The pamphlets that come in to your dilapidated mailbox day after day showing photos of grad students prancing around your old campus and the campuses you didn’t have the chance to call your own back when you were 17 look very appealing these days. So appealing that maybe you’ll just fill out an application or two, go to a few campus visits, maybe even attend a mixer or two?
Stop it, you. Grad school is not the answer to any particular need or want, it is a step to achieving a dream. Life is not like it was when your parents went to grad school. Tuition prices are out of this world, half of the schools are trying to dupe you out of your money anyway so they can help themselves, and there are plenty of ways to teach yourself the skills you need for much less of an investment. You truly have to think, “Is this really what I need to do?”
Graduate school is of course, a more specialized way to achieve the skills you need to succeed in your career. But if you are filling out those beautiful embossed applications for any of the reasons below, you better keep your day job.
1. You’re crushed by student loans and want to go to grad school so you can get a better job that you get you out of debt faster!
That fancy private undergraduate degree got you a job at the Apple store and a level of debt you don’t care to mention. Cool! I don’t have to tell you about under-employment and the crushing debt of today’s adult youth; that you already know. But going to grad school is not a guarantee that you will be making an investment to then get a higher-paying job that will get you out of your debt faster.
The Cure: It sounds like you need a better job. “I can’t get one!” You say. “Also, I want to be a seal trainer and they don’t make enough to pay the loans.” You do not have to put your dreams on hold, but you might need to save them for after work or on the weekends while you get a little bit more comfortable and out of the red zone with your debt. You won’t be able to apply yourself fully to your side work (and your actual work) if you don’t get your finances at least somewhat under control. Check out education writer Lauren Landry’s list of jobs that don’t require a grad degree but still have you rolling in dough.
Another suggestion is to get some skills. You can still LEARN without getting that degree in the end! Do some research and find the skills that are most valued in the jobs you’re looking for. HTML, Photoshop, even a course in how to use Excel will get you that extra 5k in pay negotiations, which will help you with that debt. Yes, it would be nice if you could get a job to help you refine the specific skills you’re looking to perfect, but why wait? Check out Smarterer‘s Channel Post on being your own professor and learning online.
2. You want a pay increase
Perhaps your company is sending you to business school in promise of a promotion or you are attending on your own hope that your company will take notice of your hard work and dedication to learning new skills and promote you. But wait a second, do you even really like this job? Are you just going to grad school for this one particular job, or are you going to achieve a dream?
The Cure: If you really want that pay increase, you don’t need a degree, just turn your energy and focus more locally and more short term. A pay increase is not guaranteed by going to grad school, however, a pay increase is more likely if you start killing it at work. Take ownership of new projects and ask your company to spend time training you instead of sending you to school. A pay increase can happen anywhere, getting a formal education should not be motivated by money, it should be motivated by your own internal passion to learn a very specific skill.
3. You don’t know what you want to do
The feeling of not knowing what you want to do with your life is crushing, but get used to it. THAT’S LIFE. Some say it never goes away, and going to grad school is a very expensive way of figuring out what your life calling is.
The Cure: Admit to yourself what you really want to do. It’s deep down there somewhere, and many are often scared to admit what they really want. Once you admit that, you will instantly feel better – then possibly will feel bogged by the obscureness of your dream of becoming a kitten accessory specialist. Don’t be. You have done the hardest part by defining it. Now all you have to do is work towards that. And who knows, maybe your dream really does need a grad school (doctors, lookin’ at you). Know that if your dream is to be an actor or something in a very competitive creative field, you don’t need to go to grad school to achieve it. At least try for a few years to achieve your dream on your own. If your dream is to be an expert in Floridian geography, please, for the love of God, intern at a Floridian geography lab (company? plant?) first so you know that it is in fact, what you want to do.
4. You can’t get a job
It’s been a few months since graduation or since you were laid off and you still aren’t employed. You’re bored and your parents are mad, not believing you anymore when you say “the economy is bad!” while shoving cheetos into your mouth and getting their basement couch orange and dusty. This horrific scene is not a reason to get you or your parents to shell out half a mil for another education when you haven’t even put your first to use.
The Cure: Get a job. You CAN get one. You have to work harder. Check out my recent post about things you should be doing while you look for a job to boost your professional creds, and get that job faster.
