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

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

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!
  • 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

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

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