How to Get Into & Pay for College


Should I take off time before grad school?

QUESTION: I'm thinking of taking time off before grad school. Is that a good idea? Signed, Don't Want to Be Left Behind

Dear Don't Want to Be Left Behind: Taking time off before graduate school can be good or bad, but I find the results to be good. Many graduates, no matter how in love with their major they are, need the real-world experience in that industry to be sure they want to pursue it. Graduate school isn't the automatic next step, though I think a lot of grads think the more knowledge and degrees they can accumulate at a young age, the better. Not so. In some industries, getting this degree can make it harder to get a job because it requires employers to pay you more. They generally want an entry-level person with the basic degree so they can train them.

If taking time off before grad school, it's a great idea to get a job in your industry. This way, you'll get practical experience and you'll also be able to tell what aspects of the industry you don't like and what other areas you may want to focus in on. You may decide that you don't like the field at all--and that's okay. It's better to know sooner than after you've accumulated debt on the degree.

One more thing about getting a graduate degree: See if you can swing it for free. Explore teaching assistant positions where you can get the degree at little or no cost. This is the smartest way to go about things, as many graduates already have debt from their undergraduate degrees. Years ago this was more common and seems to have gone by the wayside because many grads think the master's degree is the next logical step. In some cases it is, and is required; but in many cases if you want it you can find ways to do it more affordably and still reap the benefits of this educational accreditation.


Kristen Fischer
Kristen Fischer is the author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes.

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