Thinking About Grad School? Read This!
After completing my undergraduate degree in 2013, I decided that I would take some time off. I wasn’t sure if graduate studies were really for me. I didn’t know if the extra degree would genuinely help me get ahead, I was tired of school, and at 22, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Fast forward five years later, I’m ready to pursue a graduate degree but here are the top three things I considered before diving in.
Time-- It’s been said that time is a precious commodity. Before I truly decided to jump into a graduate degree, I needed to consider my precious and valuable time. I weighed out the pros and cons. Here are the questions I used to narrow down my decision:
How long will it take me to complete the program?
How often do classes meet?
How much time will I spend completely coursework outside of class?
Will the time spent obtaining the degree, be worth the time I'll take away from other things like family and friends?
Since my time is important to me, these are questions that I needed to ask myself and I wanted to ensure that I was 100% content with the answers before pursuing anything further. For me, obtaining a higher education degree will be worth my time considering the long-term earning potential.
2. Why-- What’s your “why”? Why are you wanting to pursue a graduate degree? Do you have years of experience in your field and you’re looking to add credentials to your resume? Are you graduating from your undergrad program and you don’t know what next? Are you looking to change careers completely? You have to be clear about why you want to pursue a second degree because it’s not cheap and you want to be sure. Here are some things to ask yourself:
What is my area of study?
What do I want to do with this degree?
Am I looking to do a complete career change?
Have I researched the field?
If you're staying in the same career, how will this change my career for the better?
For me, the decision was 50/50 for a while. I'm not changing careers and having a graduate degree is not necessarily imperative for my career. However, it is necessary if I decide to change locations or negotiate more money later.
3. Money-- Unfortunately, money is a big deciding factor for many people when deciding to pursue a higher education degree. You have to think about how you’re going to pay for school. Will you be taking out loans, applying for scholarships? Will your parents help you? Will you be paying out of pocket?
According to finaid.org, the average cost of a Master’s degree is about $40,000. This was a major deciding factor for me. I already have debt from my undergraduate career, do I really want to take on $40,000 more? Be sure to speak with a financial aid advisor and pursue as many grants and scholarships as possible prior to taking out loans.
Here is a list of websites that offer scholarships for graduate students
Ultimately, I didn't let the money deter me from pursuing a Master's degree. I believe that my graduate degree will help me get ahead in the future and constant learning is always a plus.
What are some of your deciding factors when pursuing higher education?