Why Graduate School?

What are your motivations for attending graduate school? Be honest with yourself. Do not go to graduate school out of fear of having no other options. Choose graduate school because you are working toward a goal, with a career plan.

Graduate school will turn out to be a satisfying and valuable experience if:

  1. You have a clear sense of the career you want to pursue, and an advanced degree is the ticket to entry into that field. College and university teaching and research, law, medicine and dentistry are areas in which education beyond the baccalaureate level is required.
  2. You want to immerse yourself in the study of a particular academic discipline purely for the love of it, and would never forgive yourself if you did not at least give it a try. Remember, you will be spending several years studying and doing research and work in that academic field.

Think twice if you are considering graduate school solely for one of the following reasons:

  • You have not decided what kind of career you want to pursue and regard the campus as a sheltered place to "find yourself." This will present a problem at the postgraduate level where students are expected to have clearly defined interests leading to an area of specialization.
  • You are getting pressure from your friends, parents or professors. Your interests and motivation in attending graduate school are what's really important.
  • You are doing it simply to postpone the inevitable job search. A graduate degree is no guarantee of a job.
  • You think there is nothing you can do "with a concentration in _______." Regardless of your concentration, or your many interests, keep in mind that your undergraduate education has equipped you with many skills that are highly valued in the workplace, including research and analysis, critical thinking, and communication.

In deciding whether to pursue an advanced degree, you may wish to carefully consider some important questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
  • What are my immediate and long-term professional goals?
  • Is graduate school necessary to achieve these goals?
  • Do I have the interest and ability to succeed in a graduate program?
  • By going to graduate school, am I simply delaying career planning and decision-making?
  • Will the amount of time and money spent on a program ultimately translate into greater career mobility and financial possibilities?
  • Am I willing to meet the extensive research, course work, and major paper demands of another academic program?
  • Would continuing education alternatives, vocational and community college courses, or professional seminars and workshops assist in achieving my goals?



Reproduced and adapted with permission from Sarah Lawrence College's Graduate School Guide.

Page last modified January 19, 2009