Grad School

Should you go to grad school? The answer is simpler than you might think. It is an absolute and unequivocal maybe. You see, each situation is different, and I can't answer the question for you. In fact, with everything that factors into the situation, you might not be able to answer for you. I can provide you with a guide that will increase your chances of finding the right answer.

Assuming that you can find a job or some other way to keep you occupied, deciding on grad school is a decision rather than a default. You should go only if you meet two criteria. You should get something out of it, and you should be successful. Each of these items is up to your own interpretation, but I will try to expand a little bit on what I mean. Of course, I won't give you everything. Some will be left up to you to find. Think of it as a good practice for the effort you will have to put into assignments in grad school.

What does it mean to get something out of grad school - or any experience? Maybe that means you will enjoy yourself for two or four or eight years. Maybe it means you will get a degree that increases your earning potential. That depends on you and what you would be doing otherwise. Find out if there is a goal worth pursuing in your life that takes a winding path through even higher education. Not something that would be just as well served volunteering at your local community center. Grad school is probably more challenging and draining than that. It isn't worth the effort unless you can come out afterward and say, "Look what that did for me." Of course, it doesn't have to be one thing. It could be a combination of achievements in the realm of spiritual, academic, financial, or a plethora pursuits. Just make sure it is something that will continue to drive you and justify the effort.

Once you have one or more goals in sight, you have to decide if you will be successful. Not only in your research and classes, but in acheiving those goals. Imagine saying, "I'm going to get that PhD" only to drop out after a year. It isn't worth it. Not because you didn't have the goal, but because you didn't have it in you to be successful. Before deciding to pursue graduate studies, look at your drive, desires, and aptitude to stay focused in the long term. These are the things which will keep you up for the second straight night finishing that lab.

You may have noticed that there is nothing in the preceding text about the rigors of what you will face. Those are important only when you are determining your probably level of success. Going to grad school really is a personal choice. Don't be swayed by parents or professors who think you are smart. Be swayed by your own analysis of yourself. The funny thing about this is that you have to know yourself well to come up with the right answer. Grad school is a great place to learn things about yourself that you didn't know before, but you really have to know yourself to an extent already to know for certain if you belong in grad school in the first place. Maybe you will come in blind and find out you were wrong. Its been known to happen.

Fortunately, there is a nifty things about this decision, no matter which way you choose. It doesn't have to be permanent. It may be psychologically hard to drop out, but you have the option if things become clearer. It may be financially hard to quit a job and apply to school, but it is possible. You have the ability to make a new choice with every season that passes. So of course, the question isn't whether or not to go to grad school. It is whether or not to go to grad school now. The answer to that is pretty simple. It is an absolute and unequivocal maybe.

Alumni Liaison

has a message for current ECE438 students.

Sean Hu, ECE PhD 2009