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Grad School Truths & Myths

UL Grad School -- 02/24/2017

Ask 10 people what they think of grad school, and you’ll probably get 10 different opinions.

There’s a lot of grad school myths out there, but there’s also a lot of grad school truths. Here’s 5 of each for you to think through as you consider your grad school options.

Truth #1: You may feel like you’ve started over.

When you get into grad school, you might think you’ve gained all the knowledge that’s possible to learn about your field. Not so fast! It won’t be long before you’ll learn that you’ve just scratched the surface. But that’s a good thing---it’s a whole new world in grad school! We all have much to learn, so upward and onward!

Truth #2: Your career essentially starts in grad school.

Sure, you may not be able to slap that new job title on your LinkedIn or start contributing to the 401K, but you should definitely think of grad school as your first job. Always go above and beyond, and think of it as your first step toward professional success. Give it your all and start your career off on the right foot.

Truth #3: It’s lecture time!

Whatever the discipline,l you’ll be doing a LOT of reading and listening in grad school, so make sure you’re okay with that. Even in more “hands-on” careers like art, theatre, and design, you’ll be learning the scholarship and taking in words of wisdom from professors who have put in many years to get where they are today...so take notes and keep those nuggets of knowledge filed away!

Truth #4: Your friends will also be your competition.

Another grad school truth: you’ll likely make close friends, but you’ll also go head-to-head with them for future jobs, teaching positions, grants and awards, and the like. When opportunity arises, you and your peers will likely all want to go after it, so be prepared to get in the ring with those you might have become close with.

Truth #5: Grades don’t matter (as much).

Now don’t get all excited too fast, you’ll still need to keep your grades up to get through and graduate. If you’re heading into academia, you’ll definitely want to nail a solid GPA. But all that said, the work you produce, your research and publishable work, is far more important than squeaking out that “A” when a “B” and a top-notch project will give you a greater advantage.

Now on to the graduate school myths. What’s just not true that you might have heard?

Myth #1: You won’t have a social life.

Regardless of what I said about competition, you’ll make close friends in grad school, through all that shared effort and common vision. Sure, the “social life” might be over projects, late-night studying and piles of research, but the bonds you’ll form there could last a lifetime. Embrace your new social life, the friends made in graduate school could very well be your future coworkers, partners, and reviewers---or even your boss or employee.

Myth #2: Grad school isn’t worth it if you didn’t get into a top-shelf program.

Sure, maybe you’re not calling Harvard or Yale home for that next degree, but an advanced degree isn’t a waste of time just because you might not have been accepted into your top-pick school. When you’re in that job interview, your future boss will want to see that you have the drive, passion, and persistence to succeed, and what school you went to will likely be immaterial.

Myth #3: In today’s job market, a graduate degree won’t do anything for you.

It depends on your field, but an advanced degree will definitely boost your earning potential and employability, and in some career paths, it’s essential. Don’t neglect the chance to build your profile, resume, and income potential. You’re up for it.

Myth #4: It’s too late to pursue graduate school.

Another common grad school myth: if you’ve waited a few years after undergrad, you missed your chance. Definitely not. In today’s changing higher ed world, “nontraditional” will soon be an obsolete term, as students are studying more and more in part-time, online, or in hybrid approaches. Sure, you might take a bit more ramp-up time after a long hiatus, but it’s not like you’re moving back into the dorms. Ease into it and it’ll be worth it!

Myth #5: You can be full-time worker and full-time student.

Not so much. While some graduates degrees are actually specifically designed for working professionals (MBA, Accounting, Nursing), many are not. While you can probably hold down part-time work while studying, combining a full-time job and full load will put you a disadvantage on both fronts. So snag that coffee shop gig, or freelance on the side (or better yet, an assistantship or fellowship), but don’t plan on working full-time.

There you have it---a five-on-five rundown of grad school truths versus myths. Now it’s up to you to sort it out, and apply today!