On Higher Education – Should You Go to Graduate School?
The movie “The Graduate” may feel familiar to recent college grads. Not the having-an-affair part, the “so what are you going to do with the rest of your life?” question asked time after time once you cross the stage. Is it all too overwhelming? It was for Benjamin Braddock:
Mr. Braddock: What’s the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you.
Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?
Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?
Benjamin: I’m just…
Mr. Braddock: Worried?
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Benjamin: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Benjamin: I don’t know… I want it to be…
Mr. Braddock: To be what?
Benjamin: [looks at his father] … Different.
We recently had a guest speaker in my introduction to public relations class. His name is Dan Schawbel, and he’s known for speaking and writing about “personal branding” in many different venues. Dan gave us tips on how to create a name for ourselves in the competitive world of job hunting. He also told us he never planned on going back to school to get his master’s degree unless he planned on becoming a teacher. Our instructor, Dr. Dawn Gilpin, also said she recommends getting experience in the work world so you know what you want to do before you make the grad school investment.
Personally, I intend to graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Mass Communication. Concurrent degrees, four years and a scholarship and I’ll be done. My major reason for doing this is that I think it’ll give me a competitive edge when I apply for jobs. I want to make the most out of my experience here, and (of course) the most out of my tuition.
Not everyone is in the same boat as I am when it comes to getting a graduate degree. How do you know if it’s worth your time and money? We all may have the desire to learn, but not always the resources to do it. Here are some reasons why graduate school may be right for you – even if it isn’t for Dan Schawbel:
- You don’t have a full-time job (or you have the opportunity and the means to be without one) – Unless you’re lucky enough to work for a company that will pay for school, you need to make a plan as to how you’re going to get by without one. (Speaking of companies paying for school, see this great article to find how to get someone else to foot the bill.) Being a fresh graduate can be an advantage in this case. Look around and see what’s required of your desired career. Experience can range from having 3-5 years in corporate or an advanced degree, so evaluate your situation. Are you willing to go through more schooling? Bringing me to my next point…
- You’re a hard worker who doesn’t mind the idea of being a student – If you couldn’t wait to get out while you were still in high school, going to graduate school may not be the best for your mental health. There comes a time when what’s on your résumé isn’t as important as your personal well-being. You won’t want to put in the effort that grad school requires if you dread being there.
- You have an unbridled passion for your chosen field – You’d know this if it applies to you. You majored in something that you really loved. You breezed through your intro classes and relished completing the projects that few were brave enough to tackle. You’ve had at least a few internships in your field and plan on keeping those relationships for the next few years. If this sounds like you, your love may translate well into a higher learning environment, where you can blossom with your peers in geekdom.
But the number one reason grad school might NOT be for you:
- To you, it’s the destination, not the journey that matters – Dan Schawbel brought this up in his presentation. I think it’s his excuse for never wanting to get more education. Relish the experiences grad school brings. You never know who you might meet. If you’re focused on getting to X company and being in this position by X year, start getting jobs that will put you there. Intern, network and establish your identity. Grad school can wait until you change your goals to reach higher things.
What are some other reasons why you should go to grad school? Why you should not? Leave your answers in the comments.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite “Graduate” quotes. For Benjamin, the game wasn’t worth it. But is it for you? Only you can answer that.
Benjamin: It’s like I was playing some kind of game, but the rules don’t make any sense to me. They’re being made up by all the wrong people. I mean no one makes them up. They seem to make themselves up. (imdb)