College can be summed up as four years of countless all-nighters writing papers on a topic you don’t care for, binge-watching a television show that has no plot, and endless amount of energy drinks to keep you up during boring lectures from a professor who is out of touch. And yet college students want to continue the lifestyle by going to graduate school right after graduation. But how can you tell if graduate school is really worth the investment?

What is the point of attending graduate school?

According to Insider Higher Education, there has been a 3.5 percent increase in first-time graduate enrollment in recent years. Reasons can range from undergraduates wanting to continue the college lifestyle, trying to figure out their life, or believing that graduate school is a way to gain real world experience.

Whether or not graduate school is a must after graduation or later in the future, students should consider three factors:

  • Grad school does not provide real world work experience
  • The price tag may not be worth the investment
  • A masters degree does not guarantee advancement in the workforce

Don’t look here for real work experience

There is no class that prepares a student for the real world experience. Think of a Masters program as undergraduate studies on steroids plus another dose of insomnia. Graduate school requires a level of personal analyzes of the material. Students are required to analyze case studies or journal articles as experts.

Regardless of the reason for attending graduate school after graduation, do not jump into the graduate school pool until you’ve worked two years in the real world and are financially prepared for the price tag. Real world experience is priceless. There is not a single case study or book that will help you with conflict resolution between disgruntled co-workers.

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Examining the spreadsheet of the company through a case study does not provide the actual pressure of producing a spreadsheet for business. Getting the wrong answer in a case study is one bad grade, getting it wrong on the job can cost a person promotion or even their job, in extreme circumstances.

Graduate school will not help you find your life meaning. It is used to read massive amounts of peer-reviewed journal articles, write critical analysis papers, and produce a thesis on a topic very few people care about. In essence, graduate school questions your life meaning rather than helping you find it.

Cost is always a factor

According to a US News Report, graduate schools offer less financial aid like Pell Grants, but provide more student loans. And access to the $11 billion in undergraduate scholarships is no longer available.

Although there are opportunities for funding, the reality is that pursuing a graduate degree will likely require taking out loans, ranging up to $100,000 for those going to law school, business school, or medical school. However, some employers are assisting in paying a certain amount of credits or paying the full tuition.

Working, at least, two years in the real world will help determine if a graduate degree is necessary for career advancement. Taking a two-year break can also help save money for graduate school or conclude that you’re better off without racking up student loan debt. Reading case studies for $100,000 may not the smartest choice.

It’s just a Masters. There are no guarantees.

A graduate degree does not automatically give a pay raise, job promotion, or even a job. The 2008 financial collapse had a significant job hiring impact on millennials and jobs that millennials counted on after graduation are not being vacated by older workers. With no job prospects available for an influx of highly educated millennials the market is flooded with graduate degrees and no job experience.

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If your choice is to obtain a graduate degree with no job experience then do not expect a high level position. The degree is a paper certifying that a person has met the requirements of the institution. The degree does not state or list your qualifications or even guarantee a job. Therefore, experience is valuable in the workforce and without it, more than likely, you will start at an entry-level position and work your way up.

Graduate school is nothing like your undergraduate years. Instead of cramming to study for an exam you will be jamming away on the keyboard to write a ten-page paper. The all nighters that were once the norm are no longer tolerable. Graduate school has perks, such as putting off the real world for a year or two, but does the six figure price tag make it worth the trouble?

Consider a two-year break to analyze life, envision the future, and determine what works best for career advancements. There is no rush, you can enroll at any time. And once you enter the workforce, you might just discover that you don’t even need a graduate degree for advancement.