grad school? (advice wanted)

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by FredAkbar, Dec 24, 2007.

  1. FredAkbar macrumors 6502a


    Jan 18, 2003
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Hi everyone. So in a nutshell, I'm not sure if I want to go to grad school or not. I'll give you the rundown on my situation and you guys can tell me what you think, as you're always so good at doing ;).

    I'm a second-year undergrad at UCSB. Math major, maybe linguistics minor. No clue what I'm doing to do "when I grow up." I was near the top of my class in high school (4.4 weighted GPA), and am on a full 4-year scholarship (Regents) at UCSB, where I have a 3.86 GPA through 1 1/3 years (we're on the quarter system).

    I was always planning to go to grad school, just as I always assumed I'd go to college; it was, academically, the right thing to do for me. But lately I've been having second thoughts. I know I have a few years to go, but I want to be thinking about it early so I can make the right choices if necessary.

    First, there's the cost. I've been lucky (well, arguably it isn't luck but it sure feels like it) to have this full scholarship ($25k/year) at UCSB, and I don't think I'd be able to get as much financial aid for grad school. I know there is some out there, but it seems like I'd have to go into debt, or at least spend all the money that I'm saving up (from spare scholarship money, plus jobs) right now. I wouldn't have any family support (financially) as we are pretty poor. I hate the idea that all this money I'm saving up right now will just evaporate, or mean slightly less student loans. My grandpa (who taught at UC Davis) says they (for instance) fully financially support their grad students who need it and that I shouldn't be worrying about potential cost. Is this true?

    Second, from what I hear, grad school is about specifying in one exact field, and doing advanced research. This isn't something I'm sure I want to be doing. I like learning about math and all, but I don't know if I want to be researching it. I prefer the more broad education that undergraduate study seems to offer. You're supposed to establish good relationships with professors in undergrad so you can get letters of rec for grad school, and I haven't done that at all yet and don't really see it happening yet. I realize that I could be more involved if I wanted to, but I don't really have the drive to go beyond just what I'm learning in my classes (which are plenty interesting, don't get me wrong).

    Third, this wouldn't be the first time in my life that I've had to decide between what I feel is right for me and what I'm "supposed to do" in terms of high academic achievement. I got into Stanford and probably could have gotten full financial aid there, but I chose UCSB because it felt right for me; it's a public school, less snobby, more laid-back, easier to have fun there. And I love Santa Barbara and UCSB. To me, the grad school choice is kind of like that, even though I'm not trying to decide between different schools (yet).

    I'd be happy to get a good job that I enjoy, not necessarily a hugely lucrative or high-end position, which is why I'm not sure that I should go to grad school. But at the same time, I don't want to miss out, maybe grad school will turn out to be fun, not as hard as I think it will be, and rewarding/useful later in life. So if anyone has advice or experience to share, I'd like to hear it. Thanks.
  2. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 6, 2006
    I'm in a similar position as you. I'm in my 2nd year (going into 2nd semester of that year) at a small liberal arts college (curiously enough it's about an hour south of UCSB) on a half tuition scholarship. I too have been contemplating grad school a lot. I am an Accounting major with a slightly above 3.9 GPA. My current ambition is to pursue a Ph. D. in Accounting so that I can become a professor. All the things you're question are very similar to things I find myself thinking about often. Here's some of the conclusions I've come to (for now) about those questions.

    Cost: Graduate school financial support definetly seems more difficult to get, especially for Masters Degree programs and law school. The general pattern I've seen (in the MBA, MS in Finance, etc) is that financial support can be somewhat difficult to come by. If you are looking to obtain a Ph.D. most schools (especially top private schools) will cover all of your tuition and provide you with some form of research assistantship or teaching assistantship that will earn you from $15,000-$33,000 per year to pay for living expenses, etc. This all varies from school to school and program to program, all this is based off of information I obtained about Ph.D. and MBA programs, so look at the specific area (and schools you would liked to study at) you would be interested in studying to find out what is available in those areas.

