly speed things along.
Graduate school might not be for you if you are adverse to:
- Rigorous, disciplined work, particularly of the academic vein. Again, you’ve got be committed to your field and your work. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself unhappy, buried under a mountain of problem sets and papers you’d rather not do.
- Lost income during full-time enrollment. Graduate school can take anywhere from two to ten years (depending on the field and degree earned).
- Debt. Many fund graduate school expenses with loans. Unless you have a hefty nest egg to liquidate or win a fellowship or scholarship, you will probably need to take out a loan to make ends meet while you are in graduate school.
- Having limited college options. There is less variety and fewer options for graduate students. Depending on your field of interest, you may have only a handful of programs that fit your intellectual needs. Are you ready to move and live in a different environment to take advantage of a Master of Landscape Architecture program or a degree in Sports Marketing?
Deciding to apply (or not apply) to grad school takes a great deal of self-reflection and should not be rushed. Although a weak economy may prompt your grad school ambitions, it’s important to remember that you are in the driver’s seat. If you need even a little assistance, we’re here to help you find and apply to the right graduate program for you.