5 Crucial Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Applying To Graduate School

A lot of students prematurely decide that they want to attend graduate school right after completing their undergraduate degree.

For some students, graduate school might be required to enter into the career field of their choice, for others, graduate school might not be necessary.  There are a lot of other factors that students should consider as well.  Consider the following 5 questions before applying to graduate school.

1. Is Grad School Right For Me?

Given the current economic environment, fresh college graduates are leaning more towards graduate school programs in hopes of making themselves more marketable and increasing job prospects.  However, before rushing to fill out that grad school application, students should ask themselves the following question: Is grad school right for me?

As I mentioned earlier, in some fields a post-baccalaureate degree can help you gather the skills and credentials necessary to break into the career of your choice.  In other fields, a graduate degree might not be necessary for you to land your dream job right after undergrad.  Also, keep in mind that graduate school costs a lot of money.  It’s likely that you’ll already have student loan debt from your undergrad years, so is grad school really worth piling on additional student loan debt?  This is something that each student will have to answer on their own.

Your best bet is to take some time to research what field you want to enter after college and seek out individuals who are currently employed in that field and find out what their educational background looks like.  Your undergraduate professors might be able to help you with this task.  This will help you avoid spending a lot of unnecessary money or incurring unnecessary debt.

2. How Will It Help Me?

Yes, these are trying times in our economy, but how will an advanced degree help me and if so, how much will it help me?  Here are the cold facts…there are a lot of people with advanced degrees, but not a lot of jobs available for those people who have advanced degrees.  For the economic majors out there…supply is way greater than demand.  So, it’s possible for you to go through all of the stress and hard work that comes with grad school and still not land your dream job.

How can you avoid this?  Good question.  Once you figure out that grad school is right for you, take a look at the job prospects for graduates in your field.  If you discover that the job market for the field that you’re interested in is extremely competitive, you might want to seek out specific graduate programs that assist student with finding internships or have job placement services.  Another suggestion is to start networking with people who have the job that you want.  Sometimes it’s not what you know…it’s who you know.  Cliché but true…

3. Is Now The Right Time?

For some students, the thought of continuing their education and obtaining an advanced degree right after undergrad is exciting.  However, take some time to make sure that you are making a wise decision.  If you aren’t exactly certain what career path you want to pursue or if you’re just feeling burned out after obtaining your bachelor’s degree, now might be a good time for you to explore the job market.  You might find that you’ll land a job in a field that you never considered before and love it!

Like with any major life change, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready and have thoroughly considered all other alternatives.  Don’t add the additional stress of grad school unless you’re sure that it’s something you want to do.  If you are somewhere in the middle, you might consider taking a year off to evaluate things.

4. Can I Afford It?

Graduate school is expensive!  Can you afford it?  What’s your financial aid situation looking like?  If you were lucky enough to have your parent’s assistance with your undergrad education, they might not be so quick to foot the bill with grad school.  Also, scholarships for grad school programs are few and far in between.

How will you fund graduate school?  Do you plan on taking out student loans to cover all associated expenses?  If so, how sure are you that you’ll be able to pay all this money back after you graduate?  Remember, student loans cannot be discharged if you undergo bankruptcy.  There is no way to avoid repaying student loans.

All these things are not meant to scare you, but rather to help you think through these important issues…

5. Will My Employer Pay For It?

Before rushing off to fill out that graduate school application, you might just want to look for job applications first.  A lot of companies have tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance programs for employees who desire to obtain advanced degrees or certifications.

For example, if you work for a public accounting firm, a lot of times they’ll pay for you to obtain your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification and cover some of your MBA expenses.  This also holds true in other industries as well.  A lot of companies encourage and support employees who want to gain additional knowledge in their field.  This is a smart and cost-effective way to earn a graduate degree with getting the hefty price tag that comes along with it.

I hope these tips were useful. Good luck!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

5 Responses to “5 Crucial Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Applying To Graduate School”

  • ally on November 13, 2011

    Thank you for replying to my question on your other post.

    I haven’t been lucky getting a job with my 4 year degree in psychology. I’ve applied to jobs that were beneath me and didn’t get any responses. I applied to jobs that required more experience than education, again, no luck.

