Making large, highly consequential decisions is a necessary part of the college experience. Picking a major and subsequent career can’t be avoided. However, one decision that many students may never even consider is whether or not they should go to graduate school.
Going to grad school is a serious decision. More than a few extra years of undergrad, it offers different challenges but allows for more opportunities. Whether or not graduate school is the right choice depends widely on one’s individual circumstances and ambitions, but here is some information to start.
First, there are many advantages. Most importantly, “grad school graduates have access to a vast number of professional, academic, and research opportunities,” said Neely Benton, the director of graduate recruitment and admissions for NDSU. Working closely with professors and professionals in the field comes with plenty of learning opportunities but also the ability to make connections and network in the industry.
Additionally, having a graduate degree is required for many jobs. But regardless, if the degree isn’t required, there still are potential benefits. “Having any graduate degree will likely give you a higher salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduate degree holders’ salaries were 20 – 51% higher than those of bachelor’s degree holders in 2019.” Benton added, “even holding a graduate certificate can give professionals a significant salary increase.”
All these benefits do come at a cost, as grad school requires more from students. There is the direct finical cost but additional academic and professional rigor as well. First, “grad students must be proactive, organized, and persistent,” said Benton. Adding, “although a student’s graduate faculty advisor is an indispensable guide, grad students can’t rely on their advisors to tell them what to do every step of the way in grad school.”
Another difference is that “grad students should also work to develop professional skills in addition to academic skills.” However, students can find additional help from outside resources like the Center for Writers, Grad Hub, and Grad School Academic Support Specialists, according to Benton.
Likewise to how there are many misconceptions surrounding undergrad, there are plenty for grad school. Affordability is what Benton sees as the most common. Saying, “many programs provide students with funding that include full tuition waivers.”
Another is that it is ok to have a vague understanding of the program requirements and educational goals needed for success. Benton encourages that “before applying, you should research the program’s requirements, faculty areas of expertise and student outcomes to verify the program is right for you.”
Lastly, it is commonly thought that “If I enroll in grad school, I should work non-stop and it’s ok to neglect my physical and mental health.” Benton dismissed this, saying, “you should allow time for rest, fun, and connecting with friends and family. If the stress of grad school is overwhelming, seek help.”
If the benefits outway the costs, deciding on a program and university is the next step. It is important to understand how a program will advance you toward your specific career or life goals. Benton also lists the following considerations: “are you excited about the course requirements and/or research or internship opportunities, do faculty treat students well, does the location and course delivery method work for you and can you afford to pay for the program?”
For those who are considering grad school, there are institutional resources to guide that decision. The event, Navigating Grad School Admissions, will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, in the Nueta room in the Memorial Union. The event discusses selecting a program, how to apply, where to find funding, and much more. 10 students will receive application fee waivers.
Apart from this event, there are always resources available. Neely Benton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is available to talk to if you are considering it but have no idea where to start. In addition, “your professors have a wealth of knowledge about grad school – they’ve all been to grad school.” She added, “They’re probably happy to talk about their grad school experience and share advice with you. They also are familiar with numerous programs in their field at other universities.
Whether it is at the same undergrad university or not, finding the right program is crucial. Benton added, “NDSU has 80+ fantastic grad programs! Many provide funding and some programs are still accepting applications for Fall 2023.”