A little soul searching is never a bad thing, particularly when it involves embarking on a new venture.
While graduate school may be able to help you land a coveted job and provide you a wealth of knowledge, it might also take between one and nine years to complete and cost you thousands of dollars, depending on the program.
This is why you need to give grad school serious thought before applying.
1. Are you OK spending the rest of your 20s in college?
2. Do you have practical career expectations for your degree? If you can’t pull off your goals, will you regret getting this degree or be able to switch fields easily?
3. Are you getting this degree to impress someone or appear respectable?
4. Will you make enough money after graduation to justify the time and money spent earning the degree? Does money even matter to you?
5. Do you drink coffee or energy drinks? If not, are you ready to start? If the question confuses you, are you aware of the long hours of studying that lie ahead of you?
6. Is grad school a way for you to continue “living the dream,” aka not moving on? Are you the Van Wilder of your university, and if so, is that OK? Are you just putting off entering the working world?
7. If you’re going to grad school purely to gain knowledge, is there a sufficient way to achieve that without the strenuous commitment grad school requires? Perhaps something like Coursera?
9. Have you applied for any grad school scholarships? Does your school offer any funding?
10. Where are you going to live during school and can you afford it on a graduate-student budget?
11. Is being a TA (teaching assistant) an option during your studies? If so, what sort of commitment does it require and how much of a stipend will you receive for it?
12. If you’re getting a master’s degree, is it enough? Will you have to get a Ph.D. afterward to get anywhere in your field? If so, can you/should you do it at the same school or will you have to go somewhere else?
13. Is the city/town of your desired grad school a place you’d like to live in? Does that sort of thing even matter to you?
14. Are you a masochist? Do you realize how much blood, sweat and perhaps even tears go into earning a master’s or Ph.D.? Is that why you’re interested in this degree? If so, is that a behavior you should feed or avoid?
15. Are you going to grad school to postpone paying off your student loans? Will you be in a better position to pay off the debt after grad school or are you just adding to the debt?
16. Is the following dichotomy humorous or a sincere possibility: eating food vs. earning a graduate degree?
17. Do you really need this degree? Is it going to land you jobs you wouldn’t otherwise land or gain you knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise obtain?
18. Should you get your degree the traditional, on-campus route or go with an online master’s program? Is your field of study hands-on or can it be done distantly?
19. Are you getting a Ph.D. just to have the “Dr.” title? Is this a power trip, and if so, worth all that work to achieve?
20. Do you have any idea what kind of thesis or dissertation you’d be interesting in writing? Is there even a sub-topic within your field that you’d be willing to write over 50 pages about?
21. Does your desired college have a professor you admire and would like to study under?
22. What would you be doing if you weren’t pursuing a graduate degree? Is that more enjoyable or a better use of your time than earning this graduate degree?
23. Is the school you’re looking at accredited or highly ranked? Does that sort of thing matter to you or in your field?
24. If you’re getting a Ph.D. to end up in academia, are you aware how competitive it is and that you might have to take a temp position in an undesirable city? Have you glamorized the idea of an academic career?
25. Are you good at academic writing? Does your program require a lot of it?
A little soul searching is never a bad thing, particularly when it involves embarking on a new venture. If you found your answers to these questions satisfactory, then get applying!
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