|California State University, Sacramento Department of Sociology|
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Reasons to Consider Graduate School
So, you think you are burned out with school. Take a deep breath and consider the possibilities I pose to you in the minutes it takes to read this page. You may be a returning student who has spent the last three years rising early and staying up late in the library. Or, you might be a senior anticipating graduation and vowing never to crack open another book again, especially of the boring academic genre. On the other hand, you may be a freshman who has committed yourself to finish your baccalaureate degree in four years or less and take the labor market by storm. Well good luck! Presently we are in an economic crisis, none of the current indicators present an optimistic picture of the job market. Just pick up your local paper or catch a glimpse of the national news. I am not just trying to scare you. However, you should strongly consider going beyond your baccalaureate studies and pursue an advanced degree.
Advanced studies include professional schools like medicine, law and graduate programs. Professional schools provide our doctors and lawyers with the knowledge and skills they need for practice in their fields. Along with professional degrees, there are certifications in clinical and technical skills. Another area of advanced studies includes a variety of academic degrees such as master’s degrees, doctor of philosophy degrees, and doctor of education degrees. These credentials can prove to be highly advantageous to individuals who want to gain higher pay, broader benefits, prestige, and make a difference.
There are a number of reasons to say yes to graduate school. Advanced academic and professional degrees will make you more competitive in today’s labor market. Many corporate and managerial positions require advanced degrees for their applicants. With an advanced degree you will broaden your occupational options significantly. Persons with advanced degrees have a number of advantages over people who settle for baccalaureate degrees. They tend to receive higher pay, have more comprehensive benefits, and are awarded more prestige than baccalaureates.
APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL
SELECTING A GRADUATE SCHOOL
There may also be a number of distractions in these areas not found on a similar scale in a small college town. Small town campuses tend to define the municipality itself. In a “college town,” students must drive a considerable distance to find the kind of night-life almost always found in larger cities. This option presents fewer distractions for students who wrestle between academic studies and having a social life. Small town campuses are also good for families. Many graduate students will find affordable housing and schools to meet their needs and those of their loved ones.
Finally, select a program that provides financial support to its graduate students. For students pursuing their master’s degree, graduate programs often offer fee waivers and assistantships. Fee waivers enable students to attend college without having to pay tuition. However, fee waivers do not include other fees. Assistantships, on the other hand, are a form of employment in an academic department. You may work with a faculty member on their research or in their classes. If you don’t ask you won’t know. This information is not always explicitly available to applicants to graduate programs. Only if you ask the right questions will you benefit from the available resources for graduate studies. Another source of funding is grants. The beautiful thing about grants is that they are not paid back. These are financial benefits paid to students of all types: racial and ethnic minority grants, academic grants, grants for women, and many others. Ask your graduate coordinator, advisor or graduate college for more information. Finally, master’s students can apply for loans. Unlike grants and fee waivers, loans are repaid to the lending institution. Grants can be either supplemental or to defray the total cost of attending graduate school. Some states have “forgivable loan programs,” ask your graduate coordinator for information about forgivable loans. If you have a desire to attend graduate school you can. Now is the best time to make a choice to do so. A college education is not getting any cheaper.
SURVIVING GRADUATE SCHOOL
A second tip is to develop collegial relationships with other graduate students. Students who have been in the program are an invaluable resource. In-coming graduate students can greatly benefit from the experiences of their predecessors. However, a word of caution is warranted in this regard. Not every graduate student who came to the program before your arrival can provide you with the guidance and advice you need to succeed. There are some questions that are best answered by the graduate program director or coordinator depending specific to their graduate program. It is some times most advisable to consult with your graduate advisor about specific academic degree requirements in your program.
Manage your education like you would a multinational corporation. You are the chief executive officer (CEO). So, take an active role in determining your own future. Some goals will only be realized with the preparation an advanced degree program will provide. Sick of school; get over it! Learning is a life-long process; make every opportunity count. Go for your dreams!