So you're considering going to grad school.
I don't blame you. It's an attractive option these days, especially if you just graduated college and can't seem to find the right position to kick start your career.
Or maybe you've been working for a few years and you're totally disillusioned with your soul-sucking job -- where you clock in for the day and immediately count down the minutes until you get off work, only to start the process all over again the next day. "Maybe grad school is the answer," you think to yourself. After all, plenty of people are doing it. Why not you?
From 2002 to 2012, the population with a doctorate degree grew by about 1 million, or 45 percent, while those who held a master's climbed by 5 million, or 43 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's one hell of an increase. It seems like half the people you meet these days have a graduate degree.
There are probably tons of reasons that explain those stats, but I'm not here to talk about that. Instead, I want to challenge the idea that grad school is the next logical step in your life's path.
Grad school is not the answer to your disillusionment
This article does not apply to everyone. People go to grad school for many different reasons, but I'm speaking specifically to those that are contemplating grad school because:
● They don't like their jobs
● They're dissatisfied with their lives
● They feel like they're stuck in a rut
If this is you, listen up: Think twice about grad school.
Ask yourself why you want to go in the first place. Is it because you're interested in a certain subject and you want to develop your knowledge and expertise, or is it because you're running away from something?
Really think about this. Can you see yourself working in the field of the subject you want to pursue, or are you simply trying to escape "the real world"?
The Cost of Grad School
Graduate degrees are quickly becoming the new undergraduate degree. In a market saturated with people that have impressiverésumés, it's becoming more difficult to stand out from the rest.
It's competitive out there.
It's one thing if you know exactly what you want and how to go about getting it. But using grad school as a platform to figure out your life passion is costly -- in both time and money.
A friend of mine is pursuing his P.hD. in English at the University of Texas, where the acceptance rate for his program is an astonishingly low 4%. I've never met anyone more committed to their studies, and yet even he has doubts about his job placement after he graduates.
When I asked him what advice he had for people that want to pursue (and pay for) their Ph.D., specifically in the humanities, he wryly replied, "It's probably a better idea to shoot yourself in the face instead."
He then told me that if the university weren't fully funding his P.hD. program, he wouldn't even be pursuing it at all.
For basically his entire life he's known that he wanted to study English and become a college professor. He then gets accepted into a super competitive program at his dream school, andstill admits that he wouldn't have gone there if they didn't offer to pay for it.
Even for someone that knows exactly what they want, grad school is a big investment. So where does that leave people that want to go to grad school because they're just guessing it's the next step?
Avoid the temporary fix
Being disillusioned with your life's path is a symptom, not a sickness. In other words, it's a sign of something much deeper that needs to be addressed. You can't just throw money at universities and expect them to cure your life's woes.
A graduate degree will not magically give you an insatiable hunger to learn. It doesn't instill within you a killer work ethic. It won't guarantee that you'll get up each morning excited to tackle your day.
Think about it. Let's say you do go to grad school. What happens when you graduate? You start looking for jobs - you know, the very thing you were trying to escape by going to grad school in the first place. Then what? Does having an extra degree guarantee job satisfaction? Fulfillment? Passion?
Find the source of your fear and confront it
Grad school is an attractive option to you because you're scared. For most of our lives we're told what our next move is going to be. After college, we're finally given the reins and told to take control. It's daunting.
But it's okay to be scared. You're scared because you want to live a life of purpose. Because you're not happy being part of the status quo. Because when you think about going through the motions of your 9-to-5 job for the next 40 years, a little piece of you dies on the inside.
There are two ways to deal with this fear. You can distract yourself from it, or you can confront it.
Make no mistake, thinking to yourself, "Maybe I'll figure out what I want if I go back to school" is a distraction.
The other option is to confront your fear. Find the source of your dissatisfaction and ask yourself what you can do to overcome it.
You need to take a personal inventory
Start with these questions:
● What would I do if money were no object?
● How would I enjoy spending my life?
● What am I good at?
● What do I enjoy doing?
Don't hold back. So many people don't allow themselves to creatively explore their options because society demands that they're practical.
Screw practical. This is YOUR life.
After giving it some thought, you're going to come up with a list of things that you want to pursue. Here's what I came up with when I did this exercise:
● If money were no object, I would spend my time creating projects that inspire and educate others. I want to motivate talented, passionate people that are otherwise stuck in a rut in their lives; to bring them to the next level.
● I would enjoy spending my life learning from and helping others. I want to spend the rest of my life collaborating with others on creative projects.
● I'm good at connecting with people, finding their strengths, and motivating them to achieve.
● I enjoy writing, reading, inspiring others, and creating things.
I went to grad school for counseling because I thought it was necessary in order for me to accomplish all of the things I wanted. But looking back, it wasn't. I left my job recently because I realized I have the power to create something that allows me to do what I want -- on my own terms. And you do too, no student loans necessary.
Before you ask, no, I don't regret going to grad school. It was an invaluable educational experience, both in and outside the classroom. But I want to encourage others to really think twice about what they want in life. You'll find that you can change your reality -- without having to spend loads of time and money only to end up back at square one.
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