On your social media timelines, you may see many of your friends getting ready to leave for grad school. On your web browser, many tabs are offering scholarship and places in top grad school. It seems like taking another degree is the normal thing to do, something that everyone does. But, is it really time to leave your current life behind and go back to school? Our contributor, Hanryano, shares his thoughts and experience in deciding whether it’s the right time to leave the cubicle for library and late night studying sessions.
For you who have secured a decent full-time job, there must be times when the thought of pursuing graduate studies, particularly overseas, crossed your mind. However, this is an uncharted territory where pursuing a further education might cost you your job, financial security, early career advancement, distance from family and friends, and many other opportunity costs. In comparison to the penultimate college year, there are factors that now weigh you down. Within this article I will lie down three misconceptions which are considered signs when the odds are in favor of you taking graduate study.
- 1. Work Termination
In the downturn of oil and gas industry several years ago, many friends of mine were laid off and in dire need of getting a job. With the industry in the middle of collapse, recruitments were scarce and a lot of employees were moving to non-technical roles despite their technical background and prior experience. At that time, some of them had the thought to pursue graduate studies, putting heavy emphasis on the low possibility of securing a job. However, master’s degree or a PhD takes arduous process, months of preparation, decision, until the program commence and more often than not the schools will ask about post-termination activities which will drag your application down if you only mention graduate school preparation.
- Despising Current Job
Unhealthy environment, too-strict or too-lax (yes, some people cannot handle too much freedom), internal scandal, or boredom may trigger you to leave a job. Or worse, the change along the way when dream job several years ago has turned into an excruciating day to day mundane routine or exciting projects turned into mental and physical pain due to sleepless nights. Some of us might not be able to take it anymore. This leads to graduate school as an exit strategy. As a person who are currently employed, I would take a step back and break down all the negative factors about the job. Then, sort the possible solutions. Sometimes, a short break or a career move can be another solution. Let’s think it this way, once you have decided to go on for graduate school, it will take a lot of time, money, and energy. The absence of one or more will cause a great blow to your application. So, when you are really lethargic due to peak season, put graduate school on the bottom list. You will find no time and energy to finish those essays anyway.
- Career Blockage
Certain organizations have rules to require people to have an advanced degree (master’s or PhD) in order to move up the corporate ladder. However, this can be a major issue when you already have kids and settled down. Moving your entire family to a far-flung place where steady stream of income might not exist is daunting. Some people then opted to do part time degree while they are still working. This will affect the quality of your work and your study. Some will try an ‘easy’ program where graduation is certain and grades are based on presence. The last one is particularly detrimental to the company, since the reason to put the restriction in place was to ensure that only higher-qualified candidates will receive promotion, instead of mere administrative issue. When the quality of your graduate degree is questionable, it won’t bring enough benefit to the organization you are working for.
When you have really decluttered all the hurdles, and still have graduate school in your head, that means you might be ready to take it. But, are you?
First of all, time management is the key. Working full time while making a graduate school application is difficult. Not to mention when you are applying to several different schools. Set the target, set the deadlines, and work your way through it. When you are also pursuing scholarships or financial assistance, put the same treatment as you do with your applications.
Second, do not underestimate the financial burden you will face, even with a scholarship. That medical check-up ain’t free, and nor do standardized tests. People taking GMAT or GRE will possibly have their second or third or even fourth time taking the test before really sure that the score is the best they can get. Bear in mind when you make application for schools overseas, they charge application fee accordingly. So, more schools meaning more cost to spare.
Ultimately things can and will go wrong for many reasons, if you are the typical alpha-person who rarely not getting what you want, this time make a contingency plan. Top schools accept people from all over the world and you will compete with the best and brightest from everywhere. Do not let one rejection put you down. Get up and always stay at the top of your game.