Grad school is not the only path after graduation

Students should consider all of their post-graduation options.

Courtney Johnson

A vital question I have been asking myself over and over since I was a freshman is: âÄúWhat on earth do I plan on doing with the rest of my life?âÄù While some days I am close to answering this question, other days I feel quite the opposite.

Due to the multitude of possibilities post-graduation, many students are overwhelmed with directions in which they could go after they graduate from college. Of these possibilities, some decide to expand their knowledge even further and enroll in graduate school. In specific cases, such as going to medical or law school, this is the most logical next step, and has a great chance of reaping the benefits financially after graduation.

 However, other students who choose to enroll in grad school might be needlessly over-extending themselves. For example, certain programs that offer an MBA can cost about $30,000 per year, not including the opportunity cost of lost work experience if attending full time. After they make the commitment to continue on with school, students often pile up an excess amount of loans without any suitable reason.

A common misconception about these business-related jobs is that a business degree like an MBA is the only way to learn the skills that are necessary to advance in oneâÄôs career. On the contrary: according to an employer survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 89 percent of surveyed employers indicate that the three most valued abilities when hiring are communication skills, analytic skills and teamwork skills âÄî all of which can be learned with a liberal arts degree. Getting an MBA is no trivial matter. It takes a lot of time, effort and resources in order to obtain it. While it may help one stand out with employers, being absolutely sure that it is necessary and what one wants to achieve success is important. Taking on extra responsibilities, along with extra time and money, could become a hindrance.

Pursuing other options, such as volunteer work and internships can be a great way to extend oneâÄôs talents before fully entering the work force as well. Not only can a recent grad achieve a hands-on experience, but they can also grow and nurture relationships with their superiors. If taken care of, these relationships could possibly feed into possible employment or even a valuable reference to be used after the experience. There are also many possibilities and advantages to being able to build and work on skills internationally.

 Sometimes, by volunteering with a U.S nonprofit organization or a U.S government employer, students have a greater chance for eligibility in student loan forgiveness. By doing an internship or volunteer work âÄî no matter where it is located âÄîyou are able to get a glimpse into that specific job and understand what elements you feel especially passionate about before committing to a career, or before committing to an area of focus in graduate school.

Something else that more students need to consider before plunging into more student loans is looking at how much potential their salaries actually have to evolve. According to Rachel Zupek, a writer on careerbuilder.com âÄî a website that works to help people jumpstart their careers âÄî depending on the degree, when comparing the salaries of a masterâÄôs degree to a bachelorâÄôs degree, the pay difference wasnâÄôt that significant.

On the other hand, there are more deciding factors in attending graduate school other than being able to find a job and hoping to make more money. Getting an advanced degree, not to mention focusing on it for an extended amount of time, is something to be proud of. When a student knows that they are growing more knowledgeable in a certain field âÄî whether it is education, public affairs or engineering âÄî it is certainly an achievement, no matter the cost.

 Many graduate studies programs in the U.S., including the University of MinnesotaâÄôs, understand this and have programs that help masterâÄôs degree-bound students achieve their academic goals, without burning a hole in their pocket.

Finding a graduate school that is fitting for the student that also provides full funding âÄî meaning a full tuition waiver âÄî is not as easy as it would seem. For example, the UniversityâÄôs graduate school program includes assistantships and fellowships that are the most common form of support for grad students. If the number of hours are significant enough, full funding for a masterâÄôs degree is attainable. Another benefit of attending the UniversityâÄôs graduate school is that all graduates who hold fellowships or traineeships are eligible for resident tuition rates.

 This is a great opportunity for those who want to continue their education at the University; however, if a student wishes to expand their educational influences, then there are other options to making it affordable as well. For example, there are businesses that invest in programs that will actually pay for the extended schooling that certain students need. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, has a program that includes zero out-of-pocket expenses for the student-to-be. Some companies are even open to the idea of paying for the studentâÄôs books and extra school-related expenses.

Whatever one decides post-graduation, attending graduate school is an option for some, and finances are usually a factor that is taken into consideration when making the decision to go or not. But being sure that one doesnâÄôt rush into grad school and is aware of all his or her options is the most important part of the decision making process.

 

Courtney Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]