The Graduate? What to consider when looking at grad school

Not everyone wants to think about grad school. If it wasn’t in your school career plan from the get-go, following up school with, well, more school might not sound like the most thrilling choice. Despite these hesitations, we must recognize it as a worthy option. Whether you’re a math major or a music major, grad school offers opportunities that you couldn’t get elsewhere. Here are a few things to consider before looking into applying:

Make sure you can afford it.

It’s fair to say that this is one of the most critical points to consider when exploring grad school. Let’s not lie to ourselves: college is freakin’ expensive. We pay a lot for college in the U.S. Hell, we’re culturally conscious of concepts like “student debt” and “student loans” years before we even start college! Because of this, it’s important to be sure we can afford going to grad school. Be prepared and make sure to look into options to keep yourself monetarily secure, whether that means looking into scholarships, grants, jobs, or searching for buried treasure.

Be aware of making the time for it.

Remember that you’re not just paying for grad school in terms of money, but also your time, focus, and energy. You aren’t just paying more for a better degree—you’re also going to be spending a lot of time furthering your knowledge and dedicating your time to improving your craft. It’s around four more years of working toward your goals, and it’s important to make sure you can make the time for more years of school.

Do you want to go exploring?

Be willing to let your study take you to new places physically—not just mentally. Portland is awesome, but is it the best place for your grad studies? You should never be afraid to explore new places for grad school. Perhaps there might be schools that could better suit what you’re looking for in your focus of study, or perhaps you just need a change of scenery. At the same time, maybe Portland is the best place for you for any reason or combination of reasons. In which case, that’s great too! You’ll still be near your favorite food carts!

Figure out what you are looking to get out of grad school.

Only thing you should absolutely try to do is go into grad school with goals and expectations for yourself. Having a defined idea of what you want to get out of grad school is valuable as a tool to use toward your own success and self-betterment. There are a lot of great reasons to go to grad school—dedicated peers and professors, furthering your studies, helping give your education more structure. Just be sure you know why you want to go to grad school and what you want to get out of it. And of course, be mindful that these goals might change.

Do you feel like your study is complete?

This may seem like a joke question to some, but it’s not. Many of my friends who are in or looking into grad school have expressed one of the reasons they looked into grad school was a feeling that they weren’t finished with college. I don’t mean the campus life, but the academic side. They didn’t feel like they were done with their focus in college because it provided a great framework to push themselves further.

If you’re torn, remember you don’t necessarily need to start right away.

While it’s always best to strike while the iron is hot, don’t be afraid to give yourself some time and space away from college before approaching grad school. It might offer you some valuable insight into your focus and if grad school would work for you.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to go ahead and, to quote the cross-creative artist Shia LaBeouf, DO IT!