Grad school is a great choice for anyone wanting to further their knowledge in a certain field, learn more about the world, and gain a leg up on the competition when it comes to applying for jobs. The search for the proper grad school may be easy for some, but for others, it can be a struggle. I was one of those who struggled, so I’d like to share some of my experience and tips on how to go about making the right decision.
1. Decide what you want out of life.
Here are some questions to help you figure out what I mean: Do you want to travel for your job? Do you want to live and work in the same place? Do you want to work with people? Do you want a family? (Or maybe you already have one). Do you want to make tons of money? Do you want to make a big difference in your community? Will you have time to participate in hobbies that are important to you? Try to make your grad school plans and future employment/career balance with what you want out of life in general.
2. Decide what interests you.
To pursue a grad program, a person doesn’t have to major in that subject in undergrad. It’s okay to change your mind if there’s something else you want to do besides what you originally studied. Sure, there may be some prerequisites involved in order to qualify for admission to that program, but it may be worth it if your passion and interest has shifted.
3. Shadow. Visit. Talk.
Connect with people in the profession or industry. Go spend an hour chatting, or a day shadowing, with them. Get a feel for what it’s like to be in their shoes. Ask questions to help you understand more. Shadowing people in the field is valuable, but it’s also important to visit campuses in which you are interested, and talk with professors or sit in on a class or two. I even made it a point to talk with current students in the programs. In my experience, most people are happy to accommodate for requests to shadow or chat.
Many statistics related to salaries, hours, growth projections, and even satisfaction, are readily available online. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start.
5. Make the decision.
First, make the decision in your mind and live with that for about 10 days to see how it feels. Pretend you already submitted all of the proper documentation and you are all in. If this feels good and you feel confident and happy with where you are heading, then you’ve probably made the right decision for yourself. Go ahead and follow through with applying. However, if you don’t get those feelings of certainty and comfort, then maybe re-evaluate and go back to other considerations. You may end up at the same decision after some discourse, but at least you gave yourself a chance to reconsider.
Trust me. I went through all of this. I visited several different schools related to engineering, international studies and chiropractic. I talked to professors at those schools. I sat in on classes. I talked to current students. I shadowed professionals at work. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but I went through all of the above, and chiropractic won out. Now, with graduation around the corner, I am happy with where I’m at and optimistic about my future.