Campus / News / October 24, 2012

Students think twice about grad school in tough economy

More and more Knox students are putting off going to graduate school immediately after they graduate, and the struggling economy is only one of the factors in this decision.

Debt from student loans is no small concern.

“I don’t want to be unstable,” senior Lotte Vonk said. “I definitely want to go to grad school eventually, but in the past couple months, I’ve decided that first, I want to get a job and work because I want to be financially independent from my parents.”

Although post-baccalaureate fellow Jules Ohman ’12 is currently applying to go to graduate school for a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction, she still has certain financial expectations.

“I don’t want to go somewhere where I don’t get full funding because I realize that there’s no real point in having an MFA if you have to pay a lot of money to get it, because you’re going to be poor anyway,” Ohman said.

Choosing graduate school may have other fiscal appeals.

“I think [students are] either scared of not finding a job, so they think, ‘Well, I better apply to graduate school and see what happens,’ or they don’t really want to put the effort involved into finding that job,” Director of the Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development Terrie Saline said. “It’s hard work to find a job, especially in the way the economy is right now.”

Vonk, who may return home to the Netherlands for graduate school, has considered another economical issue with applying to graduate school.

“I don’t plan on [taking the GRE] until I decide that I want to go to grad school in the U.S. I think standardized tests for grad school are insane. … It’s expensive — not everyone can afford it,” Vonk said. “I think it’s stupid that it costs money.”

However, there are certainly benefits that come from obtaining a graduate school education.

“I think it makes you more competitive in this job market. I think that having a higher degree than a bachelor’s degree is less common, and you’re more likely to get higher paying jobs,” Ohman said. “I think, in general, it’s probably better to be better educated, as long as you don’t go into a lot of debt to do it.”

Planning seems to trump a student’s decision to attend grad school — no matter the case.

“You need to evaluate what your goal is,” Saline said. “I always tell students not to go to graduate school right away if they really don’t have an idea of what program they want. It’s really important to figure that out.”

Knox offers students amultitude of resources throughout the process. The Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development offers a variety of graduate school fairs, career fairs, mock interviews, presentations and workshops throughout the year. Most professors are also quick to offer their students additional support.

“Professors here have been really, extremely helpful. All of the professors who are writing me recommendations have sat down with me for significant periods of time and talked it out with me, have edited my statement of purpose, and gone through the process, talked about schools with me,” Ohman said. “I might not have applied had they not been so receptive to me applying.”

According to Saline, professors ensure their students are well prepared for graduate studies. Indeed, such preparation likely begins in the classroom.

“Professors here make you think outside the box,” Saline said. “I think they, in a way, get you to use those critical thinking skills without you even knowing it.”

Chelsea Embree
Chelsea Embree is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in art history. She previously served as co-mosaic editor and as an arts and features reporter for TKS. During the summer of 2013, she served as a content intern at The St. Louis Beacon. Chelsea has studied under former Random House copy chief Sean Mills and taught writing as a teaching assistant for First-Year Preceptorial. An avid blogger, she has written extensively about youth in St. Louis and maintains a lively poetry and nonfiction blog on Tumblr. She is also the director of communications for Mortar Board and co-president of Terpsichore Dance Collective.

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1 Comment

Oct 25, 2012

Student debt is stunting the growth of the economy. Student loans have increased by 275% over past decade. As the next generation graduates from college, they are plagued by insurmountable debt that places demands on their income, limiting their ability to spend their earnings in ways that stimulate the economy.

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