Should I Go to Grad School?

You may have happened upon this site because you’re wondering, should I go to grad school?

Short answer: NO

OK, there are good reasons to go to grad school. By and large, I don’t think most people need advanced degrees, but if you are considering going to grad school, I really would recommend going only in the following situations:

  1. You need it for a job you know you already like. Obviously, if your job requires an advanced degree, you’ll have to get one. But too many times, people go get a degree for a job they end up not liking very much (especially true for teachers). It’s infinitely wiser to get the job first and see if going back to school is necessary (your employer might even pay for it if they want you to have the degree).
  2. You are independently wealthy. If you have a lot of money and you want to spend a few years exploring the life of the mind, go for it. (I’m looking at you, James Franco.)
  3. You are only getting the Masters. Getting the MA is a slippery slope. Once you’re in there, you may be persuaded that you want to go on for the PhD. Be careful.***
  4. You already have some “real world” experience. Going straight through from undergrad to grad school is a huge mistake for several reasons. First, you haven’t explored the world of work (which can be very liberating). Second, undergrads have a very hard and painful transition when they become grad students. Grad school is nothing like being an undergraduate. It will mess with your head and every good memory of being an undergrad that you possess.

Smug people in the STEM disciplines will tell you that this is just a humanities problem, but from what I’ve read and heard from STEM professors, they are seeing the same issues now – too many candidates, too many theoretical skills – and a few humanities people don’t have – i.e. too few social skills, terrible interviewing skills. Most employers want people with work experience and who aren’t total nut bars – grad school is not good at fulfilling either of these requirements.

***Caveat: You should always apply to grad school as if you are going to be going for the PhD, even if you’re only planning for go for the MA. Why? Because often MA-only students are not eligible for funding as MA programs are “cash cows” (a direct quote from several administrators I know).

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