Guest Post: Finding the Courage to Leap from Full-time Employee to Broke Graduate Student

Written By: Siri Haynes

Grad School or Work? Safety or Risk? Signage. Original image Image courtesy of stock.xchng® (modifications made)About six months ago, I took the biggest risk ever: leaving a stable, economy-proof job to be a graduate student making a negative income. I‘d been in this stable position for 3.5 years. I was good at it, my team loved me and it was comfortable. Essentially I was too scared to do anything else. Sure, my job was challenging and I worked with great people, but it wasn’t what I want to do with my life.

To be honest, I don’t have one dream job picked out. I just know I’m passionate about the communication field. I love writing, editing, problem-solving, and planning anything. Yes, those responsibilities fit into a lot of job descriptions, but I’ve decided that’s a good thing—more chances for me to find and land that dream job.

After lamenting about my situation to a friend whose advice I prize over any other, he suggested I go back to school and get a Master’s degree. I had never even considered it. How could I possibly be accepted into grad school? How could I even get through the GRE when I managed to fail every standardized test ever created? But the more I researched, the more it made sense, and I decided to give it a go.

It never occurred to me I would actually get in and have my pick of which school would get my thousands of dollars of loan money (no, I’m not enough of a genius to get my tuition paid). Boston University became my destination. It’s a good program, a fantastic city, has extremely supportive professors and had me drooling over every page of their course catalog.

My decision to go to school was not met with a lot of support. Why would I leave a regular paycheck to go so far into debt? What if I couldn’t get a job afterward (education doesn’t always translate to a job)? Why would I leave my friends and family to move all the way across the country?

Trust me, these worries popped into my head, too. And in the back of my mind, they still linger there. But for me, the opportunity was worth more than all of that. By leaving my job, I could focus completely on learning—which by the way happens to be one of my favorite things. Just look at my bookshelf stuffed with how-to books on every subject imaginable.  Making this move I would be exposed to new things, new ideas, new people and essentially a different culture. What could be wrong with that?

Ever thought about going to grad school? Here are some things to consider:

  • Why do you want to go?
    Every person has a different reason for going back to school, but the most important is that you want to do it. You shouldn’t go back to please someone else. It’s not easy, and you have to really want it to get through some of these classes. Check out Should You Go to Grad School for some questions you should ask yourself.
  • When should you go?
    For any undergraduate student, I say wait and get a few years of professional experience, so you can see with your own eyes what it takes to succeed (no, internships don’t count). Otherwise it’s just more books, more classes and more grades. If you’ve been out of school for awhile and are pondering that next degree, but keep saying, “yeah, I want to do that but maybe in a few years.” If at all possible, don’t wait. Your responsibilities and life expenses will only increase as the years go by, and yearly tuition isn’t exactly decreasing.
  • How should you get started?
    First decide what it is you want to study whether it’s business, communications, writing, publishing etc. Look at a few programs to get an idea of what’s out there, and then decide what it is you are looking for in a program. Do you want international opportunities? Do you want small class sizes? If you see a few programs that really interest you, it’s time to get serious and start the application process. Use an application timeline to help you navigate that jungle.

While it might sound like returning to school was the perfect and easiest decision I ever made, it didn’t come without its sacrifices. I don’t in the least bit regret my decision. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I encourage anyone thinking about it to at least look at what’s out there.

What about you? Have you ever thought about getting a graduate degree? Are you considering an MFA? Do you have a graduate degree or MFA? If so, was it worth it? What factors were most important to you when choosing a program?

Siri Haynes is a full-time graduate student at the Boston University College of Communication. Between classes, tests and long sessions with her Media Law textbook, she also pulls a perfect shot of espresso. Oh, and she lets her former colleagues entice her out of her studies for blogging opportunities like this. You can learn more about Siri before she became a grad student by checking out her LinkedIn profile.

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5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Finding the Courage to Leap from Full-time Employee to Broke Graduate Student

  1. Great post Siri…you make me want to go to grad school…almost:) Good luck and I look forward to hearing more as you progress through your graduate studies!

  2. Nice post Siri! I’m glad to hear that you are happy and flourishing in your grad program, even if it means I only get to see you a few times a year.

    You give me something to think about as I continue down my career path and consider my “start earning a master’s by the time I’m 30” goal.

    I’d love to see and hear more updates as you finish this degree and venture back out into the post-academic world.

  3. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to post Jesaka! And I definitely recommend the MFA idea.

    Hi Susan–Thanks for your comment! I must second your opinion, both on Boston and BU. I think it’s so important to study in a bustling environment where there’s always something to do.

  4. I did my undergrad at BU’s COM school and really enjoyed the classes and professors, plus all the talent people I met (students, guest speakers, etc.) . Boston is a great city, too!

  5. Hi Siri ~ Thanks so much for sharing your decision-making process on going grad school full-time. One of the (many) reasons I wanted go freelance was so that eventually I could earn my MFA while doing freelance copywriting. Though I also think there’s good argument for trying to go to school full-time and give yourself the immense gift of concentrating on your studies.

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