For many undergraduate students, the question of whether to attend graduate school weighs heavily on the mind. Such a choice, like any, has pros and cons.
Graduate school is a financial investment. More than that, however, it is a major time commitment. This precious time could be used to work full-time to earn some much-needed money and advance one’s professional life. Do the benefits of attending graduate school outweigh these sacrifices?
Beyond investments of time and money, graduate school also can be emotionally challenging. The general environment of undergraduate life differs greatly and in many ways from that of graduate school. It’s harder to make friends in graduate school or even feel like a part of your school. At the University of Dallas, it’s easy to feel like a part of a whole, but in graduate school, people tend to feel more like individual parts that do not seem to fit in anywhere. Many graduate students struggle with loneliness, a feeling compounded by their demanding schedule. Graduate students spend most of their time either studying or working to pay off debts, leaving little time for social life of any kind.
Graduate school can also put a strain on a relationship. A recently published article by Scott Jaschik on the website Inside Higher Ed discusses the problems common to graduate students regardless of their school. In this article, Jaschik speaks of the “one-body problem.” This term refers to the difficult situation in which one spouse or partner has to assume the financial burden of the other person in the relationship because he is attending graduate school. This burden takes its toll on both people.
Though these cons present valid arguments and complaints, many of the issues raised are no different from those associated with pursuing higher education of any kind. For example, consider the objection that many students feel that their friends who decided against graduate school are passing them by, with steady jobs and income. The point of graduate school, however, is not to have immediate gratification. Far from it. Graduate school pays off in the long run. It requires a passion for what you are learning, a deep interest in your field, and enjoyment of your studies. Without these crucial elements, graduate school will not only be very difficult, but almost meaningless.
Most UD students have that passion for knowledge, which is why so many choose that path. It may not even be a question of career advancement, although that is the most common reason for attending graduate school. Love of knowledge and a desire to learn more should be the driving force behind the decision. Of course, there is the risk that even after graduate school, a job may not be readily available, since most employers will probably not be clamoring for someone with a master’s in English. But there are risks associated with taking any step in life. And as long as that step seems worth it, drawbacks should not prevent you from doing what you love.