Why Graduate School?
While graduate school can be rewarding, it can also be expensive and time-consuming. It’s important to weigh whether it’s the right next step for you. To get started, reflect and research the answers to these questions:
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- Am I ready to do the work?
- Is this going to make a difference for my career and long-term income?
- If I need to take out student loans, is it still worth it?
- Should I gain work experience first?
Reflect on Your Reasons for Attending
What are your reasons for attending graduate school? Where do they fall on this scale?
- Based on my research, I know that I need a particular graduate degree to secure the job I want.
- Based on my research, I know that a graduate degree will give me better job choices.
- I want to be a researcher or a college professor.
- I don’t know what else to do.
- I can put off paying my college loans.
- My parents or teachers expect me to go.
- It’s a way to avoid finding a real job.
Conduct Preliminary Research
I work with lots of students who think, “I like research, I like writing. Maybe I should go to law school.” With these students, I always want to know what jobs they’re interested in that lead them to consider a JD. Do they want to be a lawyer? Work in policy? Work in government? By starting with the career goal, they can assess whether they actually need a law degree to do that work. — GS Dean Tiffany Decker
How can you find out whether a particular degree is necessary for securing and doing the job you want? Here are a few research tools we recommend:
- Online research, using tools like O*NET, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and the Vault Guides to different industries.
- Reading job descriptions, which can help you understand required qualifications for the roles you’re targetting.
- Browsing LinkedIn profiles, to see the educational trajectories of people doing the work you want to do.
- Informational interviews, or chatting with people doing the work you’re interested in.
Interested in moving forward? Check out our other graduate school resources for tips about selecting a school, applying, obtaining references, and financing your graduate education.
Columbia-Specific Graduate School Resources
- Meet one-on-one with a career counselor to discuss whether graduate school is the right choice for you. We can also give you generalist feedback on statements and other application materials!
- Listen to our conversation with GS Dean Tiffany Decker about considerations around attending graduate school and putting together a compelling application package.
For CC and SEAS Students
- Office of Preprofessional Advising: Resources and advising throughout the graduate school application process for law, health professions, and business. Sign up for their Prelaw and Prehealth listservs to learn about events and opportunities.
- Fellowships Office: Fellowships database and personal training for students applying for national and international fellowships.
- SEAS Bulletin: List of fellowships and scholarships available to SEAS graduate students.
For GS Students
- Graduate School Planning: Resources and advising throughout the application process, including a semester-long seminar on the application process.
- Pre-Professional Planning: Resources and advising throughout the graduate school application process for law, health professions, and business.
- Fellowships: List of fellowships, resources, and advising on the application process.
General Graduate School Resources
Graduate School Databases
- Petersons Guide to Graduate Study: Tools for finding and financing graduate programs
- College Source: A database of college catalogs, institution profiles, and course descriptions
- Graduate Guide: A directory of graduate schools in the US and Canada
- US News & World Report: Search engine for top-ranking programs by discipline
- PhDs.org: A search and ranking tool for master’s and doctorate programs; career resource extras include Getting into Grad School, Succeeding in Grad School, and Postdoctoral Life pages