How to Know if Grad School is Right for You

If after four years of undergraduate studies you find yourself wondering whether or not graduate school is right for you, take heart. You’re not being flaky or indecisive. You’re actually treating what is going to be a major life decision with the level of seriousness such a decision deserves. There are many great reasons to go to grad school, and just as many not to. So before you download that application, ask yourself the following six questions.

  1. Why do you want to go?

    Believe it or not, many intelligent, hard-working people end up in grad school with absolutely no clue as to why they are there. Ask yourself whether or not grad school is a crucial step toward your career goals and if your area of study is worthy of the commitment and immersion that’s required of grad school students. Forget about why you “should” go to grad school; think of the decision as if it were a choice, because ultimately, it is.

  2. Do you need the second degree?

    In purely practical terms, it may be that you will not be able to advance in your career without a graduate degree. Even if you’re not looking to become a surgeon or college professor, it’s possible a graduate degree may help you obtain a better position and better pay in whatever field you work in.

  3. Can you afford it?

    Ask yourself if you can afford to pay for graduate school, and what options are you willing to consider if money is an issue. For instance, would you consider going to grad school part time? Or work full time while getting your graduate degree online? Are you eligible for financial aid? Will you be able to pay back any loans you take out after you’ve got your degree? Crunching numbers isn’t much fun, but doing so will help you clarify how you might be able to achieve your goals.

  4. Do you love what you plan to study?

    The one thing that will help you endure the time, mental, and financial demands of grad school is your passion for whatever it is you plan to study. Remember, grad school is very immersive and involves closely working with both professors and classmates who are as passionate about your area of study as you are. But if you don’t share that passion, you may find yourself burning out before you’ve completed your degree.

  5. Are you motivated?

    Ask yourself if you are motivated to tackle what may be another two, four, or more years of school. First-year grad students are usually overwhelmed by the amount of work they’ve signed up for, but eventually, these students are able to handle all of the reading, writing, and analyzing of information that a good graduate program requires. Before you take the plunge, make sure you’ve got the drive to stick out a few more years of intensive, higher education.

  6. Are there alternatives available to you?

    There may be educational alternatives available to you besides grad school that can truly benefit your career and personal goals. You might consider working for a year or two in your field, and see what kind of “real world” experience you gain for your resume. Vocational school, community college courses, and professional seminars and workshops may also offer you graduate-level education and experiences.