English Major Musings is an evergreen Paperback Paris column curated by Contributing Writer Alicia LeBoeuf.
For some, earning an undergraduate degree is just the first step in their academic plans. Depending on your career goals, personal interests, and circumstances, you might find yourself considering going on to grad school after earning your Bachelor’s. In this post, I plan on exploring the topic of grad school, and how to decide if it’s the right choice for you. As well, I will break down how to research grad schools and how to find the perfect match for you.
First things first: should you go to grad school? When contemplating this question, the first thing to look at is your career goals. Simply put, some professions require you to continue on with your education. As an English major, there are plenty of career paths that call for some more schooling. For example, to be a librarian, you have to get your Master’s in Library Science in order to fully pursue that career path. If your dream job requires you to go to grad school, your choice is almost made for you.
If you love writing and also want to do something with writing in the future, you might want to consider getting your MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts) in creative writing. I know a lot of fellow English majors at my school who plan on earning their MFA, and yes, these are typically the people who want to be a best-selling author someday. For further reading on this subject, please refer to this Bustle article on the pros and cons of getting an MFA in Creative Writing.
When I mentioned ‘circumstances’ earlier, I was mostly referring to one major deciding factor: money. While there are grad school programs that are fully or partially funded out there, you might not be able to land one of these lucrative programs. It’s important to keep in mind that grad school is going to be expensive, and this extra expense, especially when considering any debt that has already compiled during your undergraduate studies, should be considered carefully. Make sure getting this degree is worth it to you! Other things that are important to consider is the amount of time it will take you to get this degree, what strain it might put on your personal relationships, and if you are willing to live in a location that might not be ideal.
I also want to point out that it is perfectly fine to come to the realization that going to grad school doesn’t exactly make sense with your current career goals. As a sophomore, I eagerly researched grad school programs and started tucking the idea of attending grad school in the back of my head. But over the last year or so, I have realized that I don’t exactly need a more advanced degree to go into what I want to do after graduation. And that’s perfectly okay! I know that attending grad school years from now is still an option in case my career goals do change, but right now I am content with testing the job market first.
So after some soul-searching, you decide that yes, you’re actually going to do it! You want to go to grad school. What now?
Now it’s time to find the perfect grad school program for you. The first thing to do is to really pinpoint the exact program that you are interested in and looking into what the top schools are for that particular program. A great tool to find different graduate schools is GradSchools.com. When perusing the top programs, remember to keep your G.P.A. and other accomplishments in mind. What are your chances of getting into a highly selective program? Much like applying to your undergraduate school, be careful to choose safety school options among the more competitive schools. Grad Hacker’s On the Art of Selecting a Graduate Program is a great read that will go more in-depth into this process.
When it comes to applying to grad school, the process requires time and effort. This includes gathering academic transcripts, writing personal statements, asking for letters of recommendation, submitting examples of your work, and participating in any sort of interviewing process. There’s also the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) to worry about, which is a test that is required by most graduate schools. Check out The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s guide to the application process.
While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to absolutely everything related to grad school, I hope this gives anyone contemplating the decision to go on to grad school some things to maul over. After reading this, hopefully, you have a better understanding of what it means to go to grad school and what factors to consider when it comes to deciding to go, selecting a program, and actually applying.
Stay tuned for the next installment of English Major Musings at Paperback Paris!
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