Graduate school, commonly referred to as “Grad” school, is the place for highly ambitious business professionals seeking a top management position. Or, that used to be my definition of grad school, at least.
Traversing through Fairfield University as a Communication and Digital Journalism major, the opportunity to attend grad school never crossed my mind. It was simply not something I needed to do, especially as an aspiring journalist. All I needed to do was get a job at a local newspaper, continue writing and reporting and eventually reach “The New York Times,” right?
Evidently, the shock on my face when all of my friends expressed interest in the extra schooling turned that dismissal into confusion. Do I need to go to grad school? Granted, most, if not all, of my friends here are a part of the Dolan School of Business, pursuing careers in marketing, accounting and all the like. For them, it makes sense.
The discussion on grad school is interesting when one looks at the increased vitality of college degrees. In 2023, every job application asks for your “education,” a strategy implemented to judge your college experience—or lack thereof. And, there are always the wide eyes and backhanded comments at Thanksgiving dinner when you tell your great aunt that you have opted for a trade school over a university. With this rise in significance, it is no surprise that graduate school is becoming just as popular.
In recent years, graduate school has become increasingly accessible to students. Post-pandemic, the creation of online or hybrid courses and programs has gained greater attractiveness among post-grads. Moreover, programs, such as Fairfield University’s accelerated bachelor’s/master’s program allow students to obtain their master’s in five years. These potentially less rigorous or demanding options provide students with a new way to uplift their educational expertise. If I could do grad school from the comfort of my bed, why wouldn’t I?
Yet, in my junior year of college, I am still unsure of whether graduate school is the place for me. If anything, a couple of years off after that May 2025 ceremony will allow me to take a breath, live a little bit and genuinely think about the options ahead of me. With that thought, I do not believe that everyone must attend grad school to succeed.
Law students have to go to law school. Medical students have to go to medical school. These occupations already have their specific schooling after college. I, however, do not follow either of those career paths nor do hundreds of other students. In fact, multiple established communication or journalism professionals, either in conversation or via speech, have told me the best way to make it in the journalism industry is to write, write, write. My profession requires me to be in the field, learning, not sitting in a classroom for another two or three years. The same concept applies to teachers. Aspiring teachers become student teachers in real classrooms, and they learn about their jobs through hands-on involvement and practice. Last week, I overheard a professor advise a public relations major that her best bet after school is simply to work.
In addition to career specifics, grad school is not a “now or never” type of deal. As I mentioned earlier, grad school will always be there for me, whether I’m 24, 34 or 64. Plenty of adults earn their master’s after meeting several professional goals. That being said, it is not something anyone needs to rush into. Organizations would surely love to see those additional years of studying on an application, yet they would also love to see real-world experience in their requested field. When I stand with my diploma in one hand and my cap in the other, I will feel ecstatic about the next chapter in my life. A chapter filled with writing, reporting and communicating feels much more rewarding than a chapter hidden behind more books and screens.
My opinions are not meant to diminish those who choose to attend graduate school. I admire their discipline and determination to become the best in their profession. Nonetheless, it is not for everyone; right now, it is not for me. I will not say I am ready to ditch the books; someday, I may return to them. Still, I am ready to start pursuing the future I have longed for years. And I will really need a homework break, too.