Is it the Right Time for Graduate School?
Knowing when it’s time to pursue the next step can be difficult if your employer isn’t right in front of you with a promotion and money for tuition. Going back to grad school is something some people consider because they love to learn, others because they want more career mobility, and still others because they just don't know what else to do. But in the age of the student debt crisis, going to graduate school shouldn't be a solution for some of these issues, and in the case of others, it's just one of many options for personal growth and development. Here’s some insight into how to tell if it’s the right time for you to get a Master’s or other advanced degree.
- Be Honest: Can You Afford It?
Trends in student loans indicate that large percentages of debt often pile up during graduate school. In fact, 11% of people holding graduate degrees increased their debt by 80% to go to graduate school, while 60% of those in debt up to $40,000 accrued the majority of their debt during their graduate study. The short of it is, if you can’t afford graduate school, perhaps it’s best not to attend. Studies have found that increased debt leads to increased stress and anxiety, meaning unless you’re seriously stuck in your current career, or can comfortably project enough income as the result of a Master’s degree, it just might not be the best investment, no matter how much you’d love to go back to school.
- Make a Plan for Balance
Many graduate programs require a full-time commitment, meaning you might not be able to continue working full-time too. Strategize your plan before you apply to make sure your acceptance doesn’t mean a whole new can of worms just got opened. Remember that work-life balance is achieved in small and large ways, from making sure to take advantage of online classes that might save you hours a week, to the small considerations like putting your cell phone in the other room during study time. Although finding balance is going to be a constant pursuit during your time in grad school, starting with a foundation of carefully-evaluated expectations and an honest assessment of your abilities and schedule will set you up earlier for greater success.
- Find Some Money, Honey
Depending on your industry and past experience, there might be department assistantships or even a graduate student stipend through either your school or your employer. Some graduate studies programs even provide full funding to accepted candidates, though these also There are also many grants for graduate students. In fact, College Board states that colleges awarded $11.7 billion in grants to grad students in 2016. If you can’t secure a grant, there’s also the option to seek out financial assistance through your company. Many companies cover college expenses or offer tuition reimbursements, AT&T, Verizon, Disney, and Starbucks just to name a few. The important thing to remember is to never stop seeking financial assistance to cover graduate school costs. Even if your semester has already begun, graduate dollars continue to roll in throughout the school year. In fact, US News suggests, perhaps the best time for seeking more funding is right before final exams.
Deciding to get a Masters is a big decision that’s perhaps best tackled with a little bit of research and some analytical perspective. What factors do you think are important to weigh? Add your voice in our comments section. We’d love to make this a resource for all Alpha Kappa Psi brothers considering graduate education.