You’ve put in somewhere between four and six years into your undergrad and you’re now considering other options for the following year.
The educational journey for some students ends once they finish their undergrad. Others may consider completing a second degree or doing a post-graduate certificate.
“Some employers may be looking for candidates with more hands-on experience and additional academic qualification my actually be a hindrance to employment.”
—Cam Mitchell, PhD student, McMaster University
Others, though, decide that they haven’t had enough of the trials and tribulations of university life, and apply to graduate school.
The best way to determine if grad school is right for you is to talk to people—your family, your friends and your professors—to find out what their experiences have been.
Unfortunately for me, as a first generation student, there wasn’t anyone in my immediate family I could seek counsel from, and it was the same for my extended family as well. I did my research, talked to my profs, and asked people I knew who went to grad school. I applied last fall, and despite good grades and references, my referees and I were shocked by the fact I wasn’t accepted.
There are plenty of reasons why pursuing a graduate degree may not be a good idea for you, based on what you want to do afterward, and this includes job prospects, finances and your mental health.
Lars Hedlund, a masters student in English at the University of Calgary, says that grad school “…is by far the worst stress/life/work balance I have ever had to work through. At many points it is unbearable, at other points it feels manageable.
“I suppose it all adds to a greater sense of accomplishment in the end, but really, my advice would be, if you’re not sure if you want to do grad school DO NOT force yourself into it. It definitely requires the motivation and a little bit of time off before tackling. That isn’t to say you can’t be successful at it going straight in, I just wouldn’t recommend it.”
Similarly, Cam Mitchell, a McMaster University kinesiology PhD student, believes that “most graduate students…get some sort of basic funding support however, in most cases the level of support students receive is much less then they would receive in most entry-level potions. For a two-year masters, this may be a relatively minor consideration, but for a combination Masters, PhD, postdoc (seven-plus years) the effects of a prolonged period of “student living” must be carefully considered.
“Another disadvantage is the possibility of becoming over-qualified. Some employers may be looking for candidates with more hands-on experience and additional academic qualification my actually be a hindrance to employment.”
However, there are many reasons why grad school can also be a good idea: it can allow you to learn more about a specific area of interest, teach you better research and writing skills, and a sense of community with other students.
The University of Western Ontario student Marcus Callaghan, who is completing his masters at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, says, “One of the major pros of grad school (that is often overlooked) is that you have the opportunity to share in the knowledge and ideas of many other students in your field. If there’s an idea that you’re working out, or a source that you haven’t read, there is a great chance that one of your peers will be able to contribute some sort of helpful information to your problem. There is a lot of discussion and idea sharing going on in graduate programs.
“Along this same line of thought, having so many experienced students gathered together makes it easy to get help with editing, CVs, and scholarship applications.”
The bottom line: if you are considering going to graduate school give it a lot of thought since the programs are demanding and the application process is arduous and expensive.