You don’t know much about me, just what you can glean from my writing. Let me give you the skinny. I graduated with a four-year degree in English and Spanish approximately a year and a half ago. If you know anything about the English degree, you know how flexible it is, and you would safely bet that I have been asked about a million times if I want to teach.
Up until recently, the answer was a resounding “no;” if you’re curious, that is.
Post grad, I did a gap year and change, worked a couple of jobs and did a little traveling. Mostly, this happened by accident, but it was also somewhat purposeful. My goal in life is to experience as much of the world as I can, take tons of pictures, and write enough to fill several books. However, I didn’t bet on how bad I am at job hunting or how difficult it would be to narrow my field of searching.
If you haven’t struggled to find work after graduating college, then let me give you a very brief overview: it sucks, easily one of the worst experiences of my life. After nine months of searching, I finally found a year long position, which has me thinking about grad school.
As I implied earlier, my answer to the teaching question has changed, as have my feelings on grad school. This should be no surprise, since I would need to go back to school in order to teach either way.
Thus, after this painfully long and rambling introduction, I am going to share some of the pros and cons of grad school, at least in my consideration.
- You are paying for this yourself. I was lucky enough to not have to put much toward my undergrad experience because my parents and grandma are rockstars. This may not be true for you, but it is painfully obvious to me that higher education is going to seriously impact my travel fund or “savings” account.
- It’s freaking expensive. If you have done any research on grad school, you will know that it is not cheap. I went to private school for undergrad, so grad school is really not that bad, all things considered. However, I am paying for it myself, so it definitely feels more real. In this case, it doesn’t pay to be smart or want another degree.
- It’s intense, not just difficult. Undergrad wasn’t super difficult for me to begin with, but then I changed my major to English and had to cram 3 English classes into a semester, not once, but twice. If you don’t know what that means, let me break it down: at least 200 pages of reading a night and about a paper a week. The way I understand it, grad school will be worse.
- It requires dedication. You have to be seriously committed to this. Not only is it hard and expensive, you generally have to work while you’re doing it, and if you’re cool, unlike me, you have a social life on top of that. Priorities have to be rearranged and good times must be sacrificed. Sounds fun, right?
- Do you have career goals? If not, you should probably reconsider. Because, did I mention it’s expensive? A lot of people go back to school because they don’t know what else to do, which is probably a waste of time and money. It’s bad enough to do that in undergrad, but grad school is much more focused and intensive. If you don’t have a plan, you should probably take some more time to think about what you want rather than wasting time and money to get a highly specific, likely irrelevant degree that you won’t use. At least if you have some sort of plan, you have a vague idea of what you’re getting yourself into and have a reason for getting said degree.
- Higher education generally indicates specialization, which is cool. I already mentioned that grad school is intensive and focused. To me, that’s really cool. I’m thinking about a Masters in ESL, so I’d get to work with a very specific group of people who are diverse in pretty much every way you could imagine and specialize in teaching and English grammar. To me, that seems interesting, and the more I think about it, the more excited I get, which seems like a good sign.
- A higher degree usually means higher pay. After shelling out all of that money, you do get the added benefit of paying those loans back faster because your paycheck will probably be heftier, which means your standard of living goes up. Yay! I get to replenish my travel fund, I mean… “savings” account.
- Sometimes, the only option is to go back to school. There are some professions that don’t really give you much choice. I’ve already said that this is pretty much my only option. I don’t have to get my master’s degree, but the only other option is to go back for another bachelor’s, and why do that when I would get to specialize and probably make more money right off the bat?
I’m not sure how helpful this will be to you, but I know how much it sucks to be stuck in between. I know many millennials are thinking about grad school because that seems like the only way to get ahead in a sea of bachelor’s degrees with the same extracurriculars, internships, and volunteer work as you.
All I know is, I like the possibilities I am facing because they are challenging, exciting, and rewarding. However, remember to keep some of those cons in mind, because it’s important to know what you want and what you are willing to sacrifice for your future.