Art by Brooke Muschott
Another semester is almost over, and another academic year at Pepperdine draws to a close. Some of you will rejoice in the freedoms of summer, pursuing either leisure or productivity, whichever befits your mood. You earned the right to choose, after all. Our seniors, who will embark on their journey into the “real world” as their time at Pepperdine comes to an end, may be the most deserving of this right.
Some of the Graphic staff have been there before. As graduate students, they’ve faced the choices laid out for a student fresh out of undergraduate study. At the time, they were eager to finally be done with school, to enter the workforce and pursue a career while making some real money for a change. Unfortunately for them, the dream was not the reality, and a few short years later they found themselves reapplying to schools and furthering their education to inevitably be back to where they once were: A little older, a little wiser and with a piece of paper in hand saying they did something.
Many soon-to-be-graduated seniors will undoubtedly be looking to enter the workforce to have an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in four years of college in a tangible way while making some money to pursue other passions. And that is all well and good. This isn’t meant to deter anyone from entering the workforce and moving on up the ranks, but rather to caution everyone as to whether or not the time is right for you to do so. In the experience of some, the education they had after undergraduate study wasn’t sufficient to place them in the working environment that they thought was ideal for themselves, and they figure that graduate study might just be the boost they need to get to where they want to be. According to the graduate students who are members of the Graphic staff, they can’t help but wonder if that decision was the right one to make — if postponing “adulthood,” in the traditional sense, was the right call. Although admittedly, the strenuous nature of graduate study has made them feel more “adult” than ever before (while being broke to boot).
However, their time in the workforce between undergraduate and graduate study wasn’t a waste. They learned a great deal about navigating the workforce, about workplace culture and most importantly, about personal and financial responsibilities. These are things you may flirt with in your undergraduate studies, but they become your entire reality the second you leave campus and set out on your own. Furthermore, work experience plays a big part in the graduate school application process, and in some cases, work experience is what has allowed people to succeed in grad school.
To add more to the plate: Because of the increased pace of technological innovation and economic circumstances, high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees are no longer enough to qualify for many high-paying jobs in an increasingly competitive workforce. Many prestigious companies now require incoming job applicants to have a Master’s or Ph.D. These degrees are something that graduate schools can provide.
That being said, jumping immediately into grad school is not advisable for some people, as the workload is much heavier than that which is given to an undergraduate. Compounding this choice is the change in classwork philosophy, in which there is more emphasis placed on understanding and learning the material, rather than simply getting the grades. On the other hand, going to grad school can be an opportunity to really help you excel beyond your peers in the job applicant pool, and it can possibly help you start off on a better foot when you enter the workforce.
Nobody fully knows what they want to do after school. It might be a better idea to participate in the workforce in order to gain experience and get a better handle on what you want to do career-wise. Then again, if you have established what you want to do while an undergrad, then jumping straight into graduate-level coursework will not be as difficult. Just make sure you have a career plan before you make your decision.
Another good piece of advice for incoming graduate students is to establish tight connections with your professors as well as find a way to relieve stress. Graduate-level work is much more complex — both in quality and quantity — which will lead to increased levels of stress and, by extent, possible mental breakdowns. De-stressing through yoga, exercising or small self-imposed pockets of free time are recommended for mental health. Talking to professors as much as possible is also recommended, as they will provide necessary guidance for both classwork and any stress-related problems you may have. As well as providing paid research opportunities, they might even be able to point you in the direction of possible industry contacts for your chosen profession.
But in the end, the decision to attend or not attend graduate school is up to you. Nobody can make that decision for you. Perhaps your career field of interest would best be served with tangible work experiences. Or perhaps you take a year off from making a decision and travel Europe. That’s never a bad idea, right?
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