Is Grad School Worth it?

Is grad school worth it? You probably typed this in a few times while either applying for school or while actually being in school. Honestly, the answer is always going to be “it depends”. Every situation is extremely different and going to graduate school can be 100% worth it and 100% a waste of your time. From my experience, it has totally been worth it and I’ll explain why in this blog. For you, you might really want to consider some things before going. You can be extremely successful without graduate school. It really depends on your goals.

goals to determine if grad school is worth it

So Let’s Consider Some Things

I would say that grad school is definitely worth it in most cases but not all. Also, the types of grad degrees will have to be taken into consideration at as well. So Let us talk about your goals and why that is one of the biggest components in deciding whether grad school is worth it or not.

Your Goals

Before you start applying, really ask yourself “what are my goals and will grad school help to achieve those?” Let’s say your goal is to make a ton of money, will grad school cause that to happen/. You could be going into a program that really doesn’t make a lot of money afterwards. So, in this case, grad school is not worth it for that goal. If your goal is to further your education and possibly go into an academic research position, grad school is essential.

You have to really take a look at your goals and see if those will need an advanced degree. If you want to teach at college, then you need a PhD. If you want to just work in an office and have a secure position, grad school might not be worth it. I would write a pros and cons list about grad school and whether you should go or not. I have an article that goes over just this method. Check that one out here.

In todays blog post about if grad school is worth it, I will present a perks and,well, bad things about grad school. This can help you decide.

Why I chose graduate school

Going to grad school was a pretty easy one for me at first because I was money driven. I wanted to get a master’s to be able to make more money and be highly sought after by employers. Getting a master’s in engineering is pretty difficult so I figured people would really be interested. It wasn’t until I looked more at what my real goals were that I realized what my true passion was for. My goal for grad school changed drastically. I wanted to become a research scientist because I was curious about the unknown. Money would be nice, but thanks to many of the realizations I had about money, I knew that that wasn’t something to really chase after. Now, 4.5 years later, I am preparing to exit grad school with very new goals that I have set. So for me, grad school was worth the time and many, many headaches.

is grad school worth it

Some more perks in graduate school

Here is a list of some of the perks that come with graduate school and why it may be worth going:

1) You meet a ton of really intelligent people.

You also get to network with scientists that may have come up with some of the concepts that you studied in college. I have met many people that have revolutionized the field that I am studying, water chemistry. You will get to interact with professors, scholars, and other grad students alike. Going to conferences is just a meet up of a ton of really intelligent people that are there to learn even more. It can be slightly intimidating, but know that you are there because you’re just as intelligent.

2) You get to make long lasting friendships with like-minded individuals.

The friends that I have made these past few years are some of the best friendships that I have ever had. Sure, you can meet people outside of grad school, but it can be very hard to find people just like you in this huge world. College brings all of these people together and almost makes it easy to find them. Grad school kind of forces you o interact with those in your department and you will definitely spend a ton of time with them.

3) You will obtain a master’s or PhD at the end of it.

These degrees last you the rest of your life and can open up doors that you never knew existed. This is a huge perk to grad school. You are here for the degree, right? Well, you’ll get it in the end and it will be worth it. As I stated before, you have the title of a master or doctorate for the rest of your life. You can put that bad boy on your resume and you’ll definitely be competitive in the working world.

4) You get to work on some really exiting projects.

If you do a thesis based grad degree, you may get to work on some cool scientific studies. For me, I get to play with water, lead pipes, and some super concentrated acids. I also get to work on projects that can help make people’s lives better. That makes all the work I do extremely satisfying. If you are doing research, you will most likely be pulled into a bunch of different projects. You don’t have to, but it does look cool when you can type your name into google and a bunch of scientific papers pop up. Some projects will be boring, but many are exciting and will help you develop better research skills.

5) You can go on trips to present your work.

Conferences are a huge part of grad school. You might go to one, you might go to 50. Each one is unique and you get to meet some really cool people from around the country or even the world. I have only gone to one, but I learned some cool things about similar research and got to talk with other PhDs about their experiences. I made some friends too. If you are able to go to at least one conference, i highly recommend it. Try and go to the really big conferences in your field, they have the best free stuff lol.

why grad school might not be worth it

Some other things to Consider for Graduate School

Unfortunately, there are some other things that you need to consider first before going off. Honestly, going to grad school should not be a decision you make in one day. This is something that will take a good portion of your life, so you want to make sure that grad school is worth it before applying. Here are a list of things that might make you reconsider going to grad school.

1) How much it costs.

I don’t know about your schools, but UF is 1.5x undergrad tuition. It’s expensive to go to grad school. Luckily I have a tuition stipend so it’s paid for, but master students pay out of pocket, mostly. If you are an international student, you are paying much more. This can be quite difficult for people because they just don’t have the money or any way to fund their studies. Often, people go for a PhD just so their research is funded and they can afford school. Many people will go for a PhD then leave once they obtain a master’s. Unfortunately this happens more than you think.

