Grad school can mean a lot of different things: an MA/PhD program in your major, law school, a business program like an MSM or MHRIR, or a credentialing program like an MSW or a master’s in education that includes teaching certification. A successful application requires you to know what kind of program you want, why you want to do it, how you can demonstrate that you’ll succeed in the program, and what you plan to do with the degree.
Here are some good reasons to go to grad school:
- There’s a question that you really want to get answers to through more in-depth study and independent research (though an MA/PhD in your major).
- There’s a thing you know you want to do (e.g., work as a school guidance counselor, or practice law, or work in a library) that you need a graduate credential for.
- You’ve been working in a particular field, you like it, and you want to go on doing it, BUT it’s clear that advancing beyond your current position requires a graduate degree.
Here are some bad reasons to go to grad school (where “bad” = expenditure of time, money, and opportunity without a return on investment).
- You don’t have any better ideas.
- You’ve heard that you should do what you’re good at, and you’re really good at going to school so…more school it is!
- You’ve been told that you need a master’s degree to advance in most fields, so going to grad school seems like the best post-college step.
If you’re asking about “grad school” generally and not a specific kind of program you’re probably not in a place yet where grad school can benefit you. Once you have specific goals that grad school can help you meet, it’s a different story. Grad school applications are WAY up (as often happens in an academic downturn) so programs will be most interested in students who have a clear and actionable plan for how the grad degree will help them succeed.
Many employers care about experience more than degrees (apart from specific occupations where a master’s brings with it specific required licensure/certification), so getting a grad degree out of a vague sense that it will make you more employable may not be the best use of your time and money.
Here are some additional questions to consider:
- Are the kinds of programs I’m thinking about funded? If they’re not, can I count on earning enough money with the degree to make up for the tuition I’ll pay or debt I’ll incur?
- Who can I talk to about the pros and cons of the grad programs I’m thinking about?
- Have I talked to my professors? (Particularly if you’re thinking about an MA/PhD in your major, getting advice from faculty members BEFORE you ask them for recommendations is really helpful.)
The HPRC is here to help you get started thinking about your grad school path. Make an appointment to begin that conversation: https://go.illinois.edu/HPRCAdvising.