    I am not happy with a Psychology degree. Its getting me nowhere and its been 5 almost 6 years since I graduated.
    I feel I need more to attract different employers.

    I am currently a stay at home mom to a 4 and 1 year olds and I feel that its time for me to go back to school BECAUSE there are no jobs out there. I feel like Im wasting my life staying home when I could be pursing something. If I can’t seem to find a job, then I’ll go and be productive in school.

    Temple University in Philadelphia has one of the best Business schools in the whole country, and I believe having a degree from a great school will help me land…something. Risk Management is in high demand especially for students from Temple University. This is what I have been told.

    According to the director of admissions, I can transfer over any credits from my first degree that will apply to my second degree, which will cut my 4 years possibly into 2 and a half if Im lucky.

    As far as the expenses go, I would apply for financial aid and see what I can get from there. I already spoke to FAFSA and they told me I am ok to apply even if I already have a degree.

    If you see anything wrong with my plan, please let me know :).
    I would appreciate any advice you can give me at this point.

    The only thing I am a bit nervous about is going back. I have a great support system at home and I believe I will be able to count on them to help me out if Im ever in a bind with time, or my children and other obligations.

    Again, thanks for replying to my post earlier. Give me all the advice you can!

    • TheCollegeHelper

      The College Helper on November 14, 2011

      Hi Ally,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Let’s just try to think this through and brainstorm together. First, can you answer these 2 questions?:

      1. What initially led you to major is psychology? In other words, what career were you hoping to pursue with your psychology degree?
      2. What do you like/know about Risk Management? Are you pursuing this because you think there are jobs in this field OR are your genuinely interested in a particular career that requires a Risk Management degree?

      • ally on November 14, 2011

        I love your prompt responses by the way :)

        1. My father is a social worker and I think I went for Psychology to impress him. There was always talk of me going to Law School (my sister is a doctor so there’s gotta be a lawyer in the family…according to my parents), and Psychology was a safe bet at the time. I am interested in Psychology also, but to be totally honest, I think I went to college the first time around out of expectations. Everyone in my family is educated and even though I wasn’t ready, I had to be ready because everyone expected it.

        I wanted to go to graduate school, but got married instead. I know that shouldn’t be a reason, and I always tell myself that I must have not wanted to go to grad school if I gave up on it so easily, if I wanted it, married or not, I’d do it. I guess I didn’t want it.

        2. What I love about Risk Management is that its rooted in Economics. I am actually very interested in how the world works, I want to see the world in numbers, statistics, in charts etc. This is actually something I realized about myself just recently. Im not the type to measure myself or my life by words, if I could, I would put everything on a scale, and assign a numerical value to it because its what makes me feel secure, is to see the evidence on paper….not talk about feelings and other mumbo jumbo I would be faced with being a Psychologist.

        I realized I am more of a “1+1=2” kind of person where 2 can NEVER be anything else. My decisions are almost always based on a pros and cons list I make in my head, regardless of how I feel about it. Some decisions have to be made that way.

        I notice trends really well, I catch on quickly how these trends are changing, what they mean, and what’s expected of them. I think I would do really well in school this time around because I want it more, and I think its more for me than Psychology ever was. I love theory, but, I hate uncertainty in Psychology. Every single thinker came up with his/her own theory about something and we don’t have a definite answer for many things in Psychology. One + one will always be a TWO and nobody can dispute that.

        I hope you understand what I am saying here.

        • TheCollegeHelper

          The College Helper on November 15, 2011

          Hi Ally,

          Why don’t you take a look at Career Builder or Monster and try to identify specific jobs that you think you might like to have given your interest in Risk Management.

          Next, take a look at the job requirements to see what type of educational background they’re looking for. You might find that some positions only require a bachelor’s degree in any area. Or, you might also find that you can get away with getting your Master’s degree in Economics, Accounting, or Risk Management for a lot cheaper and in less time.

          Let me know what you find out :) It’s important that you spend time hammering out the details before making such a big decision.

  • ally on November 14, 2011

    By the way, I was a Business major, specifically Business Administration, before changed it to Psychology.

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