Education is unique as it is the one thing that can not be taken from an individual. It is a personal investment that never ends and immediately benefits the recipient. When undergraduate students contemplate continuing their formal education at the graduate level, the decision does not, and should not, come lightly.
Depending on the field of study, attempting to get a graduate degree ranges from ambitious to required. For students of the latter, their undergraduate career may be little more than a necessary stepping stone on the way to their final degree, where they will actively participate in research and network with their equally talented classmates.
But what about students who are not expected to earn a higher degree? Is graduate school worth it?
At first, becoming more educated seems like a slam dunk. The alternative does not have any tangible benefits. But continuing one’s education is not just a button to be pressed or a wish to be granted, unfortunately. The road to graduate school is not without obstacles.
For American students, the cost alone can render the decision moot.Educational resource company Peterson’s claims that graduate students can expect an annual tuition cost of $30,000 for public universities and $40,000 for private institutions. This does not include textbooks or the cost of living. The cost can be offset by financial aid and scholarships, which are a necessity for most graduate students.
The less concrete cost of graduate school is the opportunity cost. Students not attending graduate school expect to enter the workforce after graduation and start their careers immediately, seemingly getting a headstart compared to their peers remaining in school. To continue one’s education in graduate school postpones this anticipated salaried job while still having to pay for school. The eventual rewards of this path are still evident, but for some young people, paying rent and staying fed are issues confronting them in the here and now, regardless of promises of something better down the road.
However, the cost is not without non-monetary rewards as well. The benefits of graduate school are not limited to a piece of paper or extra money. It is a phase of one’s life marked by personal enrichment, fostered in an environment unlike any other. In theory, cost and time should not be the only deterrents keeping hopeful students from research and learning. Any person interested in graduate school should have the opportunity. If students are interested in furthering their education, they should still consider graduate school as a viable option for the future they desire.