    Research/studies: Since I haven't been to grad school I can't answer give you a ton of info on this. Generally, from what I have seen and heard, graduate school is much more specific than your undergraduate years (especially the first two). It is more focused on expanding your knowledge of your subject of choice than expanding your knowledge of many subjects (like general education classes). However, most schools will allow you to take classes outside of your area if you choose to. As for research, a Ph.D. is generally a degree to work in academia, there are people who work outside of academia, but most schools say the degree aim is prepare students for a career in academia. Of course you may be able to do consulting on the side for some extra bucks, but the main aim of a Ph.D. is generally to do research and teaching. However, the Masters degrees in your field may be perfect for a job outside academia and teaching at smaller colleges, junior colleges, and high schools.

    As for your last question: Do what your heart tells you to do, not what you're "supposed" to do. If you don't feel like going to graduate school after you graduate, don't go. Coming from a good school, with such an excellent GPA, you'll get a fairly decent job, it might not pay $150,000 a year, but hey, not a whole hell of a lot of jobs do. You can always go to graduate school later, if your a "normal" college student you'll be around 21-22 when you finish college, going to the workforce for a few years isn't going to hurt, you can always go to graduate school at 24-26 (most people are in that age range or older) and be perfectly fine.

    Hopefully this helps a little, just remember some of it may be business specific. Good luck with school and all the tough decisions that come with it and remember there are many people thinking about the same things as you. :)
  3. furious macrumors 65816


    Aug 7, 2006
  4. afallnstar macrumors member


    Sep 9, 2007
    I am also in a similar situation, I am in my second year at the University of Arizona where I am studying Business with emphasis on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. I am on a full athletic scholarship, so since day one my plan has been to use it to my advantage. Since I began attending UofA I have been doing some independent consulting work in hopes to build up enough money to pay for my graduate degree, which I am hoping to pursue at Stanford. I was able to come to the conclusion of attending graduate school based on a few things; first, my older brother just turned 30 and he has graduated with his doctoral degree. I am 19 so 30 seems kind of old from my age, but at the same time he is now finished with school. He has gotten the highest degree possible without getting a second masters, etc. In speaking with him he says that working as a professor is much harder than being a student so that may be one thing to keep in mind. We have all our lives to work, so if we can enjoy college and put off going into the "real world" for a while; why not?

    The second thing that I considered (which is especially important for me) is who I may meet at my next academic institution. Obtaining a graduate degree will expose you to many more like minded people who are serious about their future and their education. For me personally it increased the possibility of finding a business partner.

    The final point that helped me come to my conclusion of getting a graduate degree is what do you really have to lose. It is guaranteed that you will make more money in the long run with a masters than you would with a bachelors so why not?

    Hope this helps some!
  5. letsgorangers macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2006
    Don't have time to read all of this, but most schools do offer quite a bit of assistance for grad students. I am a second year Masters candidate and I have a Graduate Assistantship position that pays my tuition + a stipend. If you want to go for a PhD (I am), most schools accept very few so they can financially support all of them.

    In my experience, grad school is a lot of research-based learning but I am in a field that demands it (psychology). Also, my concentration is research/quantitatively based, so it could be different for other fields.
  6. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    OP, I think you're rushing this decision a little. You don't need to get a Master's right away. Why not find a job in your field and work for a few years? If you find that the pay is decent (meaning you have the lifestyle you want) and you're happy, and the long term job security looks good, then you can hold off getting that MS/MA. If you do a good job at work, some employers might offer to pay for your education (and you can take it easy because you'll be on a "work/school plan). At that point (maybe five or more years after you've been working there) you may decide getting that MS/MA will mean more to you.
  7. foidulus macrumors 6502a

    Jan 15, 2007
    You really won't know yet

    Unless you have already fell in love with a particular research topic, chances are you simply will not know yet if grad school is for you or not.

    Cost is rarely an issue unless you go to professional schools(med school, law school, dental school etc.) but keep in mind that esp. in math the field can be incredibly cut throat.

    As you progress in your classes, you might some particular course/subject that really ignites your passion. If that happens, go to grad school! I was ambivalent about going to grad school myself until I took a course in Scientific Computing and absolutely loved it! Now I am planning to go to grad school in 2008(after taking off a couple of years to work in Germany)

    However, since you are still young, my advice to you is to try a little bit of everything; don't cut off any paths yet but totally devote yourself to one either. I would suggest working with a prof on a research project if at all possible. If you are hard working and willing to work for free they may be very interested to have you help out if you can demonstrate that you are both willing and able to do the work. This will give you a taste of what grad school is about. In your senior year see if you can TA a course or two. Certainly will not hurt your prospects of getting accepted to a good school.

