Pick your passion
The goal of an undergraduate degree is to provide a broad foundation in higher education after high school, and your major gives you the opportunity to get more deeply involved in a subject of your choice. A graduate degree is deeper still, requiring a level of commitment and interest above and beyond that of undergrad. If you can’t easily identify your true passions, it is wise to hold off before starting your graduate degree. A little work and life experience will help you distinguish between a true passion and a passing fancy.
Tip: Good ways of testing out your academic passion while still in college include taking some advanced coursework, doing an internship, joining a research project or TAing for a class in your area of interest.
A graduate degree doesn’t have to be in your major
Just because you committed to a particular major as an undergrad does not mean other fields are closed to you. Yes, studying biology in your undergrad years will make it easier for you to pursue an advanced degree in biochemistry. However, if you have good grades and test scores, excellent letters of recommendation and the ability to convey and demonstrate your passion through a cover letter, portfolio, additional course work and/or work experience, then the doors to grad school are always open. This is especially true for Masters degrees. While Doctoral degrees (Ph.D.) are highly specific, advanced degrees with a narrower focus, Masters degrees are slightly broader and have fewer requirements. Masters degrees can also be gateways to pursuing Ph.D.s in a field you didn’t major in.
Seriously consider the financial impact
Graduate programs are an investment of time and money (with Masters programs costing less time and money than Ph.D.s). While there are many avenues available for financing grad school, these avenues may not lead to the net gain you expect. Closely examine whether the pay boost associated with earning a graduate degree will be worth the cost of that degree. You may find that entering the work force will give you the experience you need to advance in your career without the associated cost. If you remain convinced that a graduate program is for you, you will find a way to overcome barriers and reach your goals.
Considering Grad School to advance your professional career? Continue reading here where you will also find the option to subscribe to my quarterly grad/prof newsletter at bottom of the article.
Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She helps students choose majors and programs of interest, develops best match college lists, offers personalized essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds to maximize scholarship opportunities and financial aid awards. Call (925) 385-0562 or visit Elizabeth at her website to learn more.