Graduate school worth the time, commitment

Michele Roehrig

It automatically boosts your resume and puts you ahead of your competition in the job market. But it could cost thousands of dollars and your mental health.

It’s graduate school. And it’s a big decision.

“Some people will know from the beginning that they want to go to grad school,” said John West, dean of graduate studies and vice president of research. “I didn’t start to think about it until the end of senior year of undergrad.”

The generation attending college right now is the first one that should view college as a life-long process, West said. Previous generations thought of college as a quick experience, majoring in one field and securing a lifelong job in that field.

However, many people now expect frequent career changes. West suggests learning about a different subject in graduate school. West said he would concentrate in an Asian language and business if he were to go back to graduate school.

“There are areas that interest you as you go through undergrad,” said West, who did his graduate work at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “But as you progress, there’s the possibility something will excite you that you never even thought of.”

Joe Smith, who is double-majoring in psychology and pre-medicine, is already thinking about graduate school as a first-year sophomore.

“For psychology, to do anything, you have to go to graduate school,” said Smith, who takes at least 17 credit hours a semester. “It’s a dead-end if you only have a bachelor’s. It’s a waste of education if you don’t go.”

Smith said he would like to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist. He said he is encouraged by his advisors to do a lot of independent research, take as many courses in psychology as he can and start preparing for the GRE exam.

Three years down the academic track is Sean Burton, who is graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is researching professors at universities to decide what graduate school is right for him.

“You work more directly with the professors than with the departments as a whole,” said Burton, who has a 3.6 GPA. “So I’ve been looking up professors online.”

Like Smith, Burton understands the importance of doing as much independent research as possible. Before he attends graduate school in the fall semester of 2007, he will be doing research in Kent State’s psychology department in multimedia learning and spinal regeneration in rats.

Even though Burton said he feels he is prepared, he feels the stress of being accepted.

“A lot of grad schools are terribly competitive for psychology,” Burton said. “The competitive ones may only accept two percent of applicants.”

Closer to the end of his academic track is graduate student Ken Sayers, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical sciences.

Graduate school gave him the opportunity of a lifetime when he studied the diet and eating habits of langur monkeys in northern Nepal in 2004.

“I’ve had the opportunity to do a field project on some rare and fascinating wildlife in one of the most beautiful areas on the planet – the Himalaya,” said Sayers, who did his undergraduate work at Anderson College, where his major was biology. “That’s a tremendous reward.”

Even though he has worked tediously for several years, Sayers said he has enjoyed it.

“Whether I’m successful or not is a subjective question,” Sayers said. “But I think that a love for the subject is the single most important requirement for graduate work.”

Contact graduate studies reporter Michele Roehrig at [email protected].