    At the same time maybe take a couple of "practical" courses in something math related, ie computer science or actuarial science. That way, if you decide grad school isn't for you, you can find something else out there to do without starving.

    My other advice is more general in nature: study abroad, learn another language(you are minoring in Linguistics it seems, so you probably have all that covered) and most of all enjoy being an undergrad! Its certainly a unique period in life that you almost never will have a chance to relive.
  8. thechidz macrumors 68000


    Jul 25, 2007
    New York City
    Only go to a program that accepts you straight into a PhD and gives you full funding ie. Grad assistantship or fellowship. Grad school is becoming more and more necessary but if you have to pay, that debt piles up. Believe me I know. Its good that youre in math though. I much more stable field than mine:eek:
  9. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    well, do you have any reasons FOR going to grad school? It seems to me your whole post was mostly about why NOT to go......and it seems like if you're going to continue on with more schooling, you should have a good reason!

    Fortunately, you have plenty of time to sort this all out since you're only in your second year of undergrad.
  10. FredAkbar thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 18, 2003
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Thanks for all the responses guys. Keep them coming :).

    That's the thing, I think that if I went to grad school, I'd want to just get a Masters degree, because it's stronger than a Bachelor's but doesn't take an inordinate amount of time to get, and it isn't focused on research/teaching careers (which I'm not either, at the moment).

    Yeah, I guess you can tell which way I'm leaning from my post :eek:.

    Reasons for going to grad school:

    - better degree means more job opportunities and potentially higher pay
    - having a Masters puts me in a much higher, smaller group (not that I want to be "elite" or anything, I just mean in terms of finding work, etc.)
    - I've always done well academically and I don't think grad school would be "beyond me." It's the next step if I want to further my education.
    - if I stop at a BS, and watch a lot of the people around me continue to grad/medical schools, I'll wonder if I shouldn't be with them. For anyone who felt that college (undergrad) was an obvious choice (I certainly did), imagine if you had stopped after high school, gotten a job, and watched your friends all go off to college. Wouldn't you wonder if you were missing out, both socially and educationally?

    But the argument of working for a few years, then going back to grad school if I wanted to, seems reasonable and I hadn't really considered that. But, wouldn't it be harder to get into grad school (and maybe to get financial aid) if I wasn't coming fresh out of college (with teacher recs, internships, etc. under my belt)? Or do you think it'd be easier because I'd (hopefully) have real-world experience in the field of math?
  11. thechidz macrumors 68000


    Jul 25, 2007
    New York City
    It depends on what you want to do. The ivory tower is the only field that actually frowns upon work experience (freaks) not that doesnt include professional schools. So it seems like at least a year of work would be good for you. Slave away for a year and get some great recommendations.
  12. Am3822 macrumors 6502


    Aug 16, 2006
    Groningen, The Netherlands
    Have you considered studying CS? With a degree in math and linguistics, you might be ideally suited to study computational linguistics.

    I don't know how the American system works, but I'm fairly certain that you're allowed some time to decide on your research subject. Besides, since the PhD course can take up to 6 years, you will have more than enough time to steer your research towards areas which interest you (and your supervisor, of course).
  13. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    i had similar thoughts

    i graduated 1 out of 600 in hs and currently #2 in my graduating class in college for mechanical engineering, of which i graduate this may

    i have wrestled with grad school mainly because i have always done well in school and figured may as well. however, when the avg starting salary is about 60k right out of school with a BS in mech engr and around 70k if you have a masters i figured it wasnt worth it to me

    partly because it takes about 1-2 years to get the masters. during that time i could make in excess of 100k for just a benefit of about 10k a year by having a masters. in other words, keeping the wages stable it would take 10 years to justify my masters

    however during that ten years, i expect to get promoted and possibly even have grad school paid for me by the company

    also i am just getting tired of school so i have very little motivation for more school at the moment haha

    that was my reasoning as to why i chose not to pursue grad school at this time
  14. cleo macrumors 65816


