Grad School Vs. Real World Experience – Part 3

You’ve probably skipped my boring story about how I stumbled upon grad school. Admittedly, I left out all the juicy details like celebrity encounters (encounters = saying hi and maybe a creepy wink on my behalf) and drunken nights (3 p.m. drinks after finals so drunken evenings maybe..?), but I wanted to give a little background so you can see where I’m coming. NOW, here is my stance on the grad school vs real world experience debate.

Some people are born with a network but for other roughly 75 percent of us, such as myself, grad school was entirely necessary. I was an average student in college, though I’ve always worked really hard to get what I want in terms of opportunities and promotions. My work ethic was standard, but I was seriously lacking passion. Being in grad school woke something up in me. It exposed me to brilliant people and new industries. I was proud to say I worked and attended school full-time. My work ethic virtually tripled without so much as a blink of an eye. In grad school slipping into B territory was cause for suicidal thoughts so I became a perfectionist. I spent hours on the same paper and would trek through feet of snow to have it bound professionally, because I cared.

Now this is where my backstory comes into play. I finished grad school without a job. Okay, la dee dah, so have thousands of other students. In the past 3 months I’ve been home I’ve picked up an internship, volunteered to create a social media plan for a non-profit and started working as a freelance copy writer. If you can’t tell, I’m trying to get some experience because that’s what I’m missing. Also, working full-time kept me from taking advantage of all the networking and internship opportunities I should have while I was in school so here I am playing catch-up.

So as someone who’s been there and done that I recommend waiting. Take at least a year off school and see where your career goes. Feeling lost is a common reason many go to grad school and I really do think it can help you find yourself. But, loans will be there will you graduate and you’ll eventually have to find your place in the working world, so don’t plan on hiding forever. If you have a career path and are pretty sure you want to go to grad school a year or two after graduation I have the following recommendations that will like your life SO much easier.

  • Make yourself known to professors who you may want recommendations from later. I took the same professor for all my 400 level classes and he wrote me dazzling recommendation a year later.
  • Get a GRE book. You can find some great ones on Amazon.
  • Take the GRE twice if you didn’t do well the first time. Study a little, relax, you’ll be better on the 2nd one.
  • Start conversing with your program director early. They can tell you where the program is headed and how to get the most out of it.
  • Find your dream program/school and GO. You’ll be apt to study harder and achieve more when you feel you’re in the presence of greatness.

2 responses to “Grad School Vs. Real World Experience – Part 3

  1. Laura, I find your story hauntingly familiar; and I commend you on sharing it!

    I am still in graduate school; and while I am currently employed, my current position is a far cry from what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. I was actually a college dropout; and fell upon some good luck and secured a professional position with only an AS degree from a tech school. But health issues forced me out of work…and the recession kept me there for over a year. So I decided to get a bachelor’s degree.

    I had a lot of credits from before, so in a mere 3 semesters, I was able to meet the requirements for a liberal arts degree and participate in commencement at a large state university (West Virginia University to be exact). But I still wasn’t any more prepared for a career…although my college courses were interesting and were good for my ego (I got good grades, and as an older student, I out-performed my peers in my studies). So I turned to graduate school. Although to be honest, I wasn’t looking for graduate school to work any miracles for me. All I was looking for was a credential to show to others (well employers specifically), that I was worth at least $50K to them.

    I hear what you are saying about workload. I am enrolled in an MBA program that is AACSB accredited, but un-ranked. I marvel at talking to MBA students from top-tier programs (and I am not quite sure why there is so little interaction among MBAs from school to school….snobbery maybe?) and I’m amazed at how much free time they have to travel, volunteer, etc.

    As far as the original question (Grad School vs. Real Life Experience), I would say that having both is the ideal. However many of my peers have come into the MBA program right after earning their undergraduate degrees. In some fields, it makes sense (like accounting…where you need 150 credits to become a CPA), but in others, it really makes no logical sense (like Human Resource Management). I utilize my current and previous work experience all the time as a foundation from which to build my projects and writings from. But the ironic thing is, I am in an MBA program to open up the doors for me to get more experience. So I really can’t blame others for coming straight to graduate school because it is getting too competitive out there to secure prime positions with a bachelor’s alone.

    • I’m a terrible blogger for not getting back to you sooner. Thank you so, so, so much for the positive comment. My story seems to be similar to so many people my age who finished college at a “bad time”. I’m glad to see you’re making your way through school, I’m sure there’s something amazing waiting for you on the other side.

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