5 questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to go to graduate school
it seems like there’s a lot more people going to college than ever before. and because of that, the undergraduate degree is becoming less and less of a “wow” factor when you’re out seeking a well-paying job — a reality which has prompted many of us to attend graduate school. and while there’s a bunch of benefits to attending grad school, like personal growth, “better” opportunities, and more money, the fact of the matter is … it’s really not for everyone. so before you sign yourself up for more schooling, think about your answers to these questions to make sure this is something you want to do because you want to and not because you feel obligated to since everyone else is doing it. ya know?
5). why are you going to graduate school?
is this necessary for you to advance in your current career path? most people say that “it’ll give me more opportunity and make me more competitive” but what does that even mean for you? seriously. people just be throwing that out there without any sort of context. and it's just like... is that the real reason you’re going or is it because you feel left out because everyone around you seems to be in graduate school? everyone’s reason for going is different. but, i’ll tell you one thing: grad school is too expensive for you to be paying all this money in student loan debt to satisfy your fear of missing out. if you decide to go, you better make sure you’re going for legitimate reasons.
4). what are you going to study?
you can’t just go to grad school for the sake of going. it’s got to be something you’re actually interested in because that’s what’s gonna sustain you when you feel like quitting— your love for the subject matter. but at the same time, you’ve also got to look at the bigger picture and determine whether your program of choice will position you to be financially happy after you graduate. there’s so many graduates who went to grad school and are currently working in a field that’s not remotely related to what they went to school for and it’s just like.. what was the purpose of acquiring all that debt and/or wasting all of that time, ya know? and don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying you should make a life decision based off money (money shouldn't be the motive because it comes and goes anyway), but i am saying it doesn't make sense to study something in academia that you don’t apply to your life when it’s all said and done.
3). what school are you going to attend?
a general rule of thumb is to go where the money is, meaning whoever has the better financial aid package. some may even say you need to go where the better program is. i personally think that as long as the school is accredited, is willing to pay for you to attend their school (or give you a decent amount of funding) and has a competent program with professors that can actually enhance you as a student, that’s a good option. for the most part, i don’t believe in paying for grad school, but that’s only because there’s so much money out there to be given out by these schools, regardless of what the financial “crisis” is. but you also need to understand this:grad school isn’t the time to go where your friends are going. you’re grown. go where there’s the best fit for you, and sometimes the school you attend is based off of what you decide to study. the two go hand in hand.
2). what are the requirements for graduation?
before you fully commit yourself to a program or a school, you need to know what you’re signing up for. typically, you have to maintain a 3.0 in grad school to be in good standing which correlates to you can’t get more than 2 c’s during the course of your program. if you do, they put you out and you have to appeal to get back in (in most cases). also, you should understand that the requirements for the university overall can sometimes differ from the requirements of the program you’re studying. this means you may only need a 2.5 grade point average to be a student in general standing at the university, but you may need a 3.5 to be a student in the specific program you’re trying to graduate from. it doesn’t always make sense because the rules sometimes contradict each other but you gotta make sure you know what you’re in for. you should also know the exit options that are available to you. will you be required to do a thesis, a capstone, a creative project or something else? whatever it is, it’s your responsibility to find out.
1). what is the culture looking like?
i like to know what i’m getting into as it relates to diversity, or the lack thereof. and for me, it’s not just about race (don’t tweak though, because race is definitely a factor) but i’m also concerned with how the professors treat their students. are they accessible or is most of the staff away on sabbatical doing their own research? are the professors adaptable or are they kinda stuck in their ways and most importantly, are they communicative? are most of the students in the grad program at a particular school students who also went there for undergrad? what is the average age of the students of this program? all of these factors tie into my overall perspective of the any given program or university because these are essentially things that could work against me moving through the graduation requirements successfully. if you’re going to be the only person of color in the program, that’s something worth knowing early on. if the retention rates between students that start and those that actually graduate from the program are low, that’s something worth considering. you gotta do your research, and sometimes these things may not be on the website… sometimes you gotta go a bit deeper to find the information you need to ensure this is a good fit for you.