How To Help Your Student Decide If Graduate School Is Right For Them

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By Madison White, Uloop

Choosing to attend graduate school requires you to weigh multiple factors like career prospects, financial debt, and academic history. With more and more young people earning bachelor’s degrees, your student may feel that they need a master’s degree to stand out from the other applicants. On the other hand, student loan debt is at an all-time high, and while some graduate programs come with stipends and fellowships, your student may need to go into even more debt to pursue this degree. Graduate school is not an easy path, but for certain students, it could be the right one.

1. Consider their academic record

Getting into graduate school is tough. Universities do not usually have graduate programs in every single major meaning that the pool of potential schools is much smaller. In fact, for some particular majors, there may only be a handful of graduate programs in the whole country. While it isn’t necessary to have a perfect academic record to get into graduate school, it will be very difficult to be accepted if their record is poor. If your student has had special circumstances like illness or emergencies that have impacted their grades, making sure that the admissions department knows this information is crucial.

Their academic record may also help you realize how much they enjoy and dedicate themselves to their studies. Graduate school requires a lot of independent learning and long hours, so if your student has struggled to get through their undergraduate degree, it may not be the right path for them.

2. Consider finances

Unfortunately, money will likely play a major factor in their decision about graduate school. Going to grad school is not cheap and most students have to work either part-time or for the university to pay for their tuition and other expenses. They may be able to receive fellowships and stipends, but you shouldn’t rely on these. Competition for this kind of funding is competitive.

It is very likely that your student will have to go into more debt to fund graduate school. If your student already has a significant amount of debt from their undergraduate degree, jumping straight into more debt may not be the smartest financial decision. Of course, if your student is very passionate about graduate school, money should not completely deter them from going, but it may alter where they go to school based on funding options. Check out these smart tips for making graduate school more affordable.

3. Consider their career

Does your student know what they want to do as a career? While they may not have everything figured out yet, there are definitely some careers that are more suited to graduate school than others. Graduate and doctoral students often have careers in research and academia. If your student is interested in these fields, then graduate school may be the next logical choice. Graduate school is meant for specialization and further learning. For some highly technical fields like engineering, graduate school is necessary to qualify for relevant jobs.

However, if your student is planning a career in a professional, but non-specialized field, graduate school may not be right for them. A master’s degree may help them stand out from a sea of undergraduates, but it likely won’t amount to a higher salary or a wildly better position. The years spent in graduate school may be better spent earning experience in a professional role.

Also, some students choose to go to graduate school simply because they have no idea what they want to do in life. This should be avoided because of the financial and mental commitment required for success in graduate school.

4. Consider timing

Because your student likely went to school full-time as an undergraduate, they may feel that graduate school needs to follow suit. On the contrary, more and more people pursue master’s degrees part-time and online. This usually allows them to work full-time while earning their degree through night or online classes. Here are some great tips for understanding online graduate programs.

This could be a great option for your student if they already have employment but still want to pursue a graduate level degree in the future. This kind of graduate program also allows for more flexibility and experimentation, so if your student is still cautious about whether graduate school is right for them, going part-time or online could be a smart choice. Check out these smart ways to help manage working and going to school.

It is difficult to decide between diving into a competitive job market or an equally competitive graduate admissions system. The decision to go to graduate school means that you and your student will have to think realistically about their future career prospects. Ultimately, it is important that they choose what is best for them and their future happiness.

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