Should I Go to Grad School? Start by Asking the Right Questions
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Today’s post – Should I Go to Grad School? – is contributed by Paul Andrews over at The Code to Riches, a website dedicated to making personal finance as interesting/funny as possible.
Your 20’s are/will be littered with an insufferable amount of annoying questions that society will rain down upon you like a storm of toads. “When are you going to settle down?”, “Why haven’t you found a nice guy/girl?”, “Why haven’t you proposed yet?”, “You’re going to take a year off and do WHAT?!”, “You really should do X because I know of someone who did that and apparently a singular anecdote is enough to constitute valid advice…” and the list goes on. And of those societal pressures, there’s one that actually has some merit. You will, at some point, ask yourself the question, “Should I go to grad school?”
After all, you’ve heard all about the statistics about how much more money you’ll make. You’re still a relatively young grasshopper, and should be able to reap the benefits for another 30 years during your career. And you’re not ashamed to admit that you’d feel like a cool ass muthuh fuckin’ baller with a J.D., MBA, or PhD at the end of your name. But with the tons of different degrees you can get at the literally THOUSANDS of schools around this country, how exactly do you go about answering, “Should I go to grad school?”
That’s where I come in, my darlings.
Today is all about giving you a solid framework so you know exactly how to evaluate your options when it comes to grad school. By the end of this epic anthology article you will be able to answer
- What degrees make sense financially?
- Is now a good time for me to pursue another degree?
- Will this degree help give me what I want out of life?
The Basic Framework
Let’s figure this out…
In light of the fact that I’m a personal finance blogger, I’m going to make this framework very similar to any other investment that I would make. Here are the three things we need to make sure that our educational investment is sound?
- What resources are being put in? – You need to be 110% aware of ALL the resources you’re putting into getting your degree. Like you should obsess over this more than a troop of 16 year-old girls obsessing over pumpkin-spiced anything’s, more than the gym-douchebag who’s more focused on looking at himself than actually working out, more than Quagmire about… well, I think you get the point.
- What resources will be put out? – What exactly will you get out of your degree? Will you attend Yale and become part of the Skull and Bones Society? Will you attend your local state school in order to not dive into an Olympic-sized swimming pool of debt?
- Soft Factors – We can all sit here and pretend like this shit doesn’t matter, but I don’t write for robots; I write for peeps. Will job you get with your degree make you happy? Will you be fulfilled by the track your degree sets you on? Will it allow you to jettison all over the world and be a veritable mac-daddy? Will it give you the “wow” factors from others you’ve so desperately craved ever since your parents didn’t attend your 6th grade graduation…
Sorry, that was a little harsh.
Passive-aggressive comments aside, these are the overarching themes we’ll be using to evaluate whether you should move on in your academic life…
Resources Put In
Half of the profitability of any investment is made when you buy. Or in our case, apply for loans or write a check to the university. But there is lot more that goes into obtaining a graduate degree than just “money”:
- TIME – This bad boy is first because it is, without a doubt, the most important resource you will put into your degree. Before attending grad school, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I really willing to give up 1-4 years of my life to do this?” Bear in mind, these are not just some random years out of your life. These are the years when you can run up and down Las Vegas Blvd half-naked and have it almost be acceptable. The years that you can sleep around, drink, travel, get terrible tattoos in terrible places, and submit yourself to general debauchery and generally have it written off as “youthful exuberance”. Are you willing to give up a solid chunk of that time for grad school?
- Remember, you’re not only giving up those years of fun while you toil away at papers/labs/case studies, but you’re also giving up a TON of salary while you’re in school. That $50,000 you give up per year while in law school? That counts as $150,000 that you DON’T have.
- If you’re answer is anything but an over-enthusiastic YES, then you have no right cutting out some of the best years of your life because mom/dad/family/friends/society says you HAVE to go grad school. Fuck the haters, y’all.
- TUITION – This one is pretty obvious. You have to know how much the tuition is going to be for each year that you’re going to be attending. If you don’t know how much tuition is going to increase, look at the last five years of tuition. Take the average percent increase, and forecast that into the future. This could easily be $5,000-$20,000, so it’s an important number to know.
- LIVING EXPENSES – Again, somewhat obvious, as you’re going to have to know how much it costs to live wherever your school is. And most schools will post an estimate of how much it costs to live in their given city. My suggestion is to do your own research. Why? Because the school’s website’s job is to convince you to apply. But if you’re going to be dropping a few extra thousand a year just to live/eat somewhere, that’s information that you need to be specific, not just an estimate.
- UNFORESEEN EXPENSES – There are TONS of expenses that you might not even see coming while you’re in grad school, but here are a few that come to mind:
- Engagement/wedding – This is a tough one, because most marriages occur around the same age as when most people are in grad school. Guys, what if you need to buy a ring while in grad school? Money can dry up real quick when it comes to getting married.
- Pregnancy – I think the only thing scarier than dropping $60k on business school, or law school, is dropping that amount for a year or two and not finishing… might be worth keeping your promiscuity on the DL while in grad school…
- Failing a class – What if you fail a class and need to retake it? What if you don’t pass the bar, or your qualifying exams while doing a PhD? This needs to be budgeted/planned for, just in case.
- Tech failure – Drop your phone? Computer gets stolen? Get rear-ended by a stupid, albeit cute and charming, driver? Have you budgeted for these unforeseen instances? If you didn’t, you’ll wish you did when they hit you out of nowhere like your 5th grade bully.
It might start to feel like this…
Ok, so now we have some idea as to what’s going to go into your degree. Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit more than your blood, sweat, and tears. But that’s the not fun part. Let’s look at what’s going to happen once you graduate…
For the other half of the article, head on over to TheCodeToRiches !