“Graduate school is a great time for reflection, furthering one’s experiences, and transitioning into professional life.”
Not many incoming freshmen have an exact plan for how their college careers will unfold. Four years is a long period of time for individuals who are just beginning to experience the freedom of adult life. Many students change their major at least one time, find a field that they enjoy in the midst of chaotic coursework and become productive professionals after earning a Bachelor’s degree. As a freshman, I had hopes to one day attend graduate school, but really had no clue about where life would take me over the course of my college career. At the time, the thought seemed unrealistic because of graduate school’s cost, the time investment to complete a degree, and rigor. Nearly six years later, I am glad that I stuck to my dream of going to graduate school. By using the resources around me, I have nearly earned another degree, published research, made more personal and professional connections, gained professional experience and reflected deeply on my life and profession. In sum, graduate school provides students with additional educational and professionals opportunities which might not be entirely available to undergraduates, and can be a sound option for any student who might wish to maintain an educational structure.
The prospect of attending graduate school did not just serve as a logical conclusion to my dream, but also as a placeholder in my life and an opportunity to think more deeply about what the next step in my life should be. Truth be told, after earning my Bachelor’s degree, I was hit hard with the feeling of “well…what’s next?” Many students will know that exact feeling once completing school. Having few employment options and an average amount of experience relative to my peers situated me in an awkward position where I felt powerless as I thought about my post-graduate plans. Graduate school gave me a purpose and a stepping stone for professional life: I used my teaching degree to begin substitute teaching and earned a graduate assistantship which paid for graduate school. I ultimately met many individuals who will serve as great references for my professional ability in the future, and I created more time for myself to reflect on what I have learned and what my limitations are going forward. In sum, I know myself better than I did two years ago, and I feel more confident about the transition into post-graduate life because of my time spent in graduate school.
For incoming freshmen and transfer students: it is never too soon to think or talk about the future. I hope that my story serves as solace for individuals who might one day find themselves consumed with uncertainty after completing their initial degree. Consider graduate school as a viable alternative to an immediate immersion into the professional world as well as transitional medium between education and professional life, and not just as a continuation of school. I made the most of graduate school while in attendance, and I have benefited from it tremendously personally and professionally.