You’re probably considering applying to graduate school if you graduated from college in the last two years. Choosing to continue your education or begin life in the job world is one of the toughest decisions of post-undergrad life. Here are the most important questions to consider before applying to graduate school.
Do your career goals require an advanced degree?
Before pursuing a graduate degree, research your desired career path. You might discover that a master’s degree or doctorate isn’t necessary for you to be successful. One great resource for this information is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your career trajectory may benefit more from gaining real-world work experience instead of more education.
Attending grad school does make sense for some professions. If you plan to teach, do research, or practice in medical or health fields, it typically makes sense to apply to graduate school immediately after you complete your bachelor’s degree. If you are unsure what your career goals are, definitely enter the workforce first to explore your strengths and interests.
Are you feeling burnt out?
After four or more years completing an undergraduate degree, many students feel burnt out from relentless tests and homework. If you feel this way, you may want to wait before enrolling in graduate school. It can be detrimental if you are not fully invested in the learning experience, since graduate courses will be more intensive than your undergraduate experience. Many students hold down part time, or even salaried positions through their schools while they’re working toward their master’s or doctorate. And, yes, you will make friends. But, a Netflix marathon with takeout can make up most of your weeknights while during intensive master’s programs.
How are your finances?
Are you swimming in student loan debt? Americans owe more than a staggering 1.2 billon in student loans. But, the painful reality is the hard-to-pay-back interest rates. If you’re lacking financial support, regular income, or savings, take a few years to get ahead of your bank account. If your finances look or feel abysmal, it may be smart to delay graduate school until your finances are more stable. It’s perfectly normal to take out loans, but you don’t want to over-borrow due to a poor financial decision and cause years of financial stress. If your financial situation could use some improvement, take a few years off of school, work full-time if possible, pay down your student loans, and build some savings.
Have you received job offers?
Many new graduates receive exciting, if not lucrative, job offers. If you have been offered a position that is intriguing, matches your career interests, and offers financial stability, take the job! You can always gain experience now and return to graduate school later. In this case, it is important to ask yourself again if an advanced degree is really necessary or if real-world experience is more valuable in your field.
No matter what you choose, remember that you can always return to grad school or enter the workforce at a later time. Best of luck with your decision!
By Brenna Tonelli
Brenna Tonelli is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. Varsity Tutors also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.