    Jan 21, 2002
    Tampa Bay Area, FL, USA
    (warning, long post ahead :))


    I was, until very recently, in a very similar situation. I went to a small, private liberal arts college for undergrad (also on full scholarship as a National Merit Scholar), and I treasure the fundamental principles of liberal arts education: interdisciplinary studies, the ability to come at a project from many different angles, close collaboration with fellow students and professors, and most of all, experiential learning (not just "memorize these chapters and write a five-paragraph essay"). I felt prepared, upon graduating with my BA, to tackle anything -- but specialized enough in any one area to do very little.

    Like you, I had no idea what I wanted to do "when I grow up" (and I stlll don't!). Also -- and I don't mean to be a snob about this, I just think it's true -- those of us who are both exceptionally talented intellectually and curious about diverse subjects are in a difficult position, because we literally *can* do just about whatever we decide to do. That creates enormous pressure to feel like you're picking the "right thing"... and I, like you, was in no way willing to spend the rest of my life focused on some arcane and narrow slice of one subject matter. I used to label this as being unfocused/unmotivated/aimless/wasting my potential, etc... but the truth is that I'm simply curious. I wasn't given a cookie-cutter brain, and I see now that, whatever I do, it won't include getting a cookie-cutter Ph.D. or languishing in a cookie-cutter career. Reframing it like this takes a lot of the pressure and self-doubt away.

    Now, some practical stuff. First, grad school isn't for everyone. Do not, under any circumstances, enter a Ph.D, program unless you are *passionate* about not just the material, but the specific program. Master's, or other non-terminal degrees, are a different matter altogether. It's generally only 2, sometimes 3, years; a master's in *anything* will increase your earning potential; and even if you know you'll eventually want to study for a Ph.D., you don't have to get a Master's in the same area. As far as finances go, I'll echo what has been said by everyone else, and add that educational debt does not affect your credit rating and or otherwise affect you in the same way as consumer debt does. It's an investment, much like home ownership. If you've considered all other aspects, don't let money be the deciding factor; at the end of the day, money is nothing next to education.

    Now, what did I do? I decided not to go to grad school immediately after undergrad. At the time, the decision had more to do with personal stuff... I needed to take some time off to resolve depression & anxiety that (as a high performer) had plagued me since middle school. In retrospect, I'm *so* thankful that I too the path I did. True, I could be wrapping up my Ph.D. by now. But, with one exception, all of my friends who went to grad school did so because it was just the next step expected of them (by parents, professors, society, themselves), and not one of them has grown as a person in any way except academically. In my view, your 20's are a time to get to know yourself, to experiment, to step off the well-scheduled life track laid down for you merely due to your IQ and explore other parts of yourself. That's what I've done, at least, and for me it was 110% right. I'm blessed in that my parents have been able to support me financially, so I've been able to volunteer, do workshops, travel, write... basically get to know myself. But that's something you can still do with a job, if you resist the pressure to jump into the 70-hour-a-week rat-race. For me, I just kind of knew in my gut when it was time for me to start the next chapter, being grad school. I decided to step outside the mainstream university-oriented graduate track and chose The California Institute of Integral Studies for my MA. It's fully accredited and highly respected, and at the same time takes a much more holistic, multidisciplinary approach to education. I'm only one semester in, but I love it... definitely the right choice for me.

    I guess that's the main thing -- you have to do what's right *for you*. And if you don't know what that is, #1 you're completely normal -- don't buy into the hype that everyone knows exactly what they're going to do for the rest of their lives at age 20 -- and #2, give yourself the time and permission to explore and to discover what *is* right for you. Try to let go of all the fear-based "should's" that rule the lives of far too many gifted individuals... in the long run you'll be much more successful and much happier if you let yourself f*** up every now and then. ;)
  15. iSaint macrumors 603


    May 26, 2004
    South Mississippi y'all, near the water!
    I think you have a couple of more years to decide, and that, possibly, you will change your mind before then.
  16. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I'll be one of many who will tell you that no amount of education will ever replace real-world experience. I have an MBA but I am technically paid for my years of work experience and not my MBA. Regardless of the fact that I'm a new graduate, I assure you, my compensation is based solely on my experience with a slight leg up due to the degree. If I move positions now I could potentially earn the same or $10-20k more due to the MBA.

