When you are juggling