Undergrad is a life event that feels predetermined. Traditionally you graduate high school then head off to college to earn your degree. Most young kids do not ask questions before they begin college, because they do not have the experience to know what to ask. Blindly jumping into the decision to attend college may seem uncomplicated simply because there are no deciding factors present to complicate it. But decisions like earning your graduate degree are arguably more complex. Questions about timing, necessity, and funding all need to be answered before you take that leap.
How will the demands of graduate school fit into your life, and is there even room? Huge question with luckily no right or wrong answer. The truth is, you can flex your life around your educational goals, or vice versa. The decision regarding timing is not entirely firm however if you feel like you keep pushing it off but do not really know why, consider that thought.
Your professional goals have a lot to do with the decision to attend grad school or not. Think about your current career path and how a higher level of education fits in. Some paths, such as becoming a physician for example, require it, while others such as some business focused roles do not. Analyze your potential career earnings with and without a graduate degree and that will help you decide how necessary you feel earning one is for you personally if it is not required. Additionally, your current job can help dictate your grad school plan as well. Some companies offer payment programs to assist you with the cost. Taking advantage of this opportunity is smart but typically comes with contractual obligations that you need to educate yourself on before you decide to spend corporate funds on your personal education.
Depending on the program, graduate school costs can vary greatly. Understanding what this decision means for your financial health presently and in the future is a necessary first step in the overall decision-making process. If you are going to college and need help with financing, you can take out a student loan from a private lender in order to pay for your graduate degree. A huge benefit to private lenders is that they are all in competition with one another for business, giving you as the borrower an edge to compare interest rates and loan terms to find the best graduate student loans to fit your life.
Undergraduate student debt experience can be helpful in this arena. Since you have previously gone through the borrowing process and are familiar with all that entails you can be more intentional in deciding if this additional debt is manageable. If you are familiar with student debt repayment from your undergraduate degree, then that will provide a good baseline knowledge for what to expect with graduate student loans. Using that knowledge to fuel your decision making can both help and hinder though. Think about how you felt after graduation at the bottom of the student debt mountain having no idea how you would ever repay all that money and realize that you are currently managing it and making it work. You already have the habits in place to successfully pay off debt, an edge that you did not have during undergrad so do not let the large price tag of grad school be your main deterrent.
After weighing all the pros and cons if you have concluded that graduate school is the right step for you and your career it is important to set yourself up for success. Preparing yourself for the demands of an advanced degree program will increase your overall success and help you to manage the inevitable stressors that you will experience because of this decision. Once you determine a specific program examine the coursework and each syllabus thoroughly. Add events like class times, study groups, midterms, and finals to your existing calendar now so that you can manage your time efficiently and know when your studies will demand more of your time.
Self-discipline is a huge factor in finding success, although it always remains important that you also know how to work well in group settings, grad school requires a lot of independent dedication to stay focused and remain on task. Talk to your personal support system about what grad school will mean for you and how that will affect your outside responsibilities. This is a large time commitment so rallying your support system from the start can go a long way.
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