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Should I Go to Grad School?

Answer these critical questions before continuing your education

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

Going to grad school is a big decision. Continuing your education beyond undergrad is a big investment of money and time, but it’s a wise one under the right circumstances.

What are those circumstances, you ask? Well, it depends where you’re at in life. Are you considering going to grad school shortly after completing undergrad? Or are you years into a career and hoping grad school will help you pivot your career trajectory?

Ask yourself these important questions to see if grad school makes sense for you.

When considering grad school shortly after undergrad

In some industries, going to grad school is critical and, frankly, inevitable. In others, it might not be a necessary expense.

Ask yourself these questions to figure out whether grad school is worth it for you:

  1. Is it imperative to achieve your career goals? Grad school could be a precursor for your dream job, whether to get hired in the industry at all or to climb the ladder down the road. If that’s the case, then you can justify the expense. If not, then grad school might not be the savviest investment. Don’t know your career goals? It might be worth gaining experience in the field for a year or two before deciding to take on the expense of pursuing a  graduate degree.
  2. Are you better off working a few years before applying? In some cases — like if you’re pursuing an MBA, law school, or medical school — working in your field for a year or more could be necessary before applying to grad school. Or, it could simply strengthen your application.
  3. Can you take on more student loan debt? You’re only shortly removed from completing undergrad, which means the bill is either already due on your undergrad student loans or quickly approaching. Have you started repaying loans from undergraduate? Even if your loans are in deferment, they’ll still be accruing interest on the loan balance. So, before applying, figure out whether you can realistically afford to pay off both undergrad and grad loans. Will the estimated monthly payments fit into your budget?
  4. Will it impact other aspects of your life? Going on to grad school could mean hitting the pause button on other life goals, like traveling, getting married, starting a family, and buying a house. Have you spoken with your parents — and your partner — about this important life decision? Are you comfortable with the possibility of delaying those goals?

Don’t let these questions scare you! They’re just a way of making sure grad school is a wise investment for your career.

Teacher stands in front of students in a classroom.

An MBA or other grad program could prime your career for success in the near and distant future.

When considering grad school years later

Perhaps you’ve worked in your profession for years and either want to refine your skills or pivot in a different direction. Grad school can be a great solution for either purpose.

Again, grad school is a large investment, so ask yourself these questions before deciding to apply:

  1. Is grad school necessary? A mentor could help you understand whether grad school is necessary to pursue your desired profession. Did they go to grad school? What skills did it teach them? And what type of salary should you expect after graduation?
  2. Will you go at night or full time? If you go full time, that’ll mean not earning an income for an extended amount of time. Can you afford to do that? Foregone income is a sizeable “opportunity cost” of grad school. Consider going to school at night; some companies pay all or a portion of the tuition. Consider all your options before making your final decision.
  3. Can you take on more student loan debt? Perhaps you’ve already paid off your undergrad student loans, or are close to doing just that. Estimate what your monthly payments will be for your grad loans and see if there will be room in the budget for this added expense.
  4. Will it impact other aspects of your life? Since it’s a both a financial and a time commitment, grad school could mean adjusting your lifestyle. There might not be as much time or funds for socializing with friends, traveling, or any other things you do on a regular basis. And if you’re married or have kids, can you fit studying and homework assignments into your busy life as a spouse or parent?
  5. Will you have to move? Will grad school force you to relocate? This might not be as big a concern when you’re fresh out of undergrad, but it is when you’ve put down roots in a city or town and have friends and family close by. Plus, you’d have to consider any relocation expenses, as well as changes in living expenses.

What to remember

Attending grad school can do wonders for your career, whether you’re fresh out of college or years removed from undergrad. But since it’s a large financial investment, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right decision at the right time in your life.

And if it is, go for it! Use this opportunity to grow an existing or new skillset, all while setting up your future for success.

More information

Citizens Bank can help bring your grad school dreams to life. Check out our graduate loan options to see if one makes sense for you.

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