Is going to graduate school really worth it? With two-thirds of advanced degree holders reporting they have regrets about their college education, everyone seems to have an opinion on this topic.
Whether you’re an undergraduate deciding your next move or you’ve been in the workforce for a decade, you likely have the same questions regarding graduate-level education. Will you be able to balance school with a job or your other responsibilities? Will the degree pay off financially?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, take a beat to consider your motives and expectations. To start, think about the following “bad” reasons to pursue an advanced degree.
4 “Bad” Reasons to Attend Grad School
Among the two-thirds of graduate degree holders surveyed who regret aspects of their education history, many pointed to their misdirected motivations for attending grad school. For example:
- Killing Time– Some people attend grad school because they don’t know what to do after undergrad. If you want to use grad school as a means of putting off your job search, you’ll likely regret it down the road. Further education has a sticker price, but it also has an opportunity cost; every year you spend in school is one less year working full time and saving up for retirement.
- Exploring Your Options– As an undergraduate, you likely took general education credits that pushed you to explore subjects outside of your major. However, graduate programs are more focused. You’ll have to dive deep into your field of study, which requires great focus and commitment. If you still aren’t sure what you want to study or what career you want to pursue, grad school isn’t the place to figure it out. Instead, try job shadowing or taking community college classes on topics that interest you.
- External Pressure– Getting through graduate school is arduous work. If you aren’t self-motivated or are attending school to please anyone else but yourself, the workload can weigh you down and take a taxing toll on your mental health and outlook on your future career.
- You Got Accepted– Just because you apply for a graduate program and get accepted doesn’t mean it’s the right decision to go. It’s OK to apply, receive an offer, and still walk away. For example, if you thought you’d get into a top-ranking program or receive a full-ride, but it didn’t pan out, you can still reconsider your options and start applying for jobs instead.
4 Excellent Reasons to Enroll
With those cautionary tales out of the way, it’s time to analyze the “right” reasons to continue your education. For example:
- Your Dream Job Requires an Advanced Degree– Some people seem to come out of the womb knowing what career they want to pursue. If you have strong convictions about the job you want and that job requires a graduate degree, then go for it. With a natural drive to power through a few more years of study, you’ll likely succeed and look back on your education without regret.
- You Can Expect a Return on Your Investment– While high tuition may force you to take out student loans to attend grad school, the potential earnings in many fields make it worth it. For example, staff software engineers graduate with an average of $181,827 in student loans but have a median base salary of $168,000. Taking student loan payment into consideration, staff software engineers earn a net of $1,027,772 after 10 years.
- You Receive a Scholarship– Though scholarships and full-tuition offers are competitive, they do exist. Some programs will even give you a stipend while working toward your degree, making it a no-brainer to accept the offer.
- Your Company Pays for It– If you have a few years of work under your belt, your employer may offer to pay for a graduate degree in full or in part. You’ll likely have to guarantee that you’ll stay at the company for a certain number of years, giving you added job security and potential for advancement.
Moving Forward with the Application Process
If, after careful consideration and concrete cost-benefit analysis, you decide the grad school is right for you, it’s time to start the application process. Most graduate programs require you to take the GRE, a computer-adaptive exam with Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning sections. You’ll want to look into study schedules, practice tests, and courses for prepping for the GRE online to achieve the best score possible on the exam.
With the GRE out of the way, you can start narrowing down your search for the right program and curating applications that you in your best light.