Information Overload: Should I Quit Grad School?

February 18, 2011

heart in your hands Confession time!  1.5 years ago, I sat in my undergrad advisor’s office and had a “moment.”  I realized that I was all set for graduation that next spring and I thought to myself:  “That’s it?”  I felt I hadn’t learned nearly enough as an undergrad and thought the remedy for my ignorance was more education- but I think I was wrong.

For me, 1.5 years ago, the decision to go to grad school was twofold- part one being my desire to be a smarter, better, more worldly person, and and part two was simply that I was about to graduate college and had no friggin’ clue what to do.  Of course, reason number two was hiding in the shadows of the glorious and over-publicized reason number one.  1.5 years ago, I saw a graduate education as my ticket to a new life- means to validate myself as an intelligent person, to secure myself one additional rung on that stupid “ladder of success.”

The process of applying to grad school, and then, getting in, was just the transition I needed to adjust myself to that scary “Oh sh*t this is really adult-time and it’s happening now,” that we all must face.  Granted, I saw myself as “more adult than most,” having taken care of my elderly grandmother and built a repertoire of philanthropic and travel experience that made me feel “adult,” bu never before in my whole life had I felt that I was about to face MY WHOLE LIFE.  In the manner of how I normally do things when I think I need to figure things out immediately, I completely freaked out and crafted my “Plan to Go to Grad School And Become An Adult.”  Which was really just a panic attack under the façade of a well thought-out plan which was categorized in a three-ring binder and researched meticulously.  But as we all know, “book smarts,” are not “street smarts.”  You can analyze something endlessly, but until you get out there and experience it- you pretty much have no idea what it’s really like.

Enter the present day- I am writing this blog and looking back on my life.  Getting in and going to grad school has accomplished it’s initial goal- I feel I’ve learned a whole heck of a lot in these past 7 months, but I’m not sure if what’s been gained in the classroom is worth the price tag.  What I have learned- much of it now fueling entries for this blog, was learned in the actually experience of getting to this point:  Moving across country.  Clearing out all my junk.  Starting over in a new city I’d previously never been to.  Looking for love and finding it within myself.  Dodging unstable drunkards on the EL train.   All of this transition and hard work has lead me to the life I now fervently adore.

But, I wonder now- have I already accomplished what I set out to do?  Will finishing my degree and shelling out an additional (I don’t even want to say how much it is, but it ain’t cheap) really serve anything?

This is something I’m grappling with.  I feel that there are other avenues to which I am far more excited about, and learning on my own doesn’t cost me a dime.  I truly feel you can be “busy,” without being “productive,” and while I’m not saying that my time in school isn’t teaching me anything- is it truly worth the price tag and is it distracting me from other things?  Is a graduate degree really worth it if I can’t use Photoshop and I can barely install Windows Office?  Will taking on college loan debt impede my chances of further happiness, or am I just being silly about wanting a down payment on a house/wedding/car/Roth contribution instead?  Can I have both?  I’m not even sure if I should see the money I’ve spent already on tuition as a “mistake.”  Even if it wasn’t a mistake and brought me to a life I am now proud of, it sure is an expensive “experiment.”  I’m trying to be positive about this- grad school isn’t “bad,” but it’s too expensive to waffle about.

Needless to say- being an adult is scary.  Nobody will ever have the perfect advice- for every person that told me going to grad school was a great idea, I’ve seen evidence that it might not be.  Being an adult is really about freedom- and that’s what’s so scary about it, if you fail, you have nobody to blame but yourself.  It’s all your choice, your life, your consequences- both good and bad.  No matter what path you take- that life?  It’s YOURS…and perhaps that’s why I love it so intensely and totally intimidated by the power of it all.  I’m not sure what to do, but I’m going to keep writing until I muster the cajones to figure it out.

P.S. I could have written this to PostSecret, but this was way better.

4 comments so far.

4 responses to “Information Overload: Should I Quit Grad School?”

  1. Natalie D says:

    So because this post is mostly opinion I feel the need to give my view and relate.

    Going to college in the first place was something that I knew I wanted to do but could not afford. However I did get my undergraduate degree through a stipend, loans, scholarships, financial aid, and working. Was I proud? Absolutely! However, when it came to graduate school I was at a crossroads. I knew that right now I couldn’t afford it and it broke my heart! My whole life I wanted to become something better than I could ever imagine and have the biggest brain of knowledge as well as critical thinking abilities….

    In my current situation I am fulfilling the requirements of a stipend and working for two years and not going to graduate school…which is great because I will know what I want to furher my education in without risking the financial debt and unknowingness of the future. Also when I sit in my training room with the 25 other child protective service workers, and see that there are Masters level students getting paid the same dime, having almost an identical body of knowledge to me, somehow my choice not to go to grad school at the moment was justified. But everyday… I mean everyday I wonder if I am going to have the chance in my life to fufill my educational dreams because of getting married, having kids, etc. :/

    In your specific case you have gained a wealth of know how some people will not gain for many years! Also you have proven that you can create your own options…and do it with confidence! Every choice we make as humans we don’t have always be happy with it and support it but regardless we will always learn from it. What you are going through is hard right now but the total experience of wondering if you made the right choice is priceless.

    • Natalie- Thank you so much for your comment, truly it is helpful to have such great feedback! The time and cost of getting a graduate degree sometimes feels like an either/or situation- I too worry that the sacrifices I’m making for a grad degree are going to make it harder to accomplish my dreams in other areas like having a glad I’m not the only one that’s worried about this- how to make the right choices to fulfill our dreams of eduation, along with those other “unmeasurables,” that don’t come with a piece of paper- a family, memories, good relationships, etc. Ack, it’s stressful!

      Your encouragement is truly priceless, just what I needed to hear. I’ve had such guilt for even waffling on this for so long- but perhaps the process of evaluating my life’s choices isn’t necessarily a bad thing- thanks Natalie 🙂 BTW, I’m so flippin’ proud of you- you have accomplished so much and I know you’ve had to work extra hard at it and find ways to make it happen, but you still do it! We have come a long way methinks!

  2. Egypt says:

    Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good ifonramtoin.

  3. Valentina says:

    We can only hope and pray. Even without the debt cost wafting over your head…Grad school is hard. So I can't help but feel that there will be a certain amount of pride that will come from finishing and knowing you took your life in your own hands to make a difference.


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