I asked the question, perhaps too late, “What can I do with a graduate degree in sociology,” and the timing was such that I really had to ask, “What can I do with half a graduate degree in sociology.” Truth be told- nothing.
I spoke to two of my professors last week, and neither really knew what to tell me. For the reasons I had to stay, I had equally compelling reasons to quit- namely my cost-to-benefit comparison based on passion vs. affordability. If you are passionate, it’s hard to argue something is “too expensive,” in most situations- but what if you are confused like me?
My professors asked some hard questions: Did I have something else in mind? I did not. Sure- I love to write- but am I confident enough in my skills as they stand to walk away from a possible degree? I am not sure that starting over at this point and trying to stay afloat based on my entreprenurial skills alone would be wise. I love to blog and explore different markets and niches- but I feel my inexperience would kill my passion if I were to step out at this point. Having a graduate degree could be beneficial for someone like myself who is at this point in the process. For those who still have time to choose- take that time and ask lots of really hard questions before you commit. But of course, sometimes all we can do is to assess the “known unknowns,” and take a step forward.
I also voiced my concerns about the cost of grad school. They sympathized that costs are high and post-graduation prospects for employment are low- and at least are not up to expectations for newly minted degree holders. What they did say though, is you can do nothing with half a master’s degree, not even get some kudos for “some graduate level courses” on a resume. The sad truth is- there is no way to to know if the amount of debt I’m taking on is going to impede my chances to succeed in other areas, nor is a graduate degree an automatic key to success.
The debt itself will not prevent me from affording a wedding, car or hell, a piece of Tiffany, just as the degree itself will not ensure my immediate success- but my efforts outside the classroom will. The only thing preventing me from being able to afford the life of my dreams is simply my inability to make them happen- and I can work on that. My time in the classroom (or out of it) will not find me a man to love or a dream job, nor will my debt stand in the way of buying a house or starting a family or starting my own company if that’s what I choose to do. What will stand in the way of those things is my fear: Fear that debt will ruin my future, fear that I’m not on the right path, fear that I’m not making the right choices. Fear needs to be taken into consideration- it can be a very smart survival tool, but being too cautious blocks progress.
There is no way to gauge your prospects based on having debt or having a degree alone– you just have to ask questions, evaluate, and take a risk. The the best decisions you can and forgive yourself for mistakes of inexperience. Get your hands dirty- at least you can say it was YOUR mess and have something interesting to say at the high school reunion.
I meticulously planned my path to grad school and based my decision on the person I was at the time. I had no way of anticipating the process itself would change me in the way it did. While the reasons I had in coming to graduate school are no longer the reasons I am staying- I am still confident in those decisions. I am not the person I was a year and a half ago, and I no longer harbor the same motives or goals I did before, and perhaps, that was the point?