The Great Grad School Debate: 5 Reasons To Reconsider That Second Degree

by Zoe Zorka

If you’re one of the millions of college graduates celebrating the end of your undergraduate experience, you might find yourself entertaining various options about your future.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones that has a job with a $60K salary already neatly lined up. If you do, great, but you’re also in the minority. Most of us aren’t so lucky right out of college.

I was one of the few who went straight from undergraduate schooling to go for my master's degree, and then onto a PhD program with no break in between. Although I am very excited to finally graduate with my PhD next month, I’m not suggesting that everyone follow in my footsteps.

Here are some of the reasons you shouldn’t go to graduate school:

You can’t find a job

It’s very tempting to stay in the cozy womb that is academia. While your peers wait tables and pick up odd jobs, being in grad school seems like a safe option -- at least for the time being.

Even though you’re still dirt poor, saying you're in graduate school gives a sort of erudite air. This is really glossing over the reality of the situation, which is that you're avoiding reality.

When you graduate, the job market still might suck. Try looking for a job at least six months before deciding whether or not graduate school is really what you want to do, or if you’re using it as an escape route.

Your parents expect it

My dad has his PhD and my mom dropped out of medical school to have me, so I'm the poster girl for parental pressure. Not only was I expected to live up to my dad’s accomplishments, but also to vicariously fulfill my mom’s unfulfilled ambitions.

Combine that with the fact that I was their only child who had a greater chance of wearing a doctoral robe than an orange prison jumpsuit, I knew I was resigned to spend the better part of my 20s engaged in academic research rather than sending out résumés.

Remember that you’re the one who has to put in the time, dedication and sacrifice. Unless your parents are going to pay for your schooling, do your homework, take your GMATs and sit through countless lectures taught by some self-absorbed professor, it’s all on you.

Your boyfriend or girlfriend is going

It might seem romantic at first, living in a cramped apartment together as you stay up late studying and conducting ground-breaking research in the home laboratory that you built (with your loan stipends, naturally).

But in reality, one of you is going to end up wanting to drop out of the program, deciding to change direction or getting jealous because the other is more successful.

Additionally, you’ll have to be together all day long. That’s right; you'll see each other at class, study sessions and at home. You’ll have the same group of peers or friends and might miss out on the opportunity to explore another side of yourself apart from your significant other.

You don’t know what else to do

So you graduated from college with a bachelor's degree in creative writing, but don’t really know what you want to do. Dedicating thousands of dollars to a random grad program you might not even like sounds great, right?  Of course not.

If you can’t find a job you like, try to get in with a temp agency. You might get to work in several different industries while gaining relevant experience and maybe, just maybe, find something that you enjoy.

You want to get as far away from home as possible

Admittedly, I wanted to run away from my crappy midwestern town since the day I arrived there. I saw a glossy brochure with pictures of mountains and blue sky, and as soon as I pulled the cash out of my last graduation card, I was gone.

If you want to move to a new city, your 20s is the time to do it. Remember, you don’t need to do it under the guise of obtaining an MBA. You’re an adult now; it’s okay to leave on your own, with less direction than expected.


That being said, there are some reasons you should go to grad school. If your dream job requires higher education (dentist, lawyer, doctor, pharmacist, social worker, college professor, etc.), then by all means go. Personally, I always knew I wanted a PhD, regardless of my parents' influence.

You’re at the brink of the beginning of the rest of your life. It’s your life, no one else’s.

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