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The Blue & Gray Press | August 17, 2017

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Grad School is not for everyone, but should it be?

Grad School is not for everyone, but should it be?

By KATIE FRAZIER

Better job opportunities, the promise of higher salaries, writing the infamous master’s thesis, some extra bling to put on your resume and having that new diploma to stick up on the wall beside your bachelor’s degree. These are just some of the many reasons that students choose to pursue graduate school.

However, disenchantment with school and crippling student debt are daunting roadblocks that students also face on their way to obtaining a master’s degree. The high price of attending graduate school in the United States comes with not only a rigorous application process, but also soaring tuition figures.

So you have gotten your bachelor’s degree. Congratulations! Now what?

Depending on your major, graduate school can be a tremendous asset to you when the time to search for a job rolls around, but unfortunately for most students, it comes at their own expense. Mom and dad may have footed the bill for your undergrad degree, but grad school is inevitably your choice, and many parents are less likely to pay for it.

According to a U.S. News & World Report poll, one-fourth of graduate students borrow nearly $100,000, and another 1 in 10 borrow more than $150,000. That is more than the average undergraduate student borrows to pay for school. Even with scholarships, grants and government loans, with their exorbitant interest rates, it is still sometimes not enough.

It is not fair that students with all of the passion, drive and intellect but no monetary means to go back to school get taken out of the game early.

In my own personal experience looking at graduate schools, I have considered schools in Virginia, but with the price of tuition climbing up to $40,000 and $50,000 a year, I needed to consider other options. I am an art history major, and I want to go to grad school because I plan to eventually get my Ph.D.

In many European countries, however, such as Germany, tuition for international students is either free or significantly reduced. This is because European schools want to attract more international students.

However, even though tuition may be reduced, the cost of living in Europe, as well as food, books and plane tickets home, are all huge expenses. I realize that I will have to take out a loan, but I will not be $200,000 in debt.

I like to look at education as an investment. You do what you can and take out these loans in the hopes that you will be in a better place than before you applied, and you do not have to pay loans back immediately after you graduate. Hopefully you will land a decent job that allows you to knock a lot of the payments out quickly.

So is grad school worth the insane amount of debt, stress and emotional and psychological strain? Well it depends. I will say it only makes sense to go if your heart and soul is 100 percent in it. Do not go simply because everyone else is going or you feel obligated to go because, ultimately, it will be a very expensive mistake in that case.

It will be difficult and it will be expensive, but if you are confident enough in your abilities and you will take it as an opportunity to better yourself scholastically, then by all means go for it. If you cannot afford to go back to school, that is perfectly fine. You can always take a year or two off to work, save up and really contemplate your decision.

Next to buying a house, education is one of those investments we make to see that it pays off in the long term. Graduate school is definitely not for everyone, but if you are thinking of applying and cannot afford it, explore your options. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are anything like me, I hate asking for things, but this is your education and your future so be selfish and be aware of the resources around you.

Grad school is an amazing opportunity, but it does not define who you are. You cannot tell a master’s or a Ph.D student from just looking at them. Regardless if you do or do not go, you are competent. And if you are adamant about pursuing your education, at the risk of sounding cliché, “if there is a will, there is always a way.”

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