This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
Why Go to Graduate School?
If the money part of the equation can be managed, the potential benefits may be ample:
- Increase your earning power
- Increase your career opportunities
- Stand out and master your chosen field on a given topic
Understand the Downsides of Extending Your College Years
It’s expensive: Graduate school can cost you anywhere from $10,000 (for most public universities) to $50,000 per year (for most private colleges), depending on the school and the major you’re studying.
It’s time-consuming: Graduate school can take anywhere from two to seven years to complete, again depending on the school and field of study.
It’s competitive: Getting into graduate school isn’t easy. As the saying goes, space is limited—grad schools typically accept significantly fewer applicants than undergraduate colleges and universities.
What’s your best move in deciding the issue?“Graduate school can take anywhere from two to seven years to complete.”
Find Out if You Can Afford It
This is where getting creative really pays off. Most grad schools offer grants, scholarships and other financial aid. If you can wrangle a graduate assistant position, you can get your tuition waived or get your room and board for free. Research assistant positions also are available and can help chip away at the costs of graduate school.
Make Sure You Have the Grades to Qualify
Anything below a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average will likely leave you on the outside looking in. And anything below a 3.3 grade point average could negatively impact your ability to get financial aid.
Understand How Graduate School Will Impact Your Personal Life
Talk to graduate students (and you should) and you’ll hear tales of frayed nerves, sleepless nights, and meals reduced to franks and beans and ramen noodles. It’s not always a healthy lifestyle. The workload does vary for different graduate degree programs, depending on whether you pursue a master’s or a doctoral degree.
If it’s a master’s degree you’re after, you’ll have a slightly lighter academic load, mostly consisting of class work and tests (much like undergraduate school, only at a highly specialized academic level). Some master’s programs, but not all, may require a completed thesis.
But a doctorate degree will really fill your calendar. Not only will you still have the course work and exams, you’ll also have to complete a special, full-term academic project, and to graduate, you’ll need to complete a written thesis, which grad students typically refer to as researching and writing a book.
Grad school isn’t for everybody, but if you have the time, money and work ethic, it could be a great fit for you.