2) You may be very far away from friends and family.

I am fortunate enough to only be about 2 hours away from my family, but I am about 6 hours from my girlfriend. This is always extremely hard to deal with. Some people move half way across country from grad school and spend months or years away from loved ones. I know many people that go to school thousands of miles away from their family and friends. This is hard, especially if this is the first time being that far away from people you care about.

3) You might get addicted to coffee.

This is a real concern for some people lol. If you do find yourself in this position, check out my blog post on coffee. You’ll need it (link here). Caffeine is a huge concern for me at least. am currently writing this while drinking coffee, mostly because I need it to function. Many grad students get addicted to caffeine and other stimulants because they need them in order to do work. This can cause some problems, especially with sleep. You might be laughing and thinking to yourself, “being addicted to coffee isn’t bad”. It actually is, especially when it get’s harder and harder to function without it. You get to a point where you can’t wake up unless there’s coffee and that can cause you to work less. Working less=graduating late.

4) You’re mental health will be put to the test.

If you have mental health problems already, grad school may cause those to be worse. It is extremely stressful in 1000 different ways and will stretch your mental health to the limit. If you don’t have mental health problems, you might get some unfortunately. Read up on if before applying. Here is a great place to start.

My blogs started with helping grad students with mental health. All of my early stuff dealth with problems that I was currently facing. Your mental health might decline. In fact, the odds are against you as many grad students will deal with a mental health issue. In one study of a little over 2000 individuals, 39% responded that hey were experiencing moderate to sever depression. So pretty much 2 in 5 individuals will experience depression. Well, maybe not that, but the findings of this study are significant.

5) You might hate it.

Grad school can often be an acquired taste. Sometimes you get a terrible adviser or your project just doesn’t go anywhere. These happen but you are taking a risk by going to grad school. And, you probably won’t go anywhere if you don’t take risks. I have found many bad things about it that have made me reconsider grad school. the thing is, you’re are bound to find bad things about everything that you do. You might absolutely hate grad school and everything that is there. If so, finish with a master’s and leave. Before you do that, though. Try and find good things about grad school and focus your attention on those specifically. you might have just had a bad semester. That doesn’t mean you need to leave school all together. If you get to grad school and absolutely hate it, try finding things that make it bearable and focus on that. For me, it was kickball. For other’s, it could be really anything else.

is grad school worth it

In the end, Is Grad School Worth it?

Do you want to go to graduate school? Do you feel like it will help make your life better than it is now? Have you considered everything that is on this blog? If you say yes to all of these, I say apply somewhere today. Graduate school has been such an amazing, scary, frustrating, exhilarating, and fulfilling experience for me and for many of my colleagues. Would I do it again? That’s a hard no, but would I say grad school is worth it, oh yeahhhhhhh. I have about 6 months left in my program before funding runs out and I am forced out. I honestly love what I do and thinking about what comes next is scary. But life isn’t worth living unless you conquer those things that scare you.

If you are thinking about graduate school, and have questions, send me an email at benswaringen@yahoo.com. I’ll try my best to help you out. Also, check out my other blogs on my website. Until next time, peace!

Zoom to Classroom: The Great Transition During Covid

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Every single news outlet has something saying how a different variant of Covid is spreading all over the world. You have some news channels saying that it’s “just like the flu” while others say that you are guaranteed to get really sick and die. Seriously? How am I supposed to function with everyone telling me that I am going to get really sick and cause others to get sick? Unfortunately, this is where we are at currently. On top of knowing that different variants are present, we are being forced to go back to school and have in person classes. Talk about stressful times.

Most universities in the US are going back to in person classes which really has many people concerned. I have been back on campus for a year now but I am still extremely concerned when 50,000 students come back to occupy the halls once again. That is quite a good chunk of people coming from all over Florida as well as the rest of the US. On top of that, Florida is the hotspot for Covid cases. Great! Just writing this blog is making me mad as well as a tad bit more concerned.

If you are feel the same way, well, you are definitely not alone. Most of the grad students that I talk to on a daily basis are just as concerned as I am. We are more concerned to get the virus from an individual that just doesn’t care and goes to bars, concerts, and anywhere else where a ton of people are. I get it, those things are extremely fun and I miss going to them, but I also want to be able to see my parents and family without exposing them to something that could potentially kill them.

Like me, you are probably scouring the internet, looking for some way to prepare for the transition back to in person classes. I hope you are finding some really good information that you can share in the comments. These are a few of the best ways to prepare that I have found. I hope that they help you and bring some peace of mind.

  1. Get Vaccinated

The vaccines on the market have all been thoroughly tested and are safe. Please, if you haven’t been vaccinated, go and get one. They are free. This is the best way to prevent going to the hospital. One thing that I don’t understand is why people would rather go to the hospital than get a vaccine. Have you ever been to the hospital in the US? It’s expensive! So, if you want to spend the rest of your life paying off bills, then go right ahead.