    I say finish your undergrad and go work for a while. Go back and get the Masters.
  17. kainjow Moderator emeritus


    Jun 15, 2000
    I think it depends on the field to determine whether grad school is worth it or not. For me, going into a computer engineering/science degree, experience is 10x more valuable than a masters. But I'm not sure what the benefits are for math. I agree with the others, don't go into grad school right away. Get a job and work for a year or so, and then decide. Then you'll have real world experience and can see more clearly the benefits of grad school.
  18. obeygiant macrumors 68040


    Jan 14, 2002
    totally cool
    Unless you have an extra $50,000 to pay for it DON'T do it. Imagine a degree that won't make much of an impact on your career and having to pay $600 a month for the next 10 years. Which would you rather have? A fine job making a respectable amount of money and driving a Mercedes C-class or having a masters and making a little over a respectable amount of money and having to drive your old beater.
  19. furcalchick macrumors 68020


    Dec 19, 2006
    South Florida
    i was in the same boat as the first poster a couple of years ago, but i'm going to sum up my little adventure of the grad school conflict. i graduated with a bs in biology last december, and i feel better about myself now than i did then. some of the info is probably a repeat from other posters, but more stories can't hurt. and yes, it's going to be long.

    like cleo, i came into college after scoring high marks in high school (3.5 gpa). i majored in biology initially because it was something i was interested in, and really didn't have an idea of after college, as i thought it was just going to lay itself out after a few years. i was more of a 'break from the pack' type, doing things in weird ways and not wanting to go with the popular choice. i wasn't really stuck in biology as a career path for much of my freshman year, it was more like finish college and get out into the real world and do what i want to do.

    fast forward to year two (i was kinda weird as i only had one sophomore semester and only spent 7 semesters in college). the professors were pretty much pressuring me (one in particular) that grad school was the only route for me because of how smart i was and that everyone else was pretty inferior because of my skills. i turned into someone i couldn't really recognize, and was trying to become the model science grad student. at the same time, i got more burnt out (i think it was the combination of taking 18 credits and the pressure to be this smart person who only gets a's). i felt forced to love the lab (something i didn't really enjoy) and like things i didn't really like just to give the impression of me being that student. i forced myself to cut my interests expect science ones in the pursuit of that. i drove myself to less satisfaction with my life and tons of regret related to that issue. i went for internships i wasn't interested in, tried to get into topics that wasn't really my thing. then my peers and parents were pressuring me that i should go straight to grad school and that if i didn't, i was pretty much a failure compared to my peers going on to smarter things and me with my lowly bachelors.

    it just got worse and worse until i got an f on a cell bio exam during the third year. i think that was my first wake up point. after talking with a third party for a bit, i decided not to go to grad school for at least a year after college, because i found out i had alot of unresolved issues made worse by this graduate school thing. i was burnt out, and for a while, felt like a loser because of it. all the other classmates never felt burnt out and were going to go do greater things, and i felt like a zero because i wasn't the smartest on the block anymore. there was still the profs that were telling me that those that don't go to ph.d in biology were bio failures, and i was still feeling the crunch to go the grad school way. at that point, i felt that the only measure of a person was by how they did in school, and that anyone that wasn't smart was a failure. i thought the ones that go on to grad school were the real successes in life, since they went on to the next step in life instead of whimping out and going into the real world.

    i did some research during the winter break between my junior and senior year about whether to go to grad school or not. after reading up on it, i found out that grad school needed 100% commitment to a specific subject and no time to do anything else because you'll be running around doing all sorts of other stuff instead. by this point, i couldn't choose a dedication to my life to do something, no attachment, and i felt a bit weary of biology as a career. and there was something there other things i can do besides this for my life?

