Every few months I get an e-mail from a former (or current) student and the uncomfortable exchange goes like this:
Student: Dear Dr. Tyra, Would you be willing to write me a recommendation letter for graduate school? I really enjoyed/learned so much in (insert other flattery here) your class and now I want to go back and get a master’s degree in (usually the same field).
Me: Dear Student, I would certainly consider writing you a letter for graduate school if I didn’t think that by doing so, I would be doing you a terrible disservice.
I know it’s not what they are expecting to hear and it’s probably not what they want to hear, but for 99.9% of them, it’s what they need to hear. Too many people go to graduate school (a) to extend the period of time “in college” before they have to deal with the real world or (b) they can’t get a job and so they figure they may as well stay in school. Bad, bad, bad reasons to go to graduate school. Plus, in many instances, this strategy just results in being over-qualified and under-experienced for even an entry level job. Not to mention further in debt.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for higher education. I didn’t get three graduate degrees for nothing. And I’ve used every one of them…although not always in the way I thought I would use them (but that’s for another post). Grad school is not a summer camp for the Peter Pan set and it’s not something that should be undertaken lightly.
There are exceptions, certainly. In some fields a master degree is the minimum education needed. Those fields are not the ones I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the liberal arts, hospitality, marketing, whatever majors. The fields where the combination of education and experience are necessary to even get in the game.
My advice for undergrads and recent grads is: stay out of school after graduation. Work a few years, figure out who you are and if what you think you want to do really is what you want to do. Then find out what skills/knowledge you need to do it better…and then consider graduate school. Ideally, not at your alma mater, where you may have some of the same professors you had for undergrad (and in some cases, the same classes plus an extra “graduate level” project – snort!).
It’s also important to choose the right graduate degree. My husband got his MBA several years ago because…well, that’s what people with IT degrees who weren’t going to be IT guys did at the time. He was told it would open all kinds of doors for him. It didn’t. So he went back and got a Master in Library Science (MLS). And despite frequent ribbing from me about being married to a librarian, it’s been just what he needed. But he didn’t know it until he knew it.
Carpe education (or not)!