Career Corner: To be or not to be? Graudate school and the future

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To be or not to be? Shakespeare must have been a career coach because, sometimes in our journey toward reaching our goals, we must decide if an opportunity is the right or wrong fit.
Deciding on what to do after graduating with your bachelor’s can be a scary task. You probably just got comfortable with being a college student and the thought of transitioning into a graduate program is overwhelming, to say the least.

A variety of people, including family members, will guide you on this journey, but, in the end, you must ask yourself what is best for your future and the goals you have set for yourself going forward.
Graduate school can be a great opportunity if you’re looking to gain additional knowledge and training in a particular industry. Graduate school is a big commitment, so you’ll want to avoid pursuing it if you are just looking to dodge the current job market.

If you’re about to earn your bachelor’s, you’re at the point in your career journey when you must ask yourself some difficult questions, including: how would graduate school help me reach my long-term goals? What if I join a program and realize I don’t like this career choice? Should I get experience in my field before advancing my academic knowledge?

All of these are valid questions. You must keep your options open in order to make an informed decision. Self-exploration can not only shed light on determining if attending a graduate program is the right choice; it can also help you determine what sacrifices you would need to reach your goals.

For example, attending a graduate program will require you to be motivated and committed for several years, depending on the program. Also, considering you are fresh off completing your undergraduate education, many questions will arise: Are you going to have to take out more student loans for your master’s program? Is the program set up so you can work while going to school? How are you going to handle living away from your family and friends if the program is in another state? Do you have other commitments that may get in the way of successfully completing graduate school?

Another step in making a smart decision is considering why you want to attend graduate school and if that desire matches your long-term goals. After you have gone over these difficult questions, research some of your interests further, including specific colleges and programs and ideal jobs.

One way you can do this is by conducting informational interviews, a strategic way to gain valuable information about a certain profession, while networking with employers. There’s no better way to find out if you would enjoy a certain profession than by talking to an individual who is working in the field. In addition, you should consider reaching out to students who have graduated from similar programs or engaging faculty members in conversations, as well as visiting websites to explore details about each program.

You should consider a number of things when researching graduate programs, such as location, since you’ll likely have a preference on where you’ll live for several years, and if the program will offer internship or practicum opportunities. It is also important to consider cost, the training required for each specific opportunity, and the overall quality of life you will have on the job and as a student.

Exploring your options is a key component in your journey toward graduate school, as is understanding the requirements for admission. You must be organized. Creating an Excel spreadsheet that tracks details for each program of interest can be beneficial. The spreadsheet can help you organize many requirements, including deadlines, required documents like personal statements, and required admission tests, such as the GRE or LSAT. Staying organized will help you set a strategic timeline and keep you on track to apply on time and position yourself for success.

At the end of the day, graduate school may not be the right fit if you have other goals you want to accomplish before continuing your education, such as traveling abroad or gaining experience in your field. People have their own sets of goals, short and long term, and there are a variety of paths to those ends. It’s up to you to explore those options and decide if they are to be or not to be.

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