    let's go to spring of my senior year (this wasn't my last semester, this was spring of 2006). i was in a headache trying to do my own scientific project (which i had to rush to do because all my other ideas fell flat, passed though) and micro lab was a pain (yes, it's worse than you think, caused several lab accidents). but the painful semester finally realized that i wasn't bound to have a lab career if i didn't want to and that there were other paths to being in science than just taking the traditional route of grad school to career in a lonely lab (something that didn't really grab me). i realized that even if my classmates went to grad school right away and i didn't, i wasn't a failure at all for choosing to take a break after college and figure out my own way into science, probably through the real world instead of the clouds of academia.

    that last semester, i had the senior research project, which i always imagined doing my own research and having the stellar project. turns out i just did an average one (still got an A) and graduated college. not too much here.

    but the interesting part is this past year, i found myself putting back those interests that i set aside for the grad school life, and after some more evaluating, i found that science wasn't really too much of a passion for me to get into a career (the job market for it isn't great), among personal reasons i posted a few months ago here. i no longer felt the pressure to follow a career path set by profs or peers just because i was smart. the regret was gone, and i felt totally satisfied again, like i was before the pressure to get into grad school took over.

    if there's anything to take away from this, here are my takes (most of them are repeats). first, really look into why you want to go to graduate school. is it to impress profs or peer pressure with their dreams for you? or is it because you really feel passionate about the subject matter? i was more of the former, which is bad news. google a bunch about grad school and get info from grad school students, because the only message i got from profs was go to grad school, and of course the dreams of grad school. get both sides of the story, not just from biased profs that want more grad student meat for their labs. i was even yelled at by my parents for listening to 'negative internet people' when i told them i wasn't going to grad school. it's probably similar to what alot of gifted people go though, like cleo mentioned. and yeah, it's pretty much focused on one subject.

    second, take a break after college. this is really important. in that thread a few months back, someone suggested taking a few months to a year off and dive into what you love, but haven't been able to get into during college. i felt the peer pressure for many years trying to be the smartest out there, and to take a break from that and do what i like without pressure of being smart gave me a bunch of relief. i got to search for and do things that i liked instead of just doing the 'smart' thing. there's always time to get into the rat race later, but i think it's more important to establish who you are first so that you don't lose your identity in the rat race and fall into peer pressure. don't try to complicate life, keep it simple.

    third, don't feel trapped in your major. i did, and i felt there were no options for me if i cut out science, probably up to a few months ago. of course during college, all the profs are going to tell you if you don't go into your major, you're a failure. that is false. with a few exceptions, employers don't care that much what you majored in, and after a few years, it won't really matter too much what was your major. i personally think too many people in college don't think about the present, but only think about their careers, and seem to be in a rush to get into the rat race and don't develop a sense of identity, which gets them into trouble later.

    and one more thing: i feel that the academic pressure nowadays is out of control, telling people to sacrifice everything else in the name of academia. we already have an excess of ph.d's with little real life experience. someone else said that those types of people are out of touch with reality and live in a idealistic world, something this world doesn't need as much as real thinkers. they had said that many grad students look alot like super smart teenagers instead of adults (moreso the ones that went straight to grad school due to peer pressure and like the next step in life) with little personal growth. i felt like i had to revert to a teenage state in order to be the model grad student as well, not growing in any way expect for my brains, and it was horrible. so don't into grad school unless you have a really good reason.
  20. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    you forget one thing about that extra 10k. You pay raises and bonuses are general % based on your salary. General people get around a 5% pay raise a year (give or take). The first year it is 10k. Then next year it is going to be $10,500 and so on. Also add in the fact that the higher you go in the company have that masters will make that easier (which translated into more money) So really it pays it selve off a lot faster than 10 years.
  21. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    If it is about the money then it is pretty easy to figure out which path is correct for your field. But grad school also allows you to take some career paths you can't take without a degree. The students in the biology program here are only paid $25,000 a year stipends, but I'd say 90% are really glad they are grad students and are reluctant to leave.
  22. invasian macrumors regular


    Jun 7, 2007
    Here's my experience.

    Just finished my PhD a week and a half ago in bioengineering at Rice Univ. Overall, it took 4.5 years. As with most engineering grad programs, they paid for tuition and gave about a 22K stipend each year. It's not much, but with my lifestyle, I lived quite comfortably on this. That's the financial situation. I probably would not go to grad school if it was not fully funded. I imagine that math grad programs would also pay for you, since I have friends in the stats dept who have a similar deal. Different programs and schools will give different stipends.

