So, you’re thinking of applying to graduate school? Maybe this has been your plan since you were a freshmen, or maybe you just recently started thinking about it. I encourage you to continue to think about applying to graduate school with the following things in mind:
- Your financial situation.
How the heck are you going to pay for graduate school? Make sure you look at tuition costs in addition to other fees and cost of living. Are you going to take out loans? Can you work part-time? Does the program offer assistantships that will cover tuition and offer a stipend? Also think about your return on investment. Are you going into a field in which you can pay off those loans? Additionally, think about how you will pay for things during the application process. Think application fees (some starting at $75 each), travel expenses for interviews, interview attire, etc. All of these add up! Think long and hard about this aspect of your decision.
- Your reasons for applying.
Naturally, there are some professions that require grad school- for example, lawyers. If you know you need an advanced degree to be in your desired career, then the answer to this question will seem simple. If your desired profession does not require an advanced degree, maybe think twice about your reasons for applying. Is it the prestige of a few letters after your name? Do you simply just not want to face the world of employment? Is being a student fun and compelling you wish to be a “professional student”? Being in graduate school is stressful and can take years to complete. Bottom line: be sure you are fully invested for the right reasons before applying.
- Taking some time off.
For some people, this sounds like a scary concept. You may worry that if you don’t go to grad school right after undergrad, you will never go back. Of course, that is a valid concern because let’s face it- life happens. But when life happens, you learn things. Taking time off in to work in the field or industry between undergraduate and graduate school can make you more attractive to graduate programs. Gaining real world experience and skills are invaluable- it teaches you things you cannot learn in a textbook.
As a current graduate student myself, I had to think long and hard about my decisions for applying. Thinking through these components helped me feel more at ease about the uncertainty of my future. Take some time and truly think through these before making the decision to apply to graduate school!