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?

Good reasons

  • 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.

Not-So-Good Reasons

  • 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

  • Online research, using tools like O*NET, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and the Firsthand 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

CCE 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.

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.
  • Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Office: Fellowships database and personal training for students applying for national and international fellowships.

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.

For Undergraduate Women

  • Forté Career Ready Certificate:  Free online career accelerator for undergraduate women of all majors at Forté partner schools that includes information about cross-industry business career paths and the value of an advanced degree.

General Graduate School Resources

Graduate School Databases

Other Resources

  • Teach for America: Information on graduate schools offering benefits to Teach for America alumni including two-year deferrals, fellowships, course credits, and waived application fees
  • MentorNet: Ementoring networking between experienced professionals and students in STEM fields