With graduation around the corner—isn’t that horrifying?—something called “the real world” is waiting. That’s right, college seniors, I’m looking at you. Have you applied to graduate school? Have you applied for jobs? Both? If so, then odds are you have no idea how to pick between them. And that’s okay. A little mystery in life is never a bad thing, but to help relieve your stress and potential stomach ulcers when faced with the decision of continuing your education or getting a job, consider the following:
1. What are the short-term and long-term benefits of each choice? If you think entering the workforce is your best bet, then by all means: go for it. On the other hand, if you think that in the long term you’ll be better off if you have a graduate degree, then, well, by all means: go for it. It’s a judgment call that only you can make. The important question you need to answer, though, is whether you want to stay in school for a reason or just because. If an advanced degree in your field leads to an increased income over your life, for example, it may well be worth it.
2. Can you manage more debt or do you need income? Practically speaking, you need to consider your wallet. You don’t want to be living in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life, do you? If you need to take on more loans in order to attend graduate school, then you might want to think twice about enrolling. It’s also important to remember, should graduate school prove to be the route you take, that many schools offer fellowships, tuition waivers, and stipends to graduate students. That’s why it’s important to apply to schools with adequate funding.
3. More schooling or work? Before deciding on which path to take, ask yourself some honest questions. Did you apply to grad school because you felt like you had to? Similarly, did you apply for a job for the same reason? Think of it this way: if you think grad school is for you, it might be, but only if you truly love school and have a reason for being there. Really, graduate work is an extension of college, except more focused and more advanced. If school is not for you, then grad school definitely isn’t either.
4. Both are possible. If you’re an impatient type, and if you want to have the best of both worlds, then make it happen. For instance, you can work a job and also attend a graduate school part-time, or else attend a school that has classes only at night so you can work during the day. True: your schedule will be packed, and sleep will be hard to find, but no one said the real world was easy, right?