So You Want to Go to Grad School?

(As seen on EntryRevel.com)

Graduate school was once the exclusive domain of socially awkward geniuses, trust-fund kids “figuring life out”, and ambitious young plucksters who reminded their department chairs of a long lost child. But now all it takes to get student loans is a pulse, so universities (real and fake) across the nation are creating master’s, doctoral, and professional programs as quickly as possible to get two scoops of cash ahead of the inevitable future litigation. They’re also a delightful backup plan when you realize you still have no marketable skills and nobody cares about you bachelor’s degree unless they went to the same school you did. But is it worth it? Here are some helpful reminders to consider when making that comically expensive decision:

Loans Are Not Income:

Interest rates on student loans is well above auto and mortgage rates and the loans still cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. The idea that everyone should and/or must attend college drives woefully unprepared students to schools all too willing to ignore a student’s aptitude in order to get more “customers”.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that you have to pay loans back. What may be a surprise is that some student loan services can be epic dicks, considering that their entire purpose is to act as middle-man between you and the Department of Education which actually made that loan in the first place. Navient is a fine example of said epic dickery.

And don’t even get me started on private student lenders. Or do, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

…But Grad School Makes You a “Professional” Despite Making Negative Money

I remember looking for housing for an internship in D.C. and tons of announcements said “no students, professionals preferred”. Dismayed, I asked my supervisor’s advice. She told me that law students count as “professional”. What?! I was over $50,000 in debt with no significant property to my name. A dude in a box had a higher net worth than me. But I was still “professional”. Apparently paying money to learn about a way to make money counts as professional…as long as you’re older than 22.

This is Your Second Chance At College!

Wish you’d taken advantage of college but only realized too late? Grad school is your chance to try again for only twice the price!

If you care about sports, now you can enjoy it even more with the status and alcohol access of an actual adult. If you don’t, like me, you now have an excuse to be the grumpy son-of-a-bitch sharing a silent library with the international students during March Madness. Wish you’d studied abroad? You probably can! Wish you could have been more impressive at campus career fairs? Swing on over and chat about all the cool stuff you didn’t actually do in your “past career” (that sales job you quit out of misery in hopes that grad school would be better). Wish you’d banged more people in college? Actually I can’t really help you with that one, but there’s Tinder now!

You’ll Get to Pay for Nonsense You’ll Never See:

College is promoted as primarily an “experience” rather than an education, leading schools to compete on unnecessary yet expensive entertainment and luxury dorms funded by mandatory fees levied even on commuter students. I attended a large public university, and was not permitted to attend law classes until I paid the “sports fee”. After an hour of angrily surfing the school website, I discovered this fee qualified me to enter a lottery to buy discounted basketball tickets. Another fee covered renovations of a student center which ended a few months after graduation.

You’re Going to Be a Veteran Student, For Better or Worse:

Some of those stupid college movies have some grad students who are either portrayed as wise old oracles or burnt-out maniacs. Either way, get ready to be “old” at age 23. You will drink on the first day of class, have an instinctual knowledge of where to take a dump on campus (even if it’s a new school), and know that any renovation project announced is going to fuck you in the form of pointless fees. Prepare for the helpless urge to save male Women’s Studies majors from their own decisions. Experience reading the student newspaper like a Tea Partier seeking the latest real or imagined outrages. Feel your sexual desire compete with the need to give life advice when talking to attractive undergrads. Tell rambling “I was like you once” stories injected with financial and relationship advice at student bars on Friday nights.

In a nutshell, become the man or woman you dreamed of becoming when you were a frustrated Sophomore.

Make Sure It’s Worth It:

If nothing else, please think long and hard about the trade-offs of grad school. If you’ve got a full scholarship and don’t have a family support, this is pretty easy. Your full-time job is being a student and presumably you’re interested in the thing you’re studying.

Actually, let’s stop for a minute. If you’re not sure you care about what you’ll study, get the fuck out. Don’t waste scholarship money that could go to someone who gives a shit while simultaneously putting an irrelevant hole in your resume. It’s dickish and makes you look like a confused impulsive weirdo. And your classmates will find out. If they find out you got a scholarship to essentially be a better-dressed drifter, they’ll all hate you. The last thing you need are angry people who hate you, and they’re grad students so they’ll be angry.

If you care about the subject but have no scholarship, the analysis is harder. When I went to law school, I was practically certain I wanted to practice law, and law school is pretty much the only way to do that. But now I’m a lawyer but my job doesn’t necessarily require a law degree. It sure helps, but was the debt worth it? For me, yes. For you, it’s up to you. But as a general rule, don’t take on more debt than you could bear if you never actually used your degree professionally.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of attending a for-profit law school, don’t.

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