The critical and fundamental step in considering graduate study is to understand why
you want to pursue a graduate degree. To set the stage for careful decision making, it is important to establish a clear idea about your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree, your goals for study, and the realities of your academic career path. As you begin to think about this, consider the following questions (or see the expanded PDF version
). There are also many print and web resources
to help you think about whether or not graduate school is right for you. (Extension School students, please see additional CARC resources
What are your MOTIVATIONS?
- How have you come to the decision to attend graduate school? What factors are motivating you to begin advanced studies?
- Do you love to learn about and do you have an intellectual passion for a particular field of study?
- Has a professor or mentor encouraged you to pursue a graduate degree?
- Do you feel ready for graduate school or are you responding to expectations from family, friends, or peers?
- Are you considering graduate school as an exciting intellectual and professional challenge or is it a way to delay entering the “Real World” or avoid a job search?
What are your GOALS?
- Have you engaged in a process of self assessment? Do your skills and interests correspond to the goals and orientation of the degree program you’re considering?
- Have you identified some important personal and professional goals? How will a graduate degree move you towards them?
- Is a graduate degree a prerequisite to enter your field of interest or will it help you to transition into a new field? Could you accomplish the same goal(s) simply by taking a few specialized courses and/or relevant professional experience?
What are your EXPECTATIONS?
- Have you researched the academic responsibilities, lifestyle, and financial and personal obligations of graduate school? Among other things, these include the investment of time and resources (including lost earnings during the program), the pressure to be self-motivated, and the vagaries of independent study and research.
- Is your perception of the relationship between the degree you seek and your career goals accurate? Are you aware of the marketability of your degree and the job prospects following completion?
- For the PhD, are you prepared to work independently on a specialized subject within your area of interest for several years?
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