Monday, September 5, 2011

Is Graduate School the Answer?

I have always wanted to go graduate school. It probably has to do with the many statistics I have read that state that women need to go to graduate school to earn as much as men.  I also genuinely miss the academic environment and the excitement of an empty notebook on the first day of school. I loved school, the subjects I studied, the late nights of studying and the many books I read.
After college I also realized that school was simple, you do the work you earn the grade! The work world isn’t so easy. You can’t go to office hours with the professor to explain why you couldn’t do your work on time (not that I did that often). As we all know, the hardest workers don’t always get the highest reward and there’s not a syllabus that contains all the deadlines and relevant information.  Naturally, all these previously mentioned facts make me want to run back to the simplicity of the academic world.
 I do think graduate school is worthwhile, for those who are going into a field that requires licensing and credentials such as a J.D or a M.F.T. It’s also valuable if you are simply expanding your knowledge in the field you are already pursuing and are completely certain this is the field you will continue working in once you obtain your degree. But for the rest of us confused, souls, what are the rewards of graduate school? Do these rewards outweigh the costs?  Now if anyone has the answers to these please do let me know! (Please note that if you are personally wealthy and/or have parents that will pay for graduate school these thoughts may be irrelevant to you.)
In the meantime, I have pursued my own research and performed mental math and have come up with no formula that would allow to pay for my living expenses and my tuition given the hefty prices of some of the fancy programs that have caught my attention. The other issue is the radical lifestyle change that would have to occur. In college, my lack of funds meant living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes only having enough money for gas and one meal   for a few days.  I wonder if I could be happy going back to that.  
There’s another issue to ponder about, if graduate school isn’t a precise means to an end then is it worth pulling yourself out of the workforce? Could you learn things in the workforce that would supersede an MFA, or Journalism Degree (I use these as recently these are the ones that I have been considering). 
I suggest that if you are confused about what to do next, want to explore your options while keeping your day job, or if you want to feel as though you are still learning in your free time, you should consider the following things:
1)      Take Classes at your Local University- Many schools offer Open University to students who have their degree but want to take other courses. This is a good way to explore those subjects that interest you before committing to a two-year program across the country.
2)      Take Classes at your Local Community College- An even less expensive way to explore other options. These classes also tend to have flexible hours.
3)      Consider a Certificate Instead of a Master’s Program- Depending on where you live Universities can offer certificate programs that can offer you a new set of skills. Such as Business Development, Communications, Marketing.   This might sound completely controversial and it completely depends on your field. I’m not suggesting that you reject that offer from Columbia University!
4)      Switch Jobs- You want to work in healthcare, then what are you doing working in retail management!?  Do not be deceived by graduate school programs that claim they will find you a job and place you in marvelous internship. If you are having a hard time networking and selling your skills now, graduate school will not solve this problem for you.
5)      Informational Interviews- Talk to people who pursued fields that interest you and find out if they went to graduate school etc.  Don’t be shy people want to share their experiences. 
Currently, I’m working on option number 3 and I will definitely keep you posted on my progress!
Stay Fabulous,

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