If you’re entering your last year of undergrad, you might be (are) asking (screaming at) yourself over what your next move will be. Is it that internship you’ve been eyeing? The dream job you’ve been working towards? If you’re like me you have absolutely no idea, there’s just a huge blank, an infinite abyss from which there is no escape. So you do what every student in your situation has done for as long as there has been higher education: you frantically start listing a bunch of potential graduate schools to apply to in the hopes that you can fend off the existential crisis that much longer. Well friends, I’m here to tell you to STOP. STEP AWAY FROM THE GRE BOOK.
I’m here to give you guys a break. I’m here to save you.
Why You Should Take a Break Before Grad School
This is why you’re here. You clicked on this article because you know in your heart of hearts, going to grad school right now will crush what’s left of your spirit.
If you got through undergrad with ease and think this is all a tad over dramatic, that’s great. Good for you. This article is for my fellow burnt out academics.
And for the record, consider this as going for you Master’s kids too. I’m going to give you the words you need to tell your nosy family member when they side eye you for not continuing on.
1. You Just Spent 16 Years in School
Assuming you didn’t take a break after high school, by the end of your undergraduate studies you’ll have spent the last 16 years in school. More if the field you majored in is severely impacted, meaning that you took longer to graduate because there were more students than there were available classes. This happened to people in my life, especially those in the science fields. They took and extra year or two to graduate because there just wasn’t enough room for everyone to get into the classes that they needed.
So if anyone ever deserved a break, it’s you my dude. Take a step back, let your mind and body rest from the constant stress of homework, finals, grades, etc. Grad school isn’t going anywhere, it’ll still be there when you’re rested and refreshed. Burn out is real, so go out and explore for a bit!
2. Be Sure It’s What You Want
This might go without saying, but you need to be sure that grad school is really what you want to do. It’s easy to get swept up in that ‘last year of college’ panic as you’re watching your colleagues and friends who you think have it all together. Trust me they’re all panicking too. Grad school is a BIG commitment, and it’s not a decision that you should make on the fly.
Taking a break after you graduate will give you time to really look at it from all angles to make sure that it’s what you want to do. Your pace doesn’t have to match anyone else’s. Maybe after that year is up you’ll realize you’re still not ready and that’s fine. There’s a lot that you can do in the mean time. You might even realize it’s not something you want at all, and that’s ok. Better to realize it before you’re half way through a degree you don’t want. You’ll save time and money that you can put into something else.
3. Grad School is a BIG Commitment
Grad school is on another level from undergraduate studies. In terms of time, money, and study. You might be thinking that’s obvious, but until you’re in the thick of it you really can’t know.
Because of that, I’m very glad I took two years off between my undergrad and graduate studies. Like many I had intended to dive right in before the dust had a chance to collect on my graduation cap. Luckily for me, I had a professor who cautioned me against doing that if I was only doing it because I didn’t know what else to do for precisely that reason. Once I did go back, I quickly realized there was no way I wouldn’t have cracked under the pressure.
My time off allowed me the time to prepare and plan exactly what grad school would look like for me. I was able to lay out time I would have to commit to attend classes, study, and work to pay for it all. Just having the time to plan all of that out went a long way to making me feel confident about my potential to succeed in a Master’s program.
4. Graduate School is Expensive
We can’t get through this without talking about the cost of going to extra school. That’s what a Master’s is, voluntary extra school, more so than a Bachelor’s. It’s extra extra school, and if you’re wanting a PhD? Extra extra extra school. All of those ‘extras’ really start to add up in dollar signs.
It’s a big investment in both money and time so you don’t want to make it lightly. Taking some time off after your Bachelor’s will ensure that you’re making the right call for yourself and your future. Unless the Master’s will help you advance in your current field, it’s likely that you’ll be sacrificing career/salary advancement time in order to earn that MA.
Added to that, the expenses start before you’re even accepted into a program if they require a GRE score. The GRE stands for Graduate Records Examination, and from what I can tell is just a fancy SAT. It really should just be done away with because it serves no real purpose in my opinion but I digress. You have to pay to prove you know the things that your diplomas say you do because they apparently aren’t enough (if I could insert the rolling eyes emoji here I would, I really hate that the GRE is a thing). Then once you’ve done that you still have to pay to apply to the actual program (which I also think is bullshit but whatever, that’s academia).
So as you can see, things start stacking up before you even start. Taking a break between your schooling gives you some time to save up for all of those costs (we didn’t even get into tuition, books, travel, etc).
I don’t say all of this to dissuade you, just to advise you. I went to grad school after all, and I loved it. Sure I was stressed and questioning my life choices at times, but that can happen wherever you go. Nothing worth having is easy and nothing is perfect. I made some great friends through grad school, and learned from some of the best professors one could ask for. And none of that might have happened if I’d gone straight out of undergrad, my friends especially. They came into my life exactly when I needed them, and without that break I might not have ever met them. So take that break, you never know what/who might be waiting for you in the future.
Will you be going to grad school? What will you study? Let me know in the comments below!
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I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!