Nine credits stand between me and one very expensive piece of paper.
If everything goes as planned — which, let’s be honest, it hasn’t while balancing school and a full-time career — I will finish two courses, one internship and my master’s degree in communication studies before the end of this summer.
I started the program while stuck at my first job. I had hoped that expanding my skill set would beef up my resume. I had hoped that it’d open doors — doors with more cash on the other side. And I had hoped that I’d make some new friends in the less-than-two-year process.
I admit, my head was in the clouds. I bought what the admissions recruiters were selling in the Holiday Inn banquet room.
I began classes at the same school as my little sister on the first day of her freshman year.
“I hope I graduate before you,” I laughed as we put sheets on her extra-long twin bed and arranged her dorm room.
She’ll start her senior year in August.
A friend asked for my advice while researching programs the other week. The jaded grad student in me offered some sage wisdom: Don’t do it.
Let me clarify: I’m not against someone furthering their education; I’m against someone doing it for the wrong reasons.
A career slump? I probably wasn’t thinking clearly during some of those 12-hour days or while working on weekends and holidays.
To someday make more money? Doubling my student loan debt most likely wasn’t the best way to do that.
To make new friends? Really? To what, talk communications theories with?
That said, now that I’m nearly done with my program, I can say I have gained a lot (in addition to the ulcers I almost developed at the end of every semester). Things in the journalism industry have definitely changed since I finished my undergrad in 2007. My classes let me stay on top of new ideas and technology.
I gained some great contacts — my adviser and internship adviser became great mentors and job references. And I did make some new friends — who I did, ironically, talk communications theories with, usually over multiple cups of coffee while hunched over our laptops in the library on Sunday nights.
And, three years later, I’m definitely more sure of what I want to do — hello, current job — and what I don’t want to do — that internship gave me a glimpse into the ugly, albeit, higher paying world of PR.
According to Online Graduate Programs, 50 percent of millennials currently in school would like to go on to earn a graduate or professional degree. That’s a lot of MBAs, MAs and MSs out there.
Some of us may not ever fully recover from the financial burdens of our degrees (sorry, best friend, who is getting a master’s degree in art education and will accumulate somewhere around the $100K mark in debt). Others of us are using school as a way to delay adulthood / avoid getting a real job, which sets us back a few years. But, as the infographic shows, 86 percent of millennials who graduate say our education was worth the investment (the others are, no doubt, owners of Graduate School Barbie).
If I hadn’t signed up for courses three years ago, would I be where I am today? Maybe. But I can’t say for sure. My program kept my skills sharp and helped me be a little more patient while I waited it out in Southcentral Pa. for everything to fall into place. I like to think that was a worthy investment.
Fellow 20-somethings, do you think grad school is worth it? Share your thoughts below.