Before even beginning the application process, you must consider your reasoning for attending graduate school. Here are some commonly cited reasons, good and bad:
- Grad school is a great way to put off having to deal with the real world.
- The job market is bad right now, but by the time I finish my degree it will be better.
- Others have been telling me I should go to grad school because I had good grades as an undergrad.
- My parents went to grad school, so I should too.
- If I don’t go to grad school, I’ll have to move back home.
- A graduate degree will guarantee me more money in a future job.
- I have no job offers, but a decent GPA.
- I enjoy teaching and research, and grad school is an opportunity to do both.
- Grad school is a great way to start over with my emotional life, especially since I just got dumped.
- Having a PhD would give me greater status and more self-worth.
- My work experience so far has been uninspiring, and I want to explore new opportunities that would come with a higher degree.
- I’ve applied for and received a scholarship, so I owe it to others to accept and use it.
- It’s a sanctioned and convenient way to defer my student loans.
- Quite simply, I love learning.
It’s easier to pass judgment on some of these reasons than others, but all are used regularly, and the most important realization about them is this: Even the worst of reasons doesn’t guarantee failure in grad school, just as even the best of reasons doesn’t guarantee success. Those who succeed in graduate school tend to have a dogged work ethic matched to an ambitious vision and a strong sense of obligation to self, while those who do not succeed tend to spend much of their emotional time questioning their own sense of value and purpose in the process. Because of the personal and professional challenges that come hand in hand with graduate education, all grad students experience concentrated periods of self-assessment, and responsible students begin that assessment even before they apply.
From lighthearted lists to serious advice columns, plenty of material resides online to help you weigh the grad school decision. Here are two sites worth visiting: