10 Things to Consider if You're Thinking About Grad School
I’m halfway finished my first year of graduate school and it’s no joke. Being a first generation student, I felt so lost and confused when it came to graduate school. I knew I wanted to pursue my Master’s degree while I was in Undergrad but I didn’t know what to expect nor how to prepare. During my junior year of undergrad, I began asking all my older friends for advice and watched a million and one YouTube videos.
After being overwhelmed from hearing everyone’s experience I prayed and finally came to the conclusion that I needed to prepare myself mentally, spiritually and to go into grad school ready to be 100% committed. A semester later, I finished with a 3.7 GPA. Preparing for Grad school is so much more than the academics, it’s a sacrifice and a commitment in almost every aspect of your life. If you’re considering grad school (specifically for your Master’s) here’s 10 things you should consider.
What is your why? Make sure you’re doing this because it aligns with your purpose and it’s not just to look good on Instagram and LinkedIn. You may have a professional or personal reason for choosing to pursue a graduate degree. Identify that reason and remind yourself of it every day.
Will you pursue your degree online or in person? Bruh, I totally underestimated online classes, for real. When I first found out I had to take an online class in my first semester, I had a panic attack. I had both great and bad experiences with online classes in Undergrad and I didn’t want to chance it my first semester. Truth is, you have to choose whichever option will help you stay committed to your program. I’m one of those “I have to be face-to-face” people but I actually ended up loving my online class being that I was able to save gas, time and do my work on my own time. Write out a pro/con T chart if it’s hard for you to choose.
Will you commute or live in graduate housing? Y’all to be completely honest commuting to grad school is SO different than commuting to Undergrad. Depending on your program, most classes will be held at night which means you’re going to hit that 5-6pm rush hour traffic. Make a decision based on your financial situation and what work’s best for you mentally. Side note* I drove 45 mins-1 hour 3 days a week my first semester and it was a lot mentally, physically and financially. By the time I got to class, I was ready to go home! Look up graduate housing on-campus and off campus, try to find Facebook groups of other graduate students and if you choose to commute make a plan to save for gas and beat traffic.
Are you going to work full-time or part-time? Sheesssh. This is where it gets real. Deciding if you’re going to pursue grad school while working full-time is the question most of us ask ourselves. I worked part-time my first semester to see how I could balance my work and 1 month before my semester ended I landed my full-time position. This is a personal decision, but it also depends on your program. My program is designed for full-time workers so we have classes that are offered 6-9pm, on weekends (Saturday and/or Sunday) and hybrid courses- some weeks online, some in person. (my fav!) At the end of the day, it comes down to your time management skills and financial situation.
Does your field require professional experience? Some people like my good friend Sammie who’s at grad school studying for her Doctorates in Physical Therapy almost have to go to grad school (depending on your industry) and some people choose to go for other reasons. I personally am in grad school because it’s a personal goal of mine as a first generation student and entrepreneur (and because I loveeee learning).
Are you ready for the commitment? Grad school is no joke- literally. You will have 30-page readings that you can’t finesse as we did in Undergrad. If you get chosen on to discuss the weekly analysis in front of the class and you have no idea what’s going on you’re going to look like a fool. You have to read, submit assignments ON TIME and be present (mentally + physically). There’s no room for finessing in grad school.
What does your program have to offer? Besides the classes, what does your program have to offer? Is it the location? The prestige? Are there assistantship programs offered for you to work full-time while having your tuition paid in full? Write down 7 things your program has to offer outside of the classroom.
How will you pay for it? Financial aid, scholarships? loans? If financial aid is your choice, make sure you do your research. Once you have a bachelors, financial aid is stingy with their money. Go to the Financial Aid office at your Graduate school and ask about graduate assistantship programs, scholarships for graduate students and loans specifically for grads. Also, contact the Dean of your program for information on Teacher and Research Assistant positions that can help you network and earn extra cash.
Do you have a strong support system? Grad school is a financial, spiritual and mental challenge. You will need a support system of family, friends and spiritual sisters/brothers to keep you grounded. Even if it’s one person, it counts. Know that God is your Source and the Word of God is the plug. That’s your 1st support system.
How will your degree benefit you? You may not know the answer to this now and that’s totally okay. Just know you are what you make your graduate experience. Hard work will pay off. Just because you can’t see the fruit of your labor while in the process of studying and working doesn’t mean grad school isn’t for you. Remember to walk by faith and not by sight. God will help you use your Degree to walk in your purpose.