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The debate surrounding whether to seek higher education post-bachelor’s versus gaining workplace experience is common amongst millennials. Whatever direction you choose, becoming confident in your decision is a key part of the journey.
For me, being a graduate student often feels like being an imposter in the adult world. At least at my age it does. I’m about to turn 24 and a mere two years ago I was finishing off my undergraduate degree. So to be this close to receiving a degree classifying me as a “master” of something almost feels surreal.
How Did I Get Here?
With the rising cost of education and the correlated student loan debt, together with the lack of available jobs in designated fields, many millennials are questioning whether to continue education post-bachelor’s degree. Of course, the answer is different for everyone. It’s all about discovering what makes the most sense for you.
When I entered the Master of Digital Media program at Ryerson University in Toronto last September I had no idea what to expect. Internally, I felt lost. I was second-guessing my decision to get my master’s and wondering if this program was the right fit for me.
However, I quickly realized that I was not the only one with doubts. This was discovered both through personal conversations and in-class discussions. Without meaning to, many of us subconsciously identified that we didn’t have all of the answers to life’s probing questions regarding our careers, and for those who did, there was often a lack of resources or connections. However, whatever felt off at the start changed soon enough, through familiarization of the program, introduction to advanced technology, and a supportive cohort (the likelihood of support within the program increased due to the interdisciplinary nature of the degree).
Like much of life, graduate school is all about proving how adaptable you are in your surroundings.
I’ve since discovered, graduate school has very little to do with what you learn while in the classroom. After all, the consumption of knowledge is one of the key areas where grad school and undergrad find themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum of academia. In undergrad, you take what you learn and you regurgitate in countless papers and exams; while, in grad school, you take what you learn and you find some way to apply it in practice—plus, you’re actually going to have to do some of those readings (I know, it sucks).
Like much of life, graduate school is all about proving how adaptable you are in your surroundings. Well, was I adaptable? That was something I had to figure out, and fast.
Let’s fast-forward to today. I’ve survived the fall semester and made it halfway through another. So what’s the current situation? As of writing this, I have pitched the proposal for my Major Research Project, worked as a Teaching Assistant, passed the first semester of graduate studies with a 4.0 GPA, worked at a startup, and got involved in a passion project (the Ryerson Digital Media Review) with my cohort members that will leave a legacy for our masters program. Talk about a handful! It may sound like a lot of work, but throwing myself into all these endeavours has been ideal, because I can now say with confidence that yes, I can adapt. Plus I love every minute of what I’m doing, so it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like all-day recess.
The Decision is Yours
In life, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do, how you’re going to measure success, and what you’re going to do to ensure that you are successful. Moving from school into the professional world, employers aren’t necessarily always interested in your GPA, what they are interested in is your journey.
No matter what path you take, we’ve come to an age at which everyone wants you to justify the choices you’ve made. To be honest, it gets exhausting answering all of the questions: why did you attend Ryerson? Why did you choose to work at a startup? Why did you attend graduate school instead of looking for a job?
At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of convincing yourself, but truly believing that what you are doing is correct for you.
But I know it’s worth it. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most? Being confident in your decision makes the answers to these questions appear clearer in your own mind – especially on those days where you can’t figure out why you’re spending all of your time (and money) on grad school. In other words, the experiences that follow after making an important decision should help to build up your confidence and surety around the choice you made. (In fact, sometimes making the decision is the hardest part of the journey, especially when the path to clarity makes you want to throw a chair out the window.)
Sometimes, it helps to start planning little responses to those curious questions. If you’re not ready for that just yet, what I found worked best was finding a way to take your newfound knowledge and apply it to your interests. You’ll build up those hard skills a lot faster and get a better idea of where you’d like to see yourself in a few years. Whatever it takes to stand strong on your decision. At the end of the day, it’s not a matter of convincing yourself, but truly believing that what you are doing is correct for you.
Attending graduate school often feels like one big “why” with an unclear answer. Maybe I’ll figure out the answer after I graduate. Maybe I’ll never figure it out, but for what it’s worth, the benefits have outweighed the challenges. Wish I could write more, but it’s back to the books I go.
Have you had a similar experience at with graduate studies, or are you considering pursuing more education? Leave a reply in the comments below.