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When Should You Go to Grad School?

May 03, 2012

Is there a 'right' time to attend grad school? Yes... and no. If you're weighing grad school now vs. later, this guide can help you make the right decision.

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By Sarah Wright

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Now or Later?

The answer to whether sooner is better for grad school attendance depends on a few factors. Careful consideration of what you need to do to achieve your goals can provide the answer for you. If your goals don't have a specific timeline, thinking carefully about what you really want might help you decide. This list of factors will help you make a decision.

What is Required?

One of the most important things to consider when timing your grad school attendance is the career or discipline you're interested in. If you want to become a doctor, you should probably go to med school as soon as you can, since medical education takes so long to complete.

On the other hand, some fields, like business, require a little hands-on experience first. Though some business master's degree programs don't have specific work requirements, other programs require applicants to have spent a certain amount of time, usually a few years, working in the business world. Executive programs might require applicants to be currently serving in a leadership role within a corporation or small company. Do your research early and find out what kind of prerequisites and time commitments your desired education requires.

Are You Ready?

Have you ever thought that you might have been better prepared for undergraduate school if you had taken some time off first? Some people end up looking back on their undergraduate experience and regret not taking time off between high school and college. This might be the case for you with graduate school if you decide to enter immediately after college graduation. Think about whether a few more years of school is really what's best for you. Time off to enter the job force might help you get a better idea of what your intended career path is really like.

Is Grad School Going to Get You Where You Want to Go?

This is something you should think deeply about, especially if you will incur any debt from attending a graduate program. Are your goals attainable without a graduate degree? Are there any jobs you'd actually want to do that require the degree you're planning to earn? Do you know enough about what your options will be after you earn the degree? If you don't know the answers to these questions, you should find out before committing to more school. The answers might make you decide to wait a few years to get a better idea of what you want from life.

Will it Hurt to Wait?

If time isn't of the essence, you might decide to take a few years off just to recharge your intellectual batteries. You might be intellectually and emotionally ready for more school, but it's possible that doing something else for a few years might help you gain new skills and see life from a different perspective. Of course, if you're absolutely sure of what you want to do, and grad school really is the only way to get there, it isn't a bad idea to get all of your education done in one go. But some time off working a non-academic job might help you build up a cushion of cash to dip into while you're in school. It might also help you gain a new appreciation for the joys of learning.

Before deciding when to go, you should probably consider whether grad school is the right choice for you.

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