Alex Eisner: Is grad school a given?

As I sit at my desk this weekend, only a few weeks before final exams, I have literally millions of vocabulary words, dates, times and places of different events in U.S. history, Spanish phrases, math formulas and literary devices flying restlessly around my brain. And through the fog one solitary thought prevails: “There has got to be a better way!”

I looked at some of my friends this weekend who were killing themselves to learn and absorb every last piece of information possible, and then I looked at some of my friends who were at the movies and then out to dinner and then at parties. Ultimately we know that people who don’t study for finals historically don’t do well on them. These people probably won’t get into great graduate schools straight out of college either.

But what is so bad about that?

All my life I have been conditioned to think that after high school comes college and after that comes some sort of graduate school, just the same as one moves from second to third grade without any questions asked. But now as I really am forced to examine my life and what I want to do with it, I have to ask myself: Why graduate school?

There is an interesting social shift at play here. Twenty years ago the end all be all of education was simply a college degree. It was not uncommon for many to go to vocational schools right out of high school, never making it to college at all. Today many people think of a bachelor’s degree as no better than a high school diploma and consider graduate school not a possibility, but a given. However, I contend that much can be done with a four-year undergraduate degree.

There are plenty of professions that make money with no graduate schooling whatsoever. If I wanted to be a journalist, work on a political campaign, start my own company or any number of respectable professions I could begin within the next few years.

Undoubtedly sometime in high school we were all shown that pie chart depicting the average salary of those with high school diplomas, those with bachelor’s degrees and those with master’s degrees. Those with a bachelor’s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, are supposed to make about $20,000 more per year than high school grads. Those with a master’s are supposed to make another $10,000 per year on top of that (averaging $62,000 per year).

But let’s be real here. One’s motivation towards life, family background and work ethic have significantly more to do with your salary then does the number of years of college you completed. Sure, it is essentially impossible to be a doctor or a lawyer without going to medical or law school. But let’s face it: We’re not all cut out to be doctors or lawyers (no matter how many times our relatives tell us we are).

While grad school does open the door to careers not available to those without those coveted master’s degrees, think of all the opportunities wasted. Most obviously, the fact that you are in college another two to four years is time you are not making money. In fact, during that time you are most likely racking up some substantial debt currently coming close to averaging $100,000, according to U.S. News and World Report. And even if grad school is something you want to do, often times the job you can get out of college will pay for you to go back to school, since you will become a greater asset to their company.

Maybe I’m just bitter because finals are upon us and the stress of that coupled with the imminent holiday season is getting to me. Am I going to go to grad school? I don’t even know yet. All I’m saying is that maybe it’s not the logical next step after we graduate from here. Maybe we should think about exploring the possibilities presented to us immediately following GW. Bill Gates didn’t even go to college and look at him. All right, bad example. But you get my point.

-The writer, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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