Image via Md saad andalib/Flickr

Image via Md saad andalib/Flickr

Deciding whether or not to go to grad school can be a nightmare. The cost alone will make you think twice before cracking open that GRE test prep book. While you can Google all the pro’s and con’s of attending a particular program, or not, what really matters is figuring out why you want to go in the first place.

For me, grad school seemed like the fast track to a cushy management position, a way to blaze past my peers to achieve that coveted career position by 29. Experience taught me that my degree was only the corner section to life's puzzle

How do you sign that enrollment letter with all the confidence in the world? By asking yourself these 5 question:

1. What skills will I learn in this program that are going to help me with my career?

Skills aren’t always concrete things like budget management, data analysis, etc. Sometimes those skills can be learning  who the big players in your field are and what their impact is. In an academic setting, you are free to question and research everything. That freedom is more restricted once you are in the work world.

2. Can I get these skills in another way?

Look at certificate programs, internships, fellowships, and other types of programs that might take less time, cost less, and teach you the specific skills you want. Two years can be a long time if all you wanted to learn was how to properly build a budget.

3. How involved is their alumni network?

Engaged alumni are crucial. While it is rare that you'll be handed a job when you graduate with no questions asked, they will have the most recent knowledge of your field of choice. When you start applying for jobs, that information will help you know whether investing in a virtual resume will give you an edge or if “thank you” cards are still relevant. Engaged alumni can also be useful when you're seeking a job - networking is crucial in today's job market!

4. What does the city offer?

Studying and research is 80% of what you will be doing when you start a program. But does the city have the internship opportunities that could land you the job? Are there meetups centered on your field of choice? Can you find ways to recharge and have fun when you need to blow off some steam? Where your program is located can give you the access you need to make your program more relevant.

5. Can I handle this financial burden?

Embarking on a graduate program is costly but, if done right, can be a worthwhile investment. Be sure to do your research and completely understand what you are doing to finance your education. Nothing is worse than getting under a mountain of debt with no clue how to get out of it.

Knowing the answers to these questions not only will reduce the stress that comes with a big life change, it will keep you focused during those inevitable valleys of self doubt. Have other questions helped you determine whether or not to further your education? Share your comments below or tweet them @theMtakeover.

AuthorMarissa Germain