Photo taken from Nourish.org
The decision to go to grad school is, believe it or not, like buying trail mix. At first, this sounds rather abstract, but work with me. It’s true!
You have people that like trail mix for its nutritional value. It’s a healthy, sweet snack that provides you with energy and protein. You can pat yourself on the back for choosing it over, say, a bag of doughnuts.
…Then you have people who just buy it for the chocolate chips, M&Ms and, if it’s a particularly good batch, the peanut butter chips. The pretzels, peanuts and raisins are really just there to say you made/bought a snack with something in it generally deemed as “healthy.”
I happen to fall into the latter camp. I wanted the candy, and the ability to pat myself on the back for resisting the doughnuts. However, I expected I would have to eat some peanuts, or even
lower myself to eat the raisins every once in a while. 55% of my reason for attending grad school was because it just sounded healthy. A bachelor’s degree has become the old high school diploma, so in order to take care of my “health,” with the incentive of a “sweet” degree, I entered graduate school.
Graduate school is a great way to connect with people, keep yourself busy, and do your own research in an area you are interested in, with professors who are just as interested in that material as you are. It will, generally speaking, put you ahead of your peers in the workforce. In addition, each program will have its own variety of chocolate chips (Fellowships, grants, job placement rates, etc.), that really make trail mix tolerable, if not moderately delicious, so there are many good reasons to go to graduate school.
It is, however, full of peanuts and pretzels and those weird, salty, garlic crisps that may or may not cancel out the tasty, sugary good bits. Obviously, graduate school calls for a higher level of output, success, and precision in the classroom and than most undergraduate institutions. Then there’s the thesis/essay/project/dissertation you may have to do…
However, if the promise of chocolate chips and M&Ms outweighs the idea of eating garlic crisps, grad school is a great choice.
In the interest of not over-extending the trail-mix analogy, I’ll summarize by saying one must examine their own life goals, aspirations, and tolerance for academia. Getting a job could be more of an immediate need, or perhaps you’re just ready for a more immediate form of gratification.
Should you choose the doughnuts over the trail mix, however, there is no shame in this option either. The option of going to graduate school later is also an option. One does not have to enter directly after undergrad (though, I chose to go this route), either. Trail mix is almost never out of stock.