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by Vault Careers | March 10, 2009


When it comes to graduate school, there are two main schools of thought. The first, (ledby anxious parents everywhere) says, "Go right away! Otherwise, you'll forgetwhat it's like to be in school, and you won't be able to study! And you'llnever get a decent job in the real world anyway!" If this voice is the one currentlypounding in your brain, tell it to be quiet and go take a nap. Then, listen to the morerational side of the debate, often specified in small print on graduate schoolapplications: most graduate students are in their late twenties, as schools like it if youhave both life and professional experience before pursuing a higher degree.

Of course, not all graduate degrees are created equal. First there are professionaldegrees (law, teaching, medicine) versus academic degrees (literature, art history). Someprograms take only a year, others seem to take the rest of your life. Also, certainprofessions essentially require you to have more than a B.A. before even considering them(particularly in academia). Other fields are more willing to take a chance on a brashyoung thing, such as yourself.

Ultimately, the best thing to do is to ask people who are experienced in your chosenfield. Ask them if they think you would be best off going to grad school right away, or ifthey feel you should wait awhile. Ask them about the best schools, and the best degrees for whatyou want to do. Don't forget to ask them if their companies ever pay for employeesto get more education. Frequently, a company will chip in and give an employee flexiblehours, in return for a guarantee of work for a certain period of time after he or she hasgraduated.

One thing graduate school should not be is a last resort. It is too expensive and timeconsuming to do without really knowing that it's what you want to be doing -- atleast for the time being.


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