When is the Right Time to go to Graduate School?

When is the right time to go to grad school

As the looming reminder that college life eventually comes to an end, many students search for the right answer on whether to continue their education. Maybe after diving deep into your chosen field, you decide to pursue a graduate-level education. Or, maybe you decide you need a break from education but hope to come back to it after earning valuable experience. 

The idea of grad school can be both exciting and intimidating to students considering higher education. But it's important to remember that whenever you choose to go to graduate school, you'll have the support to continue your learning whenever you choose. Here are some considerations when planning your next stage of education.

Finding your perfect program and timing

Graduate school education not only builds your level of understanding in your field of study, but also has the opportunity to increase job opportunities and potential for higher salaries due to professional certification. 

It takes time to find the graduate program (and schedule) right for you and your needs. Making the decision to continue your education is the first hurdle to overcome, but what comes after?

Discovering your passions is a crucial part of your program decision. You should also consider which educational institution and academic program fits those passions. It’s equally as important to consider the job market. Do specific research on your chosen field — what jobs are currently available? What does the position value? Education? Experience? All of this can solely depend on what you’re choosing to pursue. 

Factors to consider

1. Finances

Perhaps the most daunting part of the decision-making process for many college students is finances. You may be still finding a way to pay for your undergrad loans that are starting to gain momentum. It’s also important to consider how much financial turmoil you’re willing to take in all at once.

Many programs provide funding for students, including tuition, scholarships, stipends for teaching, and fellowships for research. For example, PLNU’s M.A. in Writing program grants students the opportunity to hone their skills while also gaining real-world teaching experience in a funded environment. This route includes 100% tuition remission and a $10,000 annual stipend. Although financing your degree is always an important consideration, you’ll be able to tackle these costs if you know where to look. 

2. Gaining Work Experience

Even while continuing your education in grad school, the work force keeps moving forward. If choosing the track to jump into grad school after undergrad, you may be forgoing valuable work experience that comes with joining the workforce after graduation. You may also need to gain the maturity, time commitment, or time-management skills to perform to the best of your abilities in grad school. 

Perhaps a pro for graduate school: it also waits for you. It waits for you, years down the line when you can’t land the exact job you want. It waits for you when you’re at a slump in your career and you need to switch up your interests. It waits for you when you’re discovering a passion you didn’t think you had in you. Working in the professional world with work experience may be just what you need to discover what you truly want to continue school for. 

Yet, it's also equally as important to consider that several graduate programs are designed for people with full-time jobs. Institutions, such as PLNU, have evening in-person classes and fully remote classes that can fulfill your desire to pursue higher education without interrupting your busy schedule. 

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Continuing the journey after undergrad

Let’s face an important factor when it comes to education: motivation. It may feel like your motivation for academic success is lacking after spending too much time away from education. The Princeton Review points out that continuing your education journey right out of undergrad could be beneficial because you have momentum from engaging in the typical student life. You’re familiar with the busy, full-steam-ahead environment that your undergraduate days provided and the transition to grad school life could feel natural as the next step in your career. 

Being in this environment for so long has trained your brain to work efficiently in an academic setting. Studying for important exams and finishing projects before crucial deadlines is the kind of practice that may be jarring to jump back into if returning to school after a long time without experiencing it. 

The job market is only becoming more competitive across different career fields. Attending graduate school early on in your career may give your resume the boost it needs to be set apart from several other applicants. It’s also worth mentioning that attending graduate school can help boost networking and connection opportunities with peers and professors — not only granting lifelong relationships but also potential mentors and letters of recommendation.

And yet, it's never too late to dive back into your education journey. Beginning your graduate degree after earning real-world experience can help you decide what you want to do. Whether it’s pursuing professional or academic life, it can help you set the goals you need to succeed in your chosen field. Additionally, it can help you gain useful skills and qualifications that can lead to senior positions, higher pay, or more opportunities for working for an organization that is best geared toward you and your interests. 

When is the right time to go to grad school

The value of graduate-level experience

Studies show that employers are more likely to hire and pay based on your expertise in your chosen field. According to Social Security Administration, people that earned master’s degrees tend to make $1.1 to $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings compared to people with bachelor’s degrees. This should be considered when evaluating your long-term professional goals. 

Students with a graduate degree command higher salaries, sharpen their conflict management abilities, and build independent study and research skills, according to U.S. News and World Report. This translates to a more comfortable, collaborative career experience in the long run.

The next step in continuing your education

The value of knowledge is priceless. The right time to go to grad school depends on the question of when you can best succeed in your education and career — because these two factors don’t have to compromise each other. If you’re thinking about grad school, check out Point Loma’s list of graduate programs to help find the program that is the perfect fit for you. 

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