Grad school can be a big step forward. But, is it the right step?
Once you’ve completed your undergrad, is a master’s the direction you’d like to pursue? Should you jump right into the next level or should you weigh your options a little longer?
Here are five important things to think about as you weigh the grad school option.
1. Do you want to work while studying?
While enrolled in a post-grad level program, it will be difficult to hold down a full-time job or maybe any job at all. Some students, however, don’t have a choice.
If you want to work, look very carefully at your grad school options. Some grad programs channel their resources into day classes; you’ll have a demanding course load and only have off-peak working hours available.
But, there are programs designed for adult professionals. These flexible degrees may allow you to take your classes in the evening after work, or they might be 100% online.
2. If your degree puts your work life on hold, will any work be available on campus?
Additionally, you can investigate the possibility of graduate or teaching assistant or positions to enrolled students. If such work is available, call a program adviser to see the chances of getting a position. International students should check their visa requirements before committing to any paid work in a host country.
3. Should you consider an online graduate degree?
If you would prefer the most flexible option -- online classes -- make sure that your degree will not only allow you to work while you study, but also enhance your career after graduation. Online degrees are not always respected by employers, so be sure that any online degree you apply to has features that are valued in the job market.
There are also part-time and flexi-time options available in an increasing number of disciplines, including top MBA programs. If an online degree doesn’t offer the prestige you desire, you may be able to combine remote learning with occasional campus work. Although this sometimes incurs greater costs, it may be the best option for your situation.
4. What entrance exams must you take?
Graduate school entrance exams are a hurdle most applicants face. You may need to spend months preparing for an exam such as the GRE or GMAT, and fees for these exams cost hundreds of dollars.
The good news is that not all graduate programs actually require the GRE. When considering graduate school, carefully compare programs that require the GRE or GMAT against programs that don’t. Consider the merits of each program alongside the potential investment and time spent on these exams. If it has been a few years since your undergrad, spending time in test preparation can actually enhance the analytical skills needed to make the most of graduate-level education.
As a bonus, many programs take test scores into account when determining scholarship packages for top performers.
If you are considering a master’s degree in a business-related field, you’re faced with an interesting decision: GRE or GMAT. Graduate programs in business commonly require the GMAT. But, in recent years, many business schools have begun accepting the GRE as an alternative. The GMAT vs GRE choice should be weighed carefully.
Most MBA applicants apply to multiple schools and the GRE may not be accepted by each of those programs. If you can choose between the two, consider the unique features of each exam, and opt for the test you can do best in.
5. How much do you love your field?
This may be the most important thing to think about if you are considering graduate school. Many people go through their undergraduate degree primarily to get a job. They don’t love school, but they see it as a worthwhile step in their career. It’s hard to keep this kind of motivation up forever though.
If you don’t love your field, it can be surprisingly hard to stay motivated and complete your graduate degree. Of course, with a few years of work experience under your belt, you can also use a master’s to change course. For the sake of your long-term success, make sure that any grad degree you start is one that you will love enough to finish.
Ready to apply for an international grad school degree?
Prodigy Finance helps international students pursuing their master's degrees with loans for top universities across the globe. You might just be next.
Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Post updated for accuracy and freshness on October 9, 2019. Originally published on July 22, 2016.
David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent.