Back in May 2020, the pandemic had only just started, I was between jobs, and not really sure what my future would be. From very early in my college career, I had been considering the option of going to graduate school, but I had no idea what kind of program to choose! Long story short, my network and my professional interests led me to the I/O Psychology master’s program at Shady Grove, and now I’m in my second-last semester reflecting on my experience. Think you might want to go to graduate school? It’s a huge decision, so I highly suggest running through the following questions to help with the decision-making process.
- What kind of job do you want to have?
- This one might seem obvious, but so many people will jump into grad school after getting their bachelors without solid career goals in mind. Graduate programs are mentally and financially strenuous, so you need to figure out if your dream job actually requires one or not. I highly suggest conducting an informational interview with someone in your desired field, or someone currently in a graduate program that you’re interested in. Don’t go to school just for the sake of going – only go if your career goals require it.
- Can you afford it?
- Like I said, graduate school is incredibly expensive. But, there are a lot of options for financial help other than student loans, including:
- Can you wait a year?
- I took a “gap year” before applying for grad school, and I would encourage anyone considering graduate education to do the same. Gap years have been romanticized as an option only for wealthy soul-searchers that want to travel the world before they settle down, but actually gap years can be spent acquiring priceless professional experience that can help you clarify your career goals, build your savings, and establish a more secure lifestyle before jumping into more education and debt.
- Do you have a supportive network?
- The financial and time strains of graduate school are well understood, but something you don’t really get until you start a program is how mentally and emotionally draining it can be. It takes a village to get a graduate degree, so you need to take an honest look at your community and your support network and think about what you might need from them during this process – it might even help to talk to people in your support network to see how much they are willing and able to support you. This is not a venture you should take on your own, so get comfortable leaning on others for help, because you’ll need it.
The choice to go to graduate school will have long-lasting effects on your career, your finances, and your overall well-being. Before you make this decision, make sure you’ve looked at it from every angle and discussed the decision with several trusted people – including your home school’s Career Center.