Wow! I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted! Since we moved to Ft. Worth, I have been busy working on my dissertation and was hired as an adjunct faculty at TCU! I am SO grateful for this amazing opportunity! But, with opportunities comes more work and less time! Fortunately, one of the classes I am teaching is Professional Development and has given me a lot of materials and ideas to use for blog posts!
I’ve had several questions about my experience in graduate school, so I thought it would be helpful to write a few posts on the topic. I think it would be best to start off with answering, “Should I go to grad school?”
If you’re wondering whether or not you should go to graduate school, the first step I would take would to consider the following:
Do you have a good sense of what career you want to pursue and is an advanced degree needed? What are your reasons? Skills? Money? Passion?
If you have a good sense and know that you need an advanced degree to pursue your goals and interests, then absolutely go to grad school. If you are unsure or just want to “avoid the real world” because there isn’t a good job market, then maybe you should really take some time to consider what it is you want to do. The worst thing you can do is to spend a lot of time and money in grad school and still be unsure about your life in the end.
Next, I would do some research and ask people with experience a lot of questions.
Start your research by searching programs that you may be interested in. When I started my search, I made table to help me organize and prioritize the programs. When looking at these programs you should take several things into consideration:
- Location—how far are you willing to travel? What does the city look like? How close/far away is it to other cities? What is there to do? What is the weather?
- Reputation and rank amongst similar programs
- Cohort size—how big will your classes be?
- Length of program—how many semesters/years will it take to complete?
- Requirements—will you be required to complete research? A thesis? A project? Contact hours? Community service?
- Financial support—does the program/university offer/provide graduate assistantships to the students? This is huge. In my experience, programs will provide a graduate/teaching assistantship to the students which includes a bi-weekly stipend and a tuition waiver. However, not all programs have this much support, so it is best to contact the program director and find out. Also, keep in mind that the stipends usually aren’t that much! They certainly help, but I had to use student loans on top of everything to help with finances in grad school.
- Certifications/degree—some programs offer additional certifications along with your degree. Having these additional certifications can be great for your CV/resume! Also, it’s important to know what kind of degree you are getting and how it can be used.
On top of your research, be sure to ask those you know who have gone to graduate school their opinions and advice. Be prepared to hear a wide range of emotional and stressful stories about the experiences of grad school on time management, stress, life, classmates, professors, etc. I’ve heard them all but try to think of these stories as inspiration and true accounts of what to expect. Keep in mind that grad school is MUCH different than undergrad, and those who have gone through it are just trying to prepare you for what is to come.
For someone who has been in grad school most of my adult life, I am quite biased to say yes to going to grad school. Going to graduate school has been an incredible (and quite strenuous) experience that has prepared me for the career that I am passionate about. I believe that graduate school can only help you broaden your knowledge in specific fields and give you invaluable experiences.
The most important thing to remember while doing your research and getting advice is that everyone is different, and all programs are different. The aspirations and goals you have for yourself are specific to YOU. Use this research and advice to help find a program or path that will best suit your needs and goals.
I hope this has been helpful! What were your experiences in grad school? If you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know!