Monday, March 24, 2014

Grad School: It's Not Where You Go, but What and How You Do

When selecting colleges for bachelors study, the college acceptance process is a huge concern for many parents and some students (heheh).  Selection of the right college is seen as the key to professional achievement, important network connections and future economic status.  All this this has an element of truth to it. (Of course there are some undergrad students wisely selected their college based on their budget and refused to take out student loans, opting to work full time while studying part time. This is also very commendable.) Your choice of major also matters, and selecting a major that serves industry needs can be that ticket to career success. If your career takes off from here, it appears that the formula has worked out for you -- Congratulations!

However, by the time you have decided to consider graduate school, the landscape has changed. Many folks have now spent a number of years underemployed or unemployed with undergraduate degrees. In graduate school, you may now be classmates with folks who went to that undergraduate school that you did not attend. Suddenly it appears that students from competitive undergraduate schools are in the same boat as all graduate students. 

In the current economic climate, the decision to accumulate additional graduate school expenses should be given much contemplation. Perhaps your undergraduate college debt has accumulated and all that matters now is determining which graduate school is affordable, or which graduate school will provide a significant portion of your doctoral tuition. Now, you may be attending a graduate school you never thought you would give the time of day to. However, after having seen the difficult job market, selection of an affordable graduate school now makes a lot of sense, and you may have seen that many graduates from these universities are being offered decent jobs with their degrees.

Basically, is no longer about about where you go. Instead, it is more about how well you do, and what you choose to do with this time.  Take the time to build your networks and to build your research skills through attending conferences, attending summer internship training programs, and presenting your work. Graduate school is the time to be truly focused on what you want out of your time and expenses as a student. It is an opportunity to reevaluate and reconsider your academic and career goals. What is exciting is that graduate school is your chance to clarify and redefine your career path, improve your skills, and develop your own individual range of expertise. The goal now is to emerge from graduate school with research and professional skills which will allow you to stand out.

In graduate school, university status no longer really matters as much as it used to. I see some online articles disagreeing with this but they are still focused on the graduate school admissions process. I can only speak from experience. I have seen folks with BAs and graduate degrees from competitive schools search for work months and years after graduation. Business owner friends of mine receive ivy league graduate resumes for unpaid internship work. I have also worked with ivy league graduates earning average pay. Don't believe the hype of the jobs waiting just for the elite school graduate. In the job market, when you graduate, you will meet folks from all types of universities who will compete for the same positions as everyone else with the same professional or doctoral degree. Regardless of your university affiliation, let your skills and experiences stand out.   Life is an interesting journey, and the same goes with undergraduate college, graduate school, and the career world.

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