5. You’re bored
Whether you are unemployed at home or making more money than Trump at your dull job as a stock market trader, everyone gets bored. But you are “the boredest,” so you’re going to go back to grad school to refresh your mind.
The Cure: Please go through your old essays and syllabi from college to remind yourself how boring actual school is. It’s just like work; sometimes there are classes and projects that energize and rejuvinate you, but most of the time it’s taking required classes that you fall asleep in. Grad school is not college, there are no Tipsy Tuesdays or intramural sports. Your job at grad school is to study and prepare to dedicate your life to whatever you’re studying. Spice up your weekends and find a new project at work to cure your boredom.
6. You’re Ignoring The Real World
It is very scary to think about entering the real world for some people, that’s why so many go into grad school right after graduation. The truth is that most employers prefer people hands-on experience working in companies and jobs. If you get out of grad school without any experience creating an excel spreadsheet, you may be waiting a long time for that job your degree was supposed to get you. And if that statement makes you a wee bit happy, you are avoiding becoming an adult.
The Cure: Get out there. Moving out of your house, supporting yourself, paying off your own loans, and commiting to a job builds character. You will discover things about yourself that you like, dislike, and never knew you could be capable of. You will be steps closer to “figuring out what you want to do,” not just following an interest you had in college. You will be more professionally attractive to employers and to your colleagues. Rough it, you need it.
7. You just got dumped
First of all, I’m sorry. Breaking up sucks and I’m sure it wasn’t exactly your fault that the relationship you had is now over. It probably has something to do with the fact that at the same age where we think we want to go to grad school we are also we are figuring out who we are and what we want, and things get sacrificed along the way. That said, don’t do anything irrational. Grad school may seem like a distraction and, maybe, a way to meet someone knew.
The Cure: Dye your hair or take a trip to Vegas. You might learn more in Vegas than in grad school anyway.
8. You need a reason to leave your current city and don’t have the balls to just do it
Living in New York, I see this one a lot. You move to a place, get an apartment, land a job, and now that job is boring and oppressive and you realized you really just wanted to work at a commercial fishing boat in Alaska (been there). You already put in so much time so you can’t see any excuse to move to that goat farm in Seattle you heard about to start over. Maybe grad school is your ticket out of town, your reason for leaving that will not allow others to judge or have your parents mad.
The Cure: VOLUNTEER. You are a little depressed, and I understand that. You are not the only post-graduate feeling lost and a little under valued. So please take whatever skills you gleaned from going to college (something that as we all need be reminded, not everyone gets to attend), and find a program or volunteer project you can dedicate yourself to. I think people are afraid to volunteer sometimes because they often don’t know what to expect. Anyone who’s volunteered can tell you that. The point is not how much work you’ll be doing or what kind of work it is, it’s taking your mind off yourself for a minute and dedicating yourself to someone you do not know. The feeling even a few hours of this can cure anything, even that grad school disease going around.
Don’t know where to start? I suggest volunteermatch.org, but it’s as simple as typing “volunteering in ____” into your search box.
9. You aren’t good at anything but school
If this is actually and completely true then, my friend, it is a real problem. It means that you just aren’t good at being an employee, a tenant, an adult, and a citizen. If you truly cannot function unless someone is assigning and grading your work in a baby blue notebook, do not go back to grad school as an escape back into a campus.
The Cure: Work at a bar. I talk about working in a bar all the time, I think it builds character and humbles one who thinks their degree entitles them to a great life and great job. If you don’t know how to function anywhere but school, you need to have some experience serving others and connecting with people. It is just not true that school is the only thing you’re good at. You can be good at other things too, you just have to try them.
10. You actually just don’t want to go
I don’t know why you are going to grad school, but I’ve been in group projects with you, and you bring my grade down. You can half-ass anything else, but don’t do it with grad school. You’re affecting your peers and taking the spot of someone who actually wants to be there.
The Cure: Do something that makes you fulfilled professionally. Sites love getting writing contributions from people about what they learn and discover at work as long as it’s positive (heck, you can submit to us!). You will feel better instantly, and though the feeling will return, you will get better at finding ways to find your happiness.
11. You want to study Philosphy, French Literature, “Writing,” or some other subject that is kind of useless
Come on. Just read a book or something.