Are you going to grad school for the right reasons?
The prestige of having post-graduate abbreviations following your name attracts droves of hopefuls to graduate programs around the world. But, is the money, time, tears, and triumph worth it?
Career experts say that in order to answer that question, potential graduate students must first define their motivation for attending. Then, use this list of right and wrong reasons we’ve compiled to cross-check before enrolling in graduate school.
Jessica Manca, a certified career coach at Managing Mindspaces, author, speaker, and former management consultant recently spoke to Simon Fraser University’s MBA candidates on this very topic.
Manca says you know you are making the right move by enrolling in graduate school when, “your decision aligns with your personal values and long-term career ambitions.” She says, “A person who is self-solid, knows what they value and what they want will make the best decision with ease.”
Not only should it feel like the next gradual step in your career path, but it should also be something that you know, based on previous practical experience, will advance the skills you enjoy using.
David Reischer, Esq. of LegalAdvice.com speaks to students about this all the time before they decide to apply to law school. He stresses how important it is that potential grad students have familiarity with the profession, having interned and/or worked in this field and can see yourself involved in this industry for the rest of your life..
The best test to ensure satisfaction for choosing graduate school, Reische says, is being comfortable knowing that, “the subject you’re studying will probably bring guaranteed stress and no guaranteed rewards.”
If you’ve often compared yourself to peers or family members who have also taken this path, it’s a sign you’re enrolling in graduate programs for someone else—not yourself.
That’s what Manca believes is at the top of the list of wrong reasons. She also goes on to provide other symptoms of bad decision-making when it comes to grad school.
“You have mixed feelings of guilt or anxiety about being on the fence for what to do. You ruminate about excuses and the what ifs such as ‘what if it’s not worth it?’, ‘what if it’s a big waste of time and money?’ and ‘what if it’s going to be a lot of work?’“
Those are the telltale signs you’re not ready for the grueling graduate school schedule and commitment.
Oh, but there are more wrong reasons you’ve more than likely thought about yourself or have heard peers around you discuss.
Reischer says that the worst one in his opinion is, “You do not know what else to do with your life. This one is the most common reason for attending graduate school that I hear, as this just highlights that you need more life experience to find a career path that is suited to your interests.”
Another bad reason is the belief that you’ll make good or better money by completing graduate school. “Contrary to popular belief, graduate school nowadays usually does not necessarily lead to a bright career in the area you studied or even a job for that matter,” says Reische. “Graduate school is more likely to lead to five or six figures in student loan obligations.”
While this can’t be said for all fields, it’s something to look into when considering a particular program. One interesting point to note by Reische is that most graduate programs are designed to be most helpful at the senior level, which is why he stresses working before committing to graduate study.
There’s no denying that knowledge is power. Education isn’t in question here. What is debatable is whether or not the expense of traditional post-graduate degrees in both time and money is worth it to you, individually. One last factor to consider from Melanie Cobb, a life transformation coach, is would you enjoy the actual process of grad school as much as the result?
She says that you know grad school is for you if “you would also enjoy the process of getting there, rather than viewing it simply as a suffering to be endured; a means to an end.”
So, what do you say?