How to Decide if You Should Go to Grad School

Reflect on past experiences

First, consider your undergrad work and the lessons you learned in that time. Did you appreciate certain courses or styles of teaching more than others? Were you all about the campus life, 100-percent focused on school, or juggling studying with work and family obligations? What would you like to replicate from that time, and what is best left in the past? Reflecting on these questions will inform your decision to return to school and the type of programs for which you might apply.

Look forward to the future

We often get more excited about study than what comes after, so researching your post-degree career path will be essential for you to move forward. There are a number of places to get information about your future job prospects. Start with schools that offer your program of study. Their admissions team should have information about the career paths of graduates and also have alumni for you to chat with to learn about their journeys. When connecting with schools, you can also find out about their curriculum, professors, job placement opportunities, and class audits.

Meet with people who have the career you’re aiming for

Never underestimate the importance of informational interviews. Talk with people who have the jobs you hope to get down the road and get their perspectives about their roles and how a degree may help you reach your long-term goals.

Test the waters by getting some experience

What exposure have you had to the degree you’re interested in pursuing? It’s time to test your assumptions about what study and the future will look like.

Examine your strengths

For that same client, we started with strengths to look at her natural tendencies and the work that lit her up. We used the CliftonStrenghts assessment, which is a fantastic and low-cost option. And there are many ways you can discover your strengths on your own. You could start by creating a daily or weekly journaling routine to see what lights you up at work, what brings you down, and what you could take or leave. You’ll start to see themes there. One of my favorite ways to examine strengths is to take your resume and reorganize the bullets in order of what you enjoyed most. Identifying your strengths can help to evaluate both your potential program of study and your future job prospects.

Consider the cost

Finally, consider the full big picture when it comes to costs. Are you ready to foot the bill, apply for financial aid, or get your organization to cover the costs? What costs are incurred beyond tuition? Will you lose income during study? Depending on your field, you may get through a program tuition-free if you do research for the school, or you might find that a company has a scheme to pay for your schooling in exchange for staying at the company for a set amount of time.

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