Grad School Advice From a Girl Who Said She’d Never Go

Today’s blog is a loaded one. And on a topic that a lot of people have a lot of thoughts on: grad school. You’ve either done it or you haven’t. You either regret it or you don’t. You either are a proponent for it or you aren’t.

Everyone I have talked to about it falls in one of those categories. I have friends who have finished grad school, some who are in it, and others who want nothing to do with it. That said, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when considering grad school.

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this post are my own.

Let me first set this post up with my reasoning behind going and then I’ll lead into the advice that I’ve learned along the way.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I swore that I was never going back to school again. By that point, I was over all the tests, projects, homework, and reading. I wanted nothing more to do with sitting in a classroom. Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning, but structure of learning that you find in school isn’t the most ideal. So, when I graduated, I thought I was done.

Clearly, that wasn’t the case. When I got into my job (I’m a content writer for a tech company), I was thrown in the midst of a marketing department that I knew very little about. My undergraduate degree was in journalism with fashion merchandising and business minors, so a marketing content job was perfect for me. However, my business minor just scratched the surface level when it came to marketing.

My epiphany for what I wanted my career to focus on came from attending the 2018 Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. I attended a session called “How to Future-proof Your Brand” where the owner of branding agency Collins spoke about what you need to think about when making your brand successful for the future, highlighting Spotify and Chobani’s rebrand as case studies. Immediately, I was in love. It was the culmination of everything I wanted to do — writing, design, and more— to create something that could make a lasting impression in consumers’ minds.

Now, I had considered possibly going back to grad school within six months of starting my job (fall of 2017), mostly because my company offers an education reimbursement program that would cover a good portion of the costs. But, the problem was, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I started looking at programs and found one that focused on brand, and it was perfect.

Looking back I realized that 2017/early 2018 wasn’t the best time for me to go to grad school. I took the GMAT fall of 2017 and got a subpar score, so I was afraid to apply for fear of getting rejected. So I put it off. Fortunately, the GMAT scores are good for five years. So after attending Adobe Summit, I was sure that I wanted to go back. I applied and got in and started my program in fall of 2019. As I’m writing this, this is my second semester, and I’m projected to finish in December 2020, a mere two-and-a-half years after starting.

Now, my thoughts. I have a few, which I’m going to briefly list. I understand that everyone’s reason for going to grad school at the time they go is different, but these are just my observations in my own journey:

  • Only go if you have a set degree for a specific career. Grad school is a lot of money, so only go if you have a specific program in mind that could lead to a specific career.
  • Don’t go if you are just putting off working in the real world. Real-world experience is valuable, especially when applying. Often, it can replace the GMAT or aid in your admissions if your test scores aren’t great.
  • I highly recommend pursuing a degree in a different field of study than in your undergrad. This will give you a wider range of knowledge, which makes you more versatile. Bonus points if it complements your undergraduate degree.
  • If possible, wait until you are at an employer who will pay for your degree. Instead of taking out thousands of dollars of student loans, see if your employer offers and education reimbursement program. If they have this, it is a huge way to spend very little out of pocket while still getting a great quality education.
  • Try to select a school that is more cost-effective, especially if it has the same program.
  • Don’t go back immediately after your undergrad. This goes with the point above. Chances are you are going to be burnt out after four (or more) years of college. Take a minute and step back to see if you really want to go back. Working is a great way to see what you like and what you don’t like so you can be more sure when you decide to pursue a graduate degree. I was about two years out of school before pursuing my degree and that time really gave me a chance to decompress and decide if I wanted go back. Plus, it gave me a chance to save money to afford to go back to school. Best decision I could have made.
  • If you are working full time while going to school, see if you can apply what you learn in the classroom to your workplace. Since I’m pursuing a marketing degree, what I learn in the classroom directly correlates to what I do for work and vice-versa. I keep trying to find opportunities to bring my newfound knowledge to the workplace. It’s actually been helping me learn the material better because I get real hands-on experience with it at work.

That’s all the advice I have at this point in my grad school journey. Again, all opinions are my own, but I hope they help you if you are on the fence about going back to school.

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