The Clog’s attempt to solve the great grad school conundrum

Jessica Doojphibulpol/File

We at the Clog feel as though we’ve been to just about every grad school event that has been offered in the tri-state area. All of which have left us with more questions than answers. So we thought we would break it all down in an attempt to solve the great grad school conundrum.

Being sure about post-grad in general

Some people will tell you that you can totally get where you want to go with solely a bachelor’s degree by climbing those corporate ladders from the bottom to the top. And that can be true. Unfortunately, in certain industries, many publishing internships are unpaid, which means that those weeks and months spent filing and grinding in expensive cities go unpaid, while you are forced to get a second or third job and hope it’s enough to pay your dues.

For those of you who want or need those connections in order to position yourself right in the view of specific companies or industries, the right master’s program can be the right move. Doing your research and reaching out ahead of time to find out what sorts of scholarships and opportunities you can realistically expect will make the difference between just adding another school to your resume and getting the experience you need.

If you’re going for a Ph.D., you want to be extra sure that you’ve found the right match for you. That’s not meant to be intimidating. It’s simply practical, since a lot of the time you have after the master’s portion of school is spent writing your dissertation.

Financial aid

It’s pretty clear from the get-go that attaining financial aid outside of undergrad can be a bit of a journey. The outrageous fortune that is necessary to sponsor an expensive postgraduate study can be terrifying. We’re not even considering the costs of tests like the GRE or application fees. Not to mention the cost on your sanity for having to ask for things such as letters of recommendation from professors who kind of scare you (but like in an inspirational way).

Too many menu choices

Things become even more complicated when it’s time to decide what we actually want to go to school for. There are master’s degrees, and M.F.A.s or M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s, oh my! Plus the option of law or medical school is always looming in the distance. At a certain point, you have to decide which degree is the most Worth It at its given price. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of time! You’re usually looking at anywhere between two to three years for a master’s, M.F.A. or M.B.A., and upward of seven for a Ph.D.

It takes a village

Having the right support community can be just as important to a future grad student as having the funding needed to survive those five to seven years. You don’t want to be that person on the grad school panel who actually cries when talking about how lonely grad school is. Yikes. Even for introverts who don’t mind holing away and obsessively doing research, it’s still important to make sure we aren’t isolated during that period of our lives.

Like anything else in life, there are no guarantees. We’re likely to wear many different hats, careerwise, in this day and age, so we should make the most out of each phase of our lives rather than just keep our heads down and suffer through something we hate.

That isn’t meant to dissuade you from pursuing a higher degree. If getting the opportunity to study a specialized area in depth really tickles your tinsel, then grad school may be where you’ll thrive. But if it sounds miserable, that’s probably a good sign that it might not be the right choice for you. And that’s totally OK. Or if you’re still not sure if grad school is the right move, welcome to the club. Your best friends right now are research, office hours and the Career Center. But don’t worry! You’ve still got plenty of time to decide.

Contact Lauren West at [email protected].