Words of Wisdom: Grad School

Breanne Tepler

As we approach the second half of Fall Semester you may be thinking about graduate school. Let’s take a look at some reasons why you would go to graduate school and then address some reasons why you would wait.

Reasons to go to graduate school:

Unemployment. If you’re looking for jobs and not finding anything that fits your degree and level of experience, grad school might sound appealing. During the great recession of the late 2000s, there was an increase of students entering grad school immediately following their undergraduate program, because it was harder for students to find gainful full-time employment. In Minnesota, the current unemployment rate has been hovering just under 4% which is about 1% less than the national average, which is much better than the 7-8% of 2009. Note: the unemployment rate for students graduating with your specific degree may be different.

Defer student loans. Another reason students were entering grad school immediately after their undergraduate degree during the recession was to defer their educational loans. Not all undergraduate loans defer while you’re in graduate school, but most do and it can be a big motivator for students. Check with your loan servicer for details and stop by OneStop Student Services for information on graduate level borrowing and deferment of loans.

Change in direction. About three years into my bachelor’s degree, I realized I was majoring in the broad area of marketing and business. I felt I wasn’t getting specific skills that employers were looking for: graphic design, e-commerce and media advertising and placement. By the time I realized it, I felt it was too late to double major or add a minor. I was also unable to do an internship because I was working 40 hours a week, doing school full time and raising a child. I decided to cut my losses. I finished my degree and got a job. In grad school, I have been able to focus in a specific area. Over the years, I have gained skills my employers need through training, seminars, conferences and now my graduate degree.

These reasons might be sounding pretty great right now but before you Google graduate programs in Minnesota, take a look at some reasons why you should wait:

Financial. Sure your loans might be able to be deferred, but in graduate school, you will most likely be taking out more loans and at a higher interest rate. Depending on your financial situation, you might be better off working 5-10 years paying down your current student loans before taking out more. Does your current degree and your potential future job qualify for loan forgiveness? If so, you might be better off taking that job and starting the loan forgiveness process before you enter grad school.

No direction. If you’re in your senior year and still not sure what you want to do in life, you should probably not go to graduate school. It might serve you better to do some internships and to start a career in the field that best matches what you’ve currently been working towards. Graduate school is typically a 1-3 year commitment than can cost you thousands of dollars. You will want to make sure your grad degree is in an area you’re passionate about and that it aligns with your career goals.

Program requirements. Some graduate programs require that you have a certain amount of experience to be eligible for admission. Even if it is not required, it would be a good idea to ask the admissions counselor of the program you’re considering what difference it would make if you entered immediately after undergraduate work versus if you had several years of experience first.

Breanne Tepler is an Admissions Counselor in the Office of Graduate & Extended Studies and a current student in the Master’s in Management program.