By: Kim Robinson
I recently met with a soon-to-be college graduate who was struggling with the “what next” question. It’s something a lot of people wrestle with, but for college grads, it holds unique challenges. Many are entering the professional workforce for the first time and others wonder how they’ll use their hard-won learning. Often the question is this: “graduate school now, later or ever?” Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you make the call:
- Consider taking a year or two (or longer!) to go to work before graduate school. Find a job roughly related to your field of study (working in a social services agency if you’re a psychology major, for instance). Getting a sense of different kinds of jobs, career paths and types of organizations can help you make an informed decision about the best graduate program.
- Understand what fields and jobs require an advanced degree from the get-go. Some fields require a master’s degree to get in the door. Others will take on undergraduates and even help finance an advanced degree.
- Be sure grad school isn’t just about buying time. If you’re going to invest in more education (and maybe go into substantial debt), you’ll want a program that builds your career.
- Ask for advice, suggestions, insights and ideas from people around you – friends, family, career services professionals/coaches, professors, people you know in organizations that interest you. Generally people are happy to help out a new grad. After all, most of them have been in your shoes.
- Take your time and really explore what various programs offer. Ask lots of questions of admissions staff, placement professionals, instructors, alums and people currently in the program.
And here’s one last observation: even when it looks like everyone around you has it all figured out, you’re not alone. The transition from college to whatever comes next is a big one. Be patient, flexible and willing to try new things. Keep your eyes open and be curious. No matter what route you take – graduate school or not – you’re on your way to what’s next!