However, if you are like me, you’ll see that getting a free vaccine is way better than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off a visit that was preventable. Also, the vaccine’s side effect is that it prevents you from going to the hospital. That’s it. There are some cases where there might be a case of some other serious side effect, but those are so rare. Hopefully you have taken statistics and can see that the chances of getting a serious illness from a vaccine is slim to none. Trust the science.

2. Talk to someone about your fears

Woman Wearing Teal Dress Sitting on Chair Talking to Man

Talking with others about your concerns is a great way to easy your worried mind. This is a common fear among grad students and you may find peace in knowing you are not alone. Virtually every grad student that I have talked to has looked for many ways to prepare for this transition. They have talked to their advisers and brought up their concerns. By talking to other people, you may find that there are options that you can take to reduce exposure to Covid. Also, with enough people, you can bring up your concern to the school and they may change in person classes to online for grad students. You never know until you try.

3. Move to the front of the classroom

Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

This is one that many people don’t really think of. Where is the least populated area in a classroom? The front row. No one wants to sit right in front of the professor because they think they will get called on constantly, and that’s super anxiety inducing. By sitting in the front row, you will be away from everyone else and have less of a chance of getting Covid. This is what I will be doing. Also, it forces you to pay attention, so you will definitely do better in these classes. There was actually a study done on seat location and performance. Read it here.

4. Learn to meditate to ease your mind

Woman Meditating in the Outdoors

I practically right every article with meditation in mind. This is by far the best reducer of stress and anxiety that I have found. Covid brings a ton of uncertainty which brings anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, so you need a way to cope. Meditation will allow you to relax and almost troubleshoot your mind. Think of anxiety as a virus in your computer. You need a way to eliminate that virus without paying $100 for virus removal software lol. Mediation is what allows you to go into safe mode, find the virus (anxiety) and eliminate it. I hope this makes sense. I am an environmental engineer, not a computer science major lol. If you haven’t read my blogs about mediation, you can find them here. Please check them out.

5. Wear your mask

White Ceramic Sculpture With Black Face Mask

Other than getting the vaccine, wear your mask!!! These two simple things will prevent you from getting Covid, or seriously reduce the chance of getting it. Listen to the medical experts and stop listening to some person on YouTube that “Did their Research.” No, they did not. There research was reading blog posts from anti-vaxxers that have no clue how to do research. You are an intellegent person and know what good science is. They don’t. If you happen to meet one of these people, ask them if you can see their lab where they test their hypotheses. They probably won’t even know what the word “hypothesis” is. Don’t listen to them. Wear your mask.

6. Exercise outside

Woman Running On Pathway

Gyms will be packed in the fall. New freshman love to congregate in large groups around the machines which will mean that a ton of people may be exposed to Covid. If you are concerned, exercise outside. I have great exercises that you can do that are just as good as going to the gym. Check them out here. Also, if you have an office, spend some time each day and maybe do some yoga. Get your office mates to join you as well. If you don’t have an office, exercise outside is a great alternative. This will keep you far away from crowds as well as increase your mental health. Your mental health is as important, if not more important, than your physical health. Studies have shown that spending time outside increases mental health. Strengthening physical and mental health are essential to getting through this pandemic.

7. Be Smart

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If you feel unsafe in any setting, get out of there. Some things may make you feel extremely uncomfortable such as lab meetings, grad school events, etc. If you feel very uncomfortable, please don’t feel like you have to go. For lab meetings, reach out to your adviser. They will understand and probably will make the meeting online anyway. I don’t know a single professor that isn’t concerned about Covid. If you are going back to the lab, be smart by cleaning everything. Wear a mask if you are with someone else. We have been doing this for over a year now so we are all aware of the procedures.

This will be quite the experience for all of us, especially those in states where Covid cases are through the roof **cough, cough, Florida**. We need to work together and do our part to reduce any chance of getting this persistent virus. If you are concerned with going back, you are not alone. ‘ve been back for a year now and I am deeply concerned. But, I do everything that I possibly can to reduce the chance I get sick. I wear a mask, I clean, and most importantly, I practice mindfulness to mentally prepare. Get vaccinated first. Trust me, there’s plenty of evidence that shows the vaccines are safe. Don’t listen to anecdotal evidence because that’s not science based. Trust the experts. Practice mindfulness and mediation to strengthen your mental health and I guarantee things will be fine.

If you happen to get sick, stay away from people. Let your adviser know so they can take the appropriate measures that your college has laid out. Get plenty of rest, and if you feel good enough as well as lost your sense of taste, try a new food that you find disgusting lol. If I lose my taste, I might try mayonnaise…well maybe not. If you have made it this far on my blog, please share with us how you are preparing for this upcoming semester. I would love to know and I know a thousand grad students would also love to know as well. Stay safe friends! And remember, This too shall pass.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.