by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
Choosing to go to grad school is not something you do on a whim; in fact, there are lots of bad reasons to attend grad school. It’s not like a late night donut run or buying a $200 pair of sunglasses. You may regret these things the next day, but grad school is a big enough investment to make you regret far longer – for as long as it takes to pay off your student loans.
If you’re considering grad school, make sure to think out your decision fully. Here are the worst of the bad reasons to attend grad school:
- You’re avoiding personal, family, or financial responsibilities. Maybe you promised your mom you’d move back in with her after you were done with school and are now regretting it. The solution should not be to continue your schooling, but to have a talk with your mom. In the case of debt, if you’re going to grad school to avoid paying back your student loans, going to grad school is likely only going to add to the amount of debt you have. Talk instead to your loan provider about a payment plan that works for you.
- You can’t or don’t want to find a job. If you’re struggling to find a job, the best thing to do is come see your career coach, not immediately decide to go to grad school. If you’re not finding a job, it could be as simple as sprucing up your resume and cover letter. And if you don’t want to find a job, what makes you think you’ll want to write a thesis?
- You don’t like your job. The obvious answer here is to find a new job, if you can. Going to grad school is a really expensive disappearing act. Only use it if you’re sure it’s something you want to do and will benefit from. It’s possible you’ll go to grad school and end up back in the same job, or an even worse one.
- You don’t know what you want to do with your life. If you’re not sure about anything, the last thing you should do is make a big, impactful decision like grad school. Talk to your career coach, take some self-assessments, try new things to find your passion if you haven’t already found it. Going to grad school likely won’t suddenly illuminate the path you’re meant to take; it will only reaffirm how lost you are.
- You think a graduate degree is necessary. Do your research, because it’s possible you don’t need a graduate degree to do what you want to do. Or maybe the very next career stepping stones don’t require such an advanced degree and you can worry about grad school later, when you’re more certain of the shape your path is taking.
- You’re curious. Grad school is an expensive way to explore new interests and passions. Instead, read some books, take classes at the community college on subjects that interest you. Graduate degrees are for people who know where they’re going and what they want, not someone who knows where they might want to go and might want to do.
- You want to live somewhere new. Grad school will certainly help you relocate, but it comes with responsibilities. You don’t just get to enjoy your new life in a new town; you have homework and meetings with your thesis advisor and probably a part- or full-time job to keep on the side. If you want to move somewhere new, consider how else you can get there that doesn’t involve such a serious and expensive commitment.
- You want the ego boost. People with graduate degrees are often more respected and revered. It’s understandable if you want to be respected and revered too – it’s human nature after all – but if that’s the main motivation for going to grad school, you might want to pause and consider your priorities.
Grad school is a great opportunity, but it can also be a great waste of time and money. Ensure your investment is wise by thinking through your choice and understanding that some reasons for going are better than others.