How to Determine if You're Ready to Go to Grad School

Deciding to go to graduate school is no small decision.  It takes time, money, and a lot of effort.  So how do you know when you’re ready to embark on this next adventure?  It’s important to ask yourself a few big questions:

What’s my end goal?

First and foremost, you need to clarify what you are trying to accomplish and your intention for going to graduate school.  Is it a necessary step to get you where you want to go next in your career?  If so, that’s great and you should probably dig deeper.  For example, you’d like to become a school counselor and conducted research which helped you determine that you’ll need at least a master’s degree to get there.

Reasons not to jump into graduate school:

  • You don’t want to have to live in the “real world” or get a real job
  • You don’t know what you are qualified/interested in doing for work
  • You’ve been a student forever, and it just seems like the “next step”

If any of these reasons sound like you, it’s time to think twice about the big investment you’re about to make.

How will I pay for graduate school?

The cost of tuition remains on the rise.  Add that on top of an undergraduate loans and perhaps out of state tuition to go to school in a new locale and you’ve got a pretty price tag.  Consider what the costs really will be, beyond just tuition.  Make a budget for yourself to know what you can afford and how much income or assistance you will need, whether it’s financial aid, loans, scholarships/grants, or salary or some combo of these items.  A few things to think about:

  • Is there an opportunity to work as a teacher’s assistant/graduate assistant/lab assistant
  • Do you have time to hold a job, either full or part-time?
  • What scholarships can you apply to?

What are the state of things?

I’ll never forget what a wise family friend said to me when I was debating going to graduate school.  She said, “There’s never going to be a perfect time.”  She was right.  There’s never going to be a perfect time for a lot of things we want to do in our life.  Most of us will probably feel like we can’t ever be fully prepared or have enough money/time/resources. 

That being said, it is worth doing your homework to determine the job outlook for your field.  For example, the supply of law school graduates has been much higher than the demand for new attorneys over the last few of years in the US.  Does that mean you shouldn’t go to law school? No, but it does mean you should be aware of what you may be getting into and figure out how you can make yourself the most competitive candidate possible.

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Take some time to think through these questions for yourself.  Doing so will help you consider the many factors of going to graduate school and what’s right for you.