Does your student want to go to graduate school? Why? When? Although about 25% of U-M students do go straight to graduate school after attaining their Bachelors, there are many routes to a graduate education and to a career path.
Some enroll immediately after receiving their undergraduate degree. Others want to get some work experience under their belt first, using the time to explore a chosen field. Others combine work and graduate study part-time. Others choose not to attend graduate school (ever, or for the time being).
Entering a graduate program is a weighty decision and deserves careful consideration, including financial, academic, and personal questions. You can help your student by being a sounding board for their exploration process.
If they're wondering where to begin, you might ask questions about their interests and strengths, and then reflect back what you hear. Here are some possible questions to get you started:
- What are their long-term professional and personal goals? Do they have a clear vision of how grad school will help to achieve them?
- Are they thinking of graduate school in the hopes of solving other problems? (like difficulty with a job search, or not knowing what field to go into)
- Is grad school a requirement in their desired professional field?
- What will the costs be? Can they afford graduate school?
- Can they easily find a job in their chosen profession that would help pay off any educational debt? How long would paying off the debt take? Will the degree provide greater long-term earning power?
- What's the expected return on investment of time, money and energy for graduate school? What would be sacrificed to attend grad school?
- Can your student flourish in a highly competitive grad school environment where there can be competition for positions and funding?
- Do they have a keen ability to set priorities and the discipline to keep them?
- Can they effectively manage stress levels? Do they have a strong support network to help them through the challenge?
- Are there avenues other than graduate school that would help your students to achieve their goals? For example - working, family life, travel, volunteering, or term-of-service programs?
Parents and families can help students to gain clarity by having conversations like the one above, and by directing them to campus resources to help them explore their options. Encourage them to explore the Career Center, where they can read stories from former Michigan students about their grad school journey, meet with an advisor, or learn more about specific professional and graduate studies.
In the end, only the student can make the final decision about when and whether graduate school is the best choice. But you can help them explore their goals, define what they want to achieve, and consider available options.
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