    In grad school, you again meet people from all different sorts of backgrounds and universities. There are not only people from your year, but you get to know people in the years ahead of you, and 1 or 2 years after you. This is in addition to the professors. The environment is much more personable in grad school compared to undergrad. These are the types of connections that you may want to make for your future. You will have those going to academia as well as in industry with well-respected degrees and positions.

    Research-wise, I agree, you will do specialized research in a particular area, so like someone said, you should be passionate about it. Otherwise, you're going to be pretty miserable when things don't work and you feel like just quitting. For example, the research I was doing was specifically bone tissue engineering...and while bone isn't exactly my passion, tissue engineering is. The ideas and research tools I picked up while doing the research can be applied to other types of tissue engineering. So just because you specialize in an area, doesn't mean you will be limited. You can also try to do multidisciplinary research or find a lab where you will be able to do research that you want. You still have time to figure out what you like.

    Overall, I would recommend grad school. Sometimes it is tough, but the experience will make you a better researcher. I guess if you want to do research, getting a PhD is probably necessary and will be worth it in the end.
  23. drewfus macrumors 6502


    Jul 3, 2006
    Evanston, IL
    I agree with the people here who are telling you that you should take some time off between finishing your bachelor's and master's degrees. I think that going straight through would rob you of valuable experience that could certainly be of use to you in the long run.

    I suppose my situation's a bit different since I didn't study a "practical" field, but I'm glad I waited. I finished my undegrad near the top of my class in Music Education. I then was lucky enough to find a job teaching high school, which was exactly what I wanted. I did that for 4 years, and then decided somewhere in that time that I wanted to go back. So, I applied and was accepted to the masters program in jazz pedagogy another university, where I am now. The school I was working at granted me a two year leave of absence, meaning that I will have my job back at a higher level of pay, plus reimbursement for a certain number of credits.

    The experience here has been excellent, and because of my teaching experience, I've been able to handle a lot of responsibility in the program that I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to deal with had I gone straight through. I've also made inroads with both the music education and jazz faculty, and many of them are willing to give me recommendations should I decide to continue on with a DMA (doctor of musical arts) or Ph.D.

    So anyway, I would say take some time to work and think about it, and you may find that not being a student for a while reignites your desire to be in school. And more importantly....enjoy the time that you have left in your undergrad studies!
  24. ravenvii macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    This kind of response pisses me off a bit.

    Travel? Yeah, that'd be nice... but where the hell does the money come from? Sheesh.

    Back on topic... I second the other posters. Do what YOU want, not what others tell you to do. Taking a year off from school is actually a GREAT idea if you're unsure what you want to do. Spend the year with a job or something, or join the Peace Corps or some such. The experience will strengthen your motivation for whatever you choose to do, and that is essential.

    I'm in law school currently, and last semester was extremely hard for me, not because of the academics, but because I kept fighting against myself. Motivation and the feeling of being trapped on a path I discovered I didn't want, made the semester hell. You don't want that.

    So good luck with your endeavors. Remember, you only live once, and you're supposed to enjoy life for yourself, not for others.

    Edited to add: As for my financial situation, I nor my family are exactly rich. I went through undergraduate almost free, and the rest I paid off during the summers. So I'm debt-free going into law school. In law school, it's different. I have about half of my tuition paid off. I have to take care of my own living expenses, as I don't live in dorms or at home any longer. So I'll graduate with debt. But I'm fortunate to be better off than some (debt from undergraduate plus full debt from law school = one big pile of debt!).

    You should fill out a FAFSA, and see if you qualify for a Stafford loan. That will save you a lot of money on interest.

    (P.S. Don't go to law school!)
  25. MBHockey macrumors 68040


    Oct 4, 2003
    New York
    I'm trying to decide whether to go to grad school also.

    I got a Bachelor's in mechanical engineering and I'm working my first job now (only about 6 months now). I don't want to do this job forever, but I also don't know what else I'd do. I really like computer science, but I don't know if a mechanical engineer can go to grad school for computer science (how does that work?).

    I'd like to travel, and after this year I'd definitely have the money...but I don't know how much that'd help me figure out what career i want.

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