By Alaina Spadaro, G’14
Graduate Assistant, Career Services
To Go or Not to Go?
Wondering about graduate school? Well, “Should I go to graduate school?” is a common question we hear in Career Services and one that I am familiar with personally. When I was in my senior year of undergrad, I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to pursue a degree past my B.A. and if so, what program of study I should choose. I knew how much effort it would take to apply and had to decide quickly. Time limitations, financial concerns, and family pressures combined to make my graduate school decision complex. The choice to go or not to go is unique for every individual and situation.
I would not recommend graduate school to someone who is unclear about his or her career path. There’s a lot of emphasis in today’s economy on continuing your education. However, without a specific career goal in mind or without being ready, the pressure of graduate studies could become too much. Personally, I needed to be certain that I really wanted the job opportunities that would be available when I finish my graduate degree. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have the motivation and willpower to complete the demanding program.
Identify Your Career Path
In my opinion, the most important aspect of deciding whether you should go to graduate school is to identify your career path. There are many different fields and industries to consider and you want to make the best decision for you and what you want out of life. It might sound cheesy, but knowing your “work self” is pivotal to finding a rewarding employment opportunity down the road. Your work self is a term we use to help students define their unique capabilities, interests, and values impacting their career decisions. Many undergraduates don’t get the opportunity to think about what they value in a career, whether it’s work-life balance, organizational structure, or workplace culture. If you don’t know your work self very well, I’d say that work experience trumps education.
NOTE: You don’t have to go graduate school right after undergraduate studies. Many have successfully completed graduate degrees both during and after obtaining some work experience. Often, work experience shows you what it’s really like in your field of interest and what kind of education is required to advance.
The Application Process
Once you identify your career path and realize an advanced degree is the appropriate next step, prepare to apply (and that can be daunting). I have to be honest…the application process takes much more time than you anticipate. If you’re considering graduate school the fall of your senior year, then you better hustle to get your applications together for the following fall. Often, application deadlines are in January and February. Not to mention, many graduate schools and programs require a standardized test (GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and LSAT). Below are some resources that I’ve compiled to help you along the way.
Some useful links when considering graduate programs:
- This source offers information about whether or not grad school is for you, preparation for various programs, timelines for applying, and more http://gradschool.about.com/
- Resource to locate graduate schools http://www.gradschools.com/
- You might have used this one to find your undergraduate institution, but it works for graduate programs as well http://www.petersons.com/
- Tips for applying to grad school, med school, law school, or for your MBA http://www.accepted.com/
- US News Graduate School Rankings http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools
Below are links to the main pages for graduate school exams:
- GRE www.ets.org/gre
- GMAT http://www.mba.com/the-gmat
- MCAT http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/
- LSAT http://www.lsac.org/
You’re Not in This Alone
There’s no way that I could address all the concerns and questions you, as an individual, have about the application process or grad school. I hope, however, that you realize that you don’t have to navigate the question: “Should I go to grad school?” on your own.
For more advice on the many aspects of the graduate school application process, please come to Career Services to speak with a counselor. We would be happy to discuss your decision with you or answer any question you might have along the way. Just call 443-3616 to set up an appointment or stop by the office at 235 Schine Student Center during Drop-ins.
Our counselors can help you:
- Clarify whether you should pursue a master’s degree or a PhD
- Research graduate schools and programs
- Develop a strategy for the application process
- Fine-tune your personal statement
- Revise your resume for graduate school
- Practice for your graduate school interview
- Understand what a GA/TA/RA is and how to apply
Best of luck with your decision! And please let us know if we can help.