As a soon-to-be graduate, I’m constantly plaguing myself with questions about my future.
What will I do? Where will I go? Will I be happy? Dear baby Jesus, am I making the right choices? In the mix of queries is the decision about graduate school. Is it worth it?
According to the Princeton Review’s Grad School Application Timeline, by this point in an undergraduate career, prospective graduate school applicants should have already chosen the programs they will enter. They should have already taken the GRE subject test and made connections with professionals who can help give a shoo-in to their chosen area of study.
But if you’re anything like me, you have done none of those things. I’m a little behind. That’s not a good start.
Going to graduate school means you will spend your time feeling stressed, worried, self-conscious, alone and likely regretful. You will read the experiences of others, like Rebecca Schuman in her article “Thesis Hatement,” who will tell you to “run the other way.”
The overwhelming workloads and deadlines will probably give you cancer by the time you finish — assuming you do in fact finish — your studies.
About a decade of your life will be committed to researching and writing about a topic that no one will really want to read. Your study on French pronouns in the predicate nominative case will never be a best seller.
Much of what you’ll find on the Internet, such as Forbes articles titled “Why You Shouldn’t Go to Grad School” and blogs called “100 Reasons NOT to Go to Grad School,” will tell you that graduate school is an overall bad decision.
So, should you go?
Of course you should.
Graduate school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You’ll have the chance to meet and make connections with people you would have otherwise never known. Your years of undergraduate education were your time to find what you cared about and what you truly enjoyed. Graduate school is your chance to pursue and study that passion.
If you love to study French pronouns, then do it. Don’t let a popular dislike for your area of study deter you from researching it. Who cares if your dissertation isn’t on Oprah’s reading list? It will be yours, and that makes something inherently worthwhile.
When you complete graduate school, you will have the right to call yourself an expert in your area of study. You will have a scholarly dissertation that has your name on it, something that others may use in the future to help with their studies.
There will be a place in the world of academia for you and your research.
Go to graduate school for you, because you want to pursue the unique experience that comes with it, not because you’re hoping to land the only tenure-track job available in the country, which will inevitably be at some university in the middle of nowhere.
If you’re going to graduate school simply to get a high-paying job, then you’re making a bad decision. There is no guarantee that a better job is waiting for Dr. So-and-So than the job that Mr. I-Only-Have-a-Bachelor’s would get.
Graduate school is not a vocational program.
Graduate school is a lifestyle. Don’t let the hardest work you’ll ever do dissuade you. Take a cue from Nike ads and just do it.
Discuss post-graduate plans with the columnist at email@example.com