Should You Consider Graduate School?
Not all university students naturally transition to graduate (grad) school after completing their four-year degree. In fact, most start an internship or go straight into the workforce. Some students view graduate school as unnecessary, while others consider it an essential step that can open doors to additional opportunities.
No matter your thoughts on the subject, attending graduate school is a choice for many careers. Of course, in some cases, specific career paths require completion of an advanced degree. For example, to become a clinical psychologist you must complete a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) doctoral degree. If your career doesn’t require it, however, here are some considerations that could help you make the right choice.
The Pros and Cons of Grad School
Graduate school is a major decision that requires consideration. Thus, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of attending grad school and furthering your education. Here are a few examples to get you started.
- Advanced career opportunities
- More job growth and sustainability
- Greater earning power
- More educational opportunities
- Access to advanced learning tools, i.e. rare books and supercomputers
- Research opportunities, especially if you’re pursuing a career in a STEM field
- Mentally demanding coursework and added stress
- High competition for admissions
- Long, daunting work and academic effort for writing a thesis
- Typically expensive, with potentially significant loans
- Job opportunities may be limited to a narrow field of expertise
- More time spent away from the workforce
Planning for Grad School
If you do decide grad school is right for you, planning will be integral to your success. Many students start the long process of pursuing higher education during their first years of university. Here’s a brief outline of the steps you’ll need to complete.
Research Grad Programs: Although you’ll likely know what program you want to join before starting the application process, you should still perform some additional research. In doing so, you’ll learn essential information related to your degree and may even find a program that’s more suitable to your career goals. Perform research by: 1) using resources and materials provided by your school and/or potential grad school, 2) asking your professors, fellow classmates and current grad students for advice and information, 3) performing online research and connecting on school forums, and 4) gathering information from your current and potential academic advisor.
Gather Recommendation Letters: Recommendations aren’t a requirement for attending graduate school, but they could enhance your application. Fortunately, acquiring recommendation letters is simple. Most professors are more than willing to offer a good recommendation for a student who has performed well and shown an interest in their class. Just make sure you give your professor ample time to write the letter. When you request recommendation letters, it’s also a good time to consider where you’ll live while attending classes, such as an off-campus McMaster residence.
Filling Out the Application: To beat the stress of all the steps involved in applying for grad school, aim to apply during your late junior or early senior year. Of course, this means performing research and selecting a program should already be completed. If you’re applying to a highly competitive program or fellowship, the application process should be done even earlier. So, you’ll likely need to make your mind up about grad school fairly early in your university career. Filling out the application is also prime time to search for grad school scholarships and fellowships.