Should You Go to Grad School? (The Best and Worst Reasons to Attend a Graduate Program)

Should I go to grad school? How do I know if grad school is worth it? How do I know graduate school is right for me?

These are questions many college graduates have at least considered, and chances are, if you found yourself reading this blog post, you’re considering them too.

You’re probably debating if the time, money, and stress of a graduate program are worth it.

Maybe your current employer offers tuition reimbursement, so you’re wondering if you should take advantage of that benefit.

Or, perhaps you landed here because you’re curious why anyone in their right mind would choose to go back to school when they’re already working.

To be perfectly honest with you, I’m currently enrolled in the Communication and Organizational Leadership Studies graduate program at Gonzaga University.

However, the decision to apply to a graduate program took me a year to make.

I don’t think graduate school is for everyone, and I think that’s totally ok.

As a parent to three kids, full-time employee, volunteer worship leader, freelancer, and wannabe homesteader, making the decision to spend my free time back in school wasn’t an easy one.

So, like any good student, I researched.

I spoke with people who took this route, and I spoke with those who didn’t.

There were several nights when the glow from my phone or computer warmed my face as I researched graduate programs and got sucked into a black hole of discovery as I unearthed who was really getting paid from listing the top 50 colleges and universities in 2022 on Google.

I went down an #academictwitter rabbit hole one too many times but found my way out.

I’ve concluded that there are some great reasons for you to attend graduate school, and there are some downright horrible reasons.

So, let’s dive into the best and worst reasons to attend graduate school.

And if you were hoping to discover which master’s program would be the perfect fit for you, well, may the force be with you.

3 Great Reasons to Attend Graduate School

1. You Know Exactly What You Want to Study

If someone came up to you right now and asked you, what do you want to study, would you have an answer?

You’d be surprised how many people begin the process of continuing their education without any type of clarity.

What is it that makes you curious? What do you enjoy learning about?

Your graduate program doesn’t need to align with what you’re currently doing, but it should be something you genuinely enjoy learning about.

When I did an audit of the work I truly enjoyed doing since I was a teenager, I found that the string holding them all together was communication and leadership.

I’m still thanking God for removing the MBA ambition from my heart.

When I finally found clarity, my decision to apply to graduate school became infinitely easier to make.

What do you want to study? Will you enjoy being immersed in that topic for a couple of years?

Your graduate program doesn’t need to align with what you’re currently doing, but it should be something you genuinely enjoy learning about.

2. Your Career Path Needs the Master’s Degree

There’s no getting around this. Some careers just need a Master’s degree in order to be able to really work in the field.

Some jobs that require a Master’s degree are licensed social workers, therapists, school counselors, nurse practitioners, school administrators, teaching at the college level, etc.

The list could really go on for quite a while, so I’ll stop there, but if this is you, I get it, and there isn’t much to add.

A better question to ask yourself is, is the required Master’s degree worth it? Or perhaps, will I still enjoy my job in 10-15 years?

I have a great friend who went down this path, and less than five years after graduating with her Master’s and receiving her license has decided she needs to leave the industry and start over.

Before enrolling in a higher education program because ‘it’s the next step,’ consider if it’s the next step you really want to take.

3. You Want to Become an Expert/Authority

This is an interesting one.

With our influencer culture, it’s easy for people to share their opinion and even get some notoriety for it.

But, that doesn’t make you an authority on the matter.

It’s true that experience in a field of study gives you clout. Experience will teach you things you will never learn in a classroom or through writing a research paper.

But, people are becoming more and more aware that the voices they are hearing on their social media platforms may not be as informed as they once thought they were.

I believe we will see a new wave of expert and authority voices coming from those with postgraduate degrees and higher education as mainstream audiences tire of loud personality-built voices.

We will see a new wave of expert and authority voices coming from those with postgraduate degrees as mainstream audiences tire of loud personality-built voices.

The time and money you spend investing in your continued education will inevitably become an investment in building future trust from your intended audience.

If you’re looking to be a ‘voice’ in an industry, a graduate program can be a very good idea.

3 Horrible Reasons to Attend Graduate School

1. You Don’t Know What You Want to Study

Is it a waste of time and money to enroll in a vague graduate program? Most likely.

In this case, clarity is your friend.

Applying for graduate school when you’re still uncertain about what you really want to study will send you in circles.

I hemmed and hawed for an extended period of time because at some level, I didn’t truly know what I wanted to spend my life doing.

Time, reflection, and self assessment helped me come to terms with my strengths, skills, and passion. It’s in that triad where I finally felt secure and, honestly, excited about what I would study and how it could be used in my current career and future projects.

Take the time you need to figure out what your sweet spot is. You won’t regret it.

2. Because You Think Grad School Is Expected of You

Feeling pressured to attend grad school? You’re not alone.

Whether that pressure is self inflicted or from outside sources like parents or peers, committing to a graduate program simply because it’s expected of you can easily lead you down a path you’ll regret taking.

After all, the saying, “expectations are premeditated resentments” is common for a reason. Even Psychology today discussed the danger of unmet expectations and the resentment that follows.

When you make a major life decision based on someone else’s expectation for you, you’ve already set yourself up to fail.

When you make a major life decision based on someone else’s expectation for you, you’ve already set yourself up to fail.

As an adult who can make their own decisions, do you really want to dedicate time and money to a program that you haven’t chosen for yourself?

You have the freedom to say no, or not right now.

Make the choice when it feels fully like your own.

3. You’re Not Ready to Start Life Yet

Ok Van Wilder, should you go to grad school right after undergrad?

If there’s anything Ryan Reynold’s movie Van Wilder taught us, it’s that sometimes, school needs to be over.

If the thought of getting your first job after college is causing you so much anxiety that you’re considering the idea of remaining a student for a little while longer, don’t.

Going to graduate school right after your get your Bachelor’s degree to avoid beginning a new stage in your life is not the answer to the anxiety you’re feeling.

There are great arguments about how you should have experience in the work force before you begin a graduate program. You can check one of those out from Pearson Pathways, here.

However, the real point of number three is that jumping into a Master’s program at a university because you don’t feel prepared to start your life, is not a healthy reason nor is it a wise one in many cases.

Before submitting an application or signing a new promissory note for Financial Aid, ask yourself what your true reasons are for jumping from one college degree to the next.

You may be surprised by what you find.

As Wilder would say, write that down.

I believe education is important, but I don’t believe continued education is required to be successful. While it’s the right decision for me, getting a graduate degree may be the wrong decision for you.

Ultimately, by taking the time to process your true intentions, desires, and skillset, you’ll be in a better position to make a strong decision.

Come on This Journey With Me

Are you curious about what life as a grad student and full-time employee/parent may look like?

Documenting my time at Gonzaga University is a project that I’m committing to through posts like this and through my email list.

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ABOUT ME

Carly Voinski is a creator sharing her grad school story.

Carly is a multi-disciplinary creator and social media strategist working her way through a graduate program in Communication & Organizational Leadership.

She’s sharing her story with you so that you can apply what she’s learning in your organization, without the student loan debt.