Deciding to attend grad school is a major choice that can alter the course of your life. It’s a commitment that involves time, money, and focus.
Postgrad studies are clearly not for everyone. A 2017 collaborative study by the Urban Institute and Access Group revealed that of bachelor’s degree-holders who were at least 25 years old in 2015, only 12% went on to earn advanced degrees.
So how do you know it’s the best option for you? Never fret, we’ve done a lot of the research for you!
Ask yourself these five vital questions before going to grad school, so you can make the right choice for your future.
1. What Will You Study?
If you’re preparing to go to grad school, you’ve probably already earned your bachelor’s degree. And unless you earned a degree in general studies, you likely know what career you’re pursuing.
With your dream job in mind, it’s time to find courses that will help you gain depth in your intended field.
What you study will also affect what department you enter, and your department will help you in every phase of your postgrad journey.
2. How Will You Cover Expenses?
Many people pass on grad school due to finances. You have to pay for your tuition, books, and living expenses. You must also forgo the income you would have earned in a full-time job.
If you’re still deciding how you will pay grad for school expenses, keep these financial steps in mind:
- Find out the total cost of your program.
- Consider living expenses (use a student budgeting calculator, like this one, to estimate your expenses).
- Apply for financial aid.
- Apply for scholarships.
- Check to see if your employer will pay for your grad studies.
- Check with your intended department and ask them about grants.
Sure, going to grad school is expensive. But as you may already know, those who hold a postgrad degree are likely to earn more than those with an associate or bachelor’s degree.
How much more, exactly?
Good Call summarized an extensive 2015 study by Georgetown University, which found that graduate degree holders make about $17,000 more annually than those with bachelor’s degrees.
Depending on your major, it may be well worth investing in a master’s or doctorate for a larger future income!
3. Is Further Education Important for Your Dream Career?
Is a secondary degree vital if you want a great career in your chosen field? Will earning another degree make you a better candidate once you’re job hunting?
Do some research to answer these questions.
If you want to become a doctor, CEO, professor, lawyer, etc., it goes without saying that grad school is the logical step after your undergrad studies.
Maybe it isn’t necessary to earn a postgrad degree to find a good job in your career. Or perhaps you don’t think it will necessarily help you stand out amongst your peers. If so, then it becomes a personal choice.
In this case, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to stay in school?
- Is the timing right?
- What will my career field look like in a couple years or so, after obtaining a postgrad degree?
- Am I okay with losing money I would be making by not going straight to work?
If answering any of these questions makes you feel iffy, it may be better to get a job with your undergrad degree. You can always return to college down the road when the timing is right.
4. Will You Take Online or In-Person Classes?
Even if you attended in-person classes as an undergrad, you don’t have to go the same route for your postgrad studies.
If you’re not sure if you want to physically or virtually attend classes, consider your dream school, your schedule, and your financial situation, and ask yourself:
- Does my dream school offer online and virtual classes?
- What is my work schedule like now? Can it accommodate a full course load?
- Will I need to get a job during the semester that accommodates a full course load?
If you’re working now or planning to soon, finding in-person classes that accommodate your work schedule may not be easy.
Online courses tend to be more affordable, and you don’t have to worry about moving expenses, lodging, etc., that you potentially do with in-person classes. If you have a full- or part-time job, or plan to while studying, virtual classes may also be a better fit for your work schedule.
5. Is Your Commitment Strong Enough?
Think about what you hope to gain by attending grad school. If you’re just hoping an advanced degree will help you land your dream job, there are other ways to go about that.
If your goal is simply to better yourself, consider looking into internships and volunteer programs instead. They’re free and can broaden your horizons while adding some luster to your resume.
Do you tend to operate on whims? If so, really think about the commitment necessary to graduate from grad school – this should not be a spontaneous decision!
But if you’re genuinely excited about further education and have a passion for learning, going to grad school may be perfect for you.
Attending grad school can be a thrilling prospect. But invariably, deciding to go involves some consideration.
Remember to ask these questions:
- What will I study?
- How will I pay for it?
- Is further education important for my dream career?
- Will I attend virtual or in-person classes?
- Is my commitment strong enough?
If you find you have more questions than answers after reading this, you should keep weighing the pros and cons before applying. But if you’re happy with your answers to the questions above and your desire to further your education is strong, attending grad school should be your next move.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Grove at Pullman to help them with their online marketing.