What’s most important in deciding to go to grad school, first and foremost, is a genuine interest in the subject matter of whatever program you select.
Thinking about grad school? Start with these 3 questions that get to the core of your decision
This may sound like an obvious question, but it’s one that you’ll need a confident answer to — not just for the admission officers who will ask, but also for yourself! Sometimes undergrad students feel like applying straight to a graduate program is the natural next step in their academic career, when building up employment experience would help more. Or a working professional might feel stuck and bored in their current role and think attending grad school will automatically solve these feelings.
What’s most important in deciding to go to grad school, first and foremost, is a genuine interest in the subject matter of whatever program you select. Regardless of whether you’re going to a grad program that will further you in an industry you’re already working in, or you’re using a graduate degree to pivot into a new career track, the underlying foundation should be a passion for what you’re learning and doing.
Of course there are practical reasons to want to go to grad school: unemployment rates decrease while median weekly earnings rise in direct correlation to the number of degrees obtained. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average unemployment rate of those with a master’s degree is 4.1%, where it sits at 9% for those with only a high school diploma. If you’re looking for employment and financial stability, it makes sense to look at graduate programs.
Try reaching out to a current or past student of a potential program to hear about their experience. Oftentimes college admission departments can put you in touch with a student or point you towards virtual Q&A sessions. Asking questions about course load, campus environment and teaching styles of professors will help you get a sense of what attending grad school will be like. You might find that hearing about the day-to-day experience excites you, or it’s a bit different than what you were expecting. Grad school is a huge commitment, both timewise and financially, so before you start the process of applying – make sure you’re going for the right reasons!
So, you’ve decided that grad school is the right choice for you and you’re ready to commit time and money towards earning a degree. What are you going to do with that degree? Again, it may seem obvious – many applicants have an idea of where they want to end up, especially those entering highly specific graduate programs, such as law or med school. But most grad programs are more open-ended in their scope, and it’s important to know what your goals are as you apply.
Consider choosing an MBA – depending on the school, program, and concentration, you can end up in a myriad of careers. Do you want to be a consultant? A manager? An analyst? Here are some ideas of how to home in on which program to choose:
Remember that internships are a great opportunity while attending grad school and can only further help you decide what your career track will be. Your answer may change while you’re obtaining your degree, but it’s helpful to have some sense of the job you want as you apply to schools.
Grad school is an investment in yourself, boosting your potential salary and giving you leverage to either ask for a raise from a current employer, or step up to a higher paying job. In the long run, grad school might improve your net worth, but in the short run it can be expensive. When selecting grad schools, consider whether you can afford it, and whether it has a good ROI. What do we mean by ROI? Well, consider that MBA programs have some of the highest price tags out of any graduate degree, but they can also yield some of the highest salaries upon graduation. Some programs cost a lot, but funnel towards careers that have low salary caps. It’s important to research your potential salary, as well as your options for paying for grad school.
Consider these options to pay your tuition, well before you apply:
Lastly, make sure you consider your own fulfilment and happiness when calculating these numbers. If grad school can open doors towards a professional career that will make you happier, that is an important and priceless part of the equation. At the end of the day, deciding whether to pursue grad school is a complicated and personal decision – it’s about balancing what you can handle timewise and financially in exchange for a fulfilling degree that will help you grow as a person. Make sure you have plans and answers for these questions, not only because you’ll be asked throughout the application process, but because it’s important for yourself!