The decision of whether or not to attend a graduate program can be complex. It can have a major effect on the trajectory of the rest of your life. To make an informed choice you need to take a plethora of things into account.
Of course you’ll want to know what type of tuition fees exist, if there will be any financial support involved, and the prospects available to you upon graduation. This is a great time to start a pros and cons list.
Everyone is different. Depending on your industry having a degree could be a necessity when it comes to maintaining your career. By no means, does that mean you should immediately apply to grad school after completing your undergrad. Everyone moves at their own pace and everyone has their own personal reasons for going or not going.
There are a number of reasons that many people decide to further their education, some being to advance careers, gain greater earning potential and promotions, or have to opportunity to work on advanced projects using advanced equipment.
On the flip-side of that, many are deterred from entering a graduate program because of how expensive school can be, the fact that in can take up to seven years to complete, or not having a strong enough support system. However, it’s important to note that it is never too late to go back to school. One in five graduate students are actually in their 40’s.
For anyone that has already weighed their options and settled on the idea of attending a graduate program, here are a few tips for balancing your work, studies, and family life.
The first thing to do is determine a long-term budget. Don’t focus only on the first semester. Grad school can take one to two years for some, but for others programs can range from four to seven. If you’re not working full-time look for opportunities to work as a grad assistant or find a research job in your industry. Make sure that you’re saving as much as possible in the time leading up to your first semester.
If it’s possible to live on campus, by all means, do that. There are sometimes even apartments available for married students. Having reliable transportation is also a great help. It’ll reduce the time you spend each day in transit, allowing you more time for your home life and your studies. Graduate school is a time in your life where it seems that your time is more valuable than ever.
Most importantly, perhaps, is keeping yourself in check. Have the discipline to set your priorities right. Make sure that if you have a family they are on board with giving you the emotional support necessary, which sometimes just means respecting your study schedule. It can be difficult enough operating at such a high level of education, the last thing you need is someone in your life pulling your focus away from your successful completion of the program.
Attending graduate school is ultimately something that you have to decide for reasons all your own. It can prove to be worthwhile in the long-term, as often times the opportunities open up for individuals with doctorates. There are great resources online to help you learn about options and make an informed decision.
This article was originally published on Blackwell’s website.