Facing a less than stellar job market, recent college graduates are looking more dewy-eyed than ever at the possibility of going to grad school. After all, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, master’s degree holders on average tend to have lower unemployment rates and higher weekly earnings than those who have just their bachelor’s. For some, deciding to peruse a graduate degree is the first step to a major career change if they want to work in a new field. For others, it’s a necessary step they must take to advance to leadership positions in their current industry.
[A graduate degree in business is one of the most versatile degrees a person can get.]
The Council of Graduate Schools published a study indicating that between 1999 and 2009 grad school applications increased an average of 4.8 percent each year, with a sharp increase between 2008 and 2009. However, with grad school application numbers on the rise you have to wonder, how many people are just haphazardly going through the motions. Deciding whether or not you’re ready for the commitment of a graduate-level education is not to be taken lightly. Higher education is a huge investment of time and money – you remember getting your Bachelor’s, don’t you?
So before you filling out applications for master’s programs, law school, medical school, or b-school here are a few things to consider:
1. Your resume is lacking in the “experience” section.
A lot of recent college grads who are having a tough time getting their foot in the door for job interviews have a tendency to think that a master’s degree might be what employers are looking for. If you choose to persue a grad degree for that very reason alone you’re only continuing to shoot yourself in the foot.
Take a long hard look at your resume, and then take a look at the requirements and skills in the job postings. Chances are something’s out of synch on your end. Choosing to apply to grad school while shying away from internships and volunteer projects that can help you gain much needed experience and real-world skills is a huge mistake. If you’re still set on going to grad school despite this, make sure you’re looking at programs with strong research, internship or co-op programs that can help you fill the void.
2. You’re missing pre-requisite courses on your transcript for the program you want.
So you want to go to medical school, but you haven’t taken a lab science class since high school? Well, now is the time to consider enrolling in some community college courses to fill those pre-requisite course gaps in. Some colleges even offer discounted rates on courses for alums as a perk, so be sure to check with your alumni office.
3. You haven’t touched a practice book for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT.
Unfortunately, just like applying for schools your first time around, most grad school programs require you to submit standardized test scores along with your grades. If you felt like you could have had a stronger GPA as an undergrad, performing well on the standardized test may help you compensate and you should prepare yourself adequately. Don’t forget—those exam fees aren’t cheap, so practice, practice, practice!
4. You haven’t paid off student loans from your undergrad degree.
This is the hard music so many recent grads must face. According to the Department of Education, the average student loan debt was $24,000 per person for the graduating class of 2009. Adding more debt to the pile isn’t in your best interest no matter how badly you want that master’s degree. Pay off your bachelor’s education first and then look into cost-effective ways for getting to grad school. In-state tuition, scholarships, employer tuition reimbursement, online classes, part-time programs—the list goes on.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Aren’t Ready
When all is said and done none of these signs are the nail in the coffin to your dream of getting a master’s degree if you’re willing to work hard to turn yourself around. And let’s not forget—getting your master’s should not be all about getting a bigger paycheck or building a rolodex of connections. Go back to school because you’re excited to learn more about what you love learning about and you’ll find the best return on your investment.
Ready to get your post-grad learn on?
Check out our free grad school guide.