3 Tips for Deciding if Grad School is Worth the Trouble

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
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Deciding to go to grad school is a tough decision to make.

If you’re in college, it can often seem like grad school is a natural step, even if your plan is to start work soon after.

On the other hand, you don’t have to look far to find horror stories of people who have decided to go to grad school wound up deciding the whole thing was a mistake.

So how do you decide whether or not going on to grad school is the right choice for you?

We’ve put together a few tips to help you figure out how to make this tough decision on your own.


1. Why Are You Going to Grad School?

Before you make any decision, you have to think about why you’re going to grad school.

And if you don’t immediately have a good reason, then you should probably just skip it entirely.

The thing about grad school is that any amount of additional schooling is going to be expensive:

The deeper you get, the more loans you’re going to be taking out, and the longer it will take you to start working and start paying those loans off.

There are a lot of excellent reasons to go to grad school.

If you plan on being an educator, for example, you’re going to need at least a master’s for most positions, if not a PhD.

Additionally, certain jobs require master’s degrees, and even having one in an industry where it isn’t required can give you a leg up in terms of getting promoted or getting paid.

But if you’re not clear on all of this from the get-go, or you’re just using grad school as extra time to “find yourself,” then watch out.

You’re going to find yourself getting in quickly over your head with an education you don’t need in an industry that’s just fine without you.

2. The Big Problem: Paying For Grad School

The biggest problem with getting additional education is, of course, having to pay for it.

There is a student loan crisis in the US right now.

Student loan debts are rising dramatically, and defaulting on those loans can result in disciplinary action such as increased interest rates or even the cancellation of any certifications you might have until such time that you’re able to make payments again.

Student loan providers have a lot of power over the average debt-holder, so owing debt is not a situation you want to be in for long if you can help it.

But there are a few things you can do to keep costs down:

  • Figure out early on what a school’s tuition will cost you, along with any hidden fees that might exist. Then put together a budget — can you really cover these expenses along with the ones that you’re going to have outside of these, like basic living or medical expenses?
  • If the reason you’re getting additional education is purely to increase your earning potential, figure out what that potential is up front. Will the increased earnings be enough to cover the additional debt payments you’ll be stuck with once school is over? And are the skills you’re going to be learning things that you would have picked up regardless while on the job?
  • If you can, just don’t pay for it at all — find a place where scholarships will totally cover all of your debts to the school., or where tuition itself is free. Those places are scarce, but they are out there.

3. What Does Being “Worth It” Mean to You?

Ultimately, you are the ultimate decider of the “worth” of your graduate degree.

That’s because the true value of an education is largely intangible — if the education itself is valuable to you, then it’s already worth the cost.

Of course, not everybody thinks about it in those terms — to many, an education is just a stepping stone on a way to a good job.

What’s more, the cost of getting an education today has made the whole process into something very high stakes.

To recap, here are a few good reasons to get graduate-level education:

  • If you’re reasonably sure that getting one will increase your earning potential down the line.
  • If you can go about getting this education in a way that doesn’t ruin you financially.
  • If you require the education for a job you want.
  • If you really want to have the education.

Wrapping Up:

It’s perhaps a little underwhelming to answer “is it worth it to get an education?” with just the answer “if it’s worth it to you,” but it really is something that you have to decide for yourself.

No one can really make that decision for you.

But if you’re the kind of person for whom an education is just an investment, then the answer is easy.

“Is grad school going to be worth the investment?”

No. Almost never.

There are obvious exceptions, but for the most part, you’re just going to accrue more and more debt while not working.

And to be frank, if the only reason why you’re in grad school is to make more money later on, the people around you probably won’t want you there anyways.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Big Tips For (Avoiding) Lying On Your Resume
3 Interview Tips on How to Talk About Fast Paced Work Environments
3 Tips for Keeping Your Professional Portfolio Tight

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