What to consider as you make your decision
Can I do what I want to do with the degree I already have? In some fields, a bachelor’s degree is enough to lay the groundwork for a satisfying career. Graduate school won’t necessarily lead to a better job. Talk with your advisor if you’re not sure about this one.
Will I have a better chance of getting into graduate school if I gain some work/field experience first? Some graduate programs (MBA, M.Ed., and many PhD, for example) prefer that applicants have some amount of professional experience before seeking admission.
Can I afford it? Graduate school can be very expensive. Most graduate programs offer assistantships or other forms of financial aid, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it. You may graduate with considerable debt.
Am I willing (and able) to commit two to seven years to this undertaking? A master’s degree can generally be completed in two years or less, but a PhD can take 6-8 years (or longer). This is a serious time commitment.
The hidden costs of graduate school. Beyond tuition and fees, you will likely experience a loss of income. It is difficult to work and go to graduate school at the same time, and some programs actually require that you agree to NOT work outside the institution while you are a student. Most likely, if you work at all, it will be part-time. Part-time pay rarely covers full-time expenses such as rent, utilities, food, insurance, etc.
Graduate school is stressful! Completing a graduate degree, especially a PhD, requires emotional maturity and discipline that you may not be anticipating.
But on the other hand…
Now might be the best time. Before you’ve started a career that you might later find difficult to leave…before you buy that new car that comes with 5 years of payments you won’t be able to make if you quit your job to go to graduate school…before you make a relationship commitment that may lead to additional financial obligations that make it difficult to give up any portion of your income…while your time is (at least sort of) your own. Now might be the time.
If you know what you want to do and you have a true passion for it…if you’re willing to dedicate the time and energy to what could be the most intellectually and academically rewarding time of your life…if you have the means or are willing and able to assume some amount of debt to achieve this goal…if thinking about not going feels worse than thinking about going…if you believe you’ll always wish you’d done it if you don’t….then graduate school might be the perfect and logical next step in your life.
Schedule a meeting with a career advisor to discuss whether or not graduate school is right for you.
Planning a Gap Year (or Two)?
Gap years can provide you with new experiences, skills and perspectives that will make you a stronger—and more interesting—candidate for graduate or professional school later on. They can help you figure out what it is you really want to do and then allow you to write a more powerful personal statement. Sometimes, they can just give you a needed break from academics before you recommit to several more years of school.
If you are considering going to graduate school within five years of leaving Elon, we recommend you do the following before graduation to make the application process later on an easier one:
Take the GRE (or other applicable admissions test) before, or soon after, you graduate. Your scores will be valid for up to five years for the GRE, LSAT, GMAT; three years for MCAT. Take the test while the material is fresh in your mind and school is the primary focus of what you do.
Decide who you will ask to write letters of recommendation for you and let them know. Most schools will ask for three letters, and typically, at least two of them will have to be from faculty. Meet with these people before you leave campus and tell them what your plans are. Ask them if they are willing to write for you and then (assuming they’ve said “yes”) ask them how they would like to proceed. Some professors may choose to write the letter then and save it until needed. Others may agree to write but choose to do so later.
Tips for getting recommendation letters from professors after graduation:
Save some of your assignments from the classes you had with them, especially papers with comments/feedback from the professor, to remind them about the quality of your work. r work.
Keep in touch with these people! Let them know what you’re doing, how things are going and where you are in the grad school process.
Give your writer as much notice as possible when you are ready to ask for the letter.
See Letters of Recommendation for information on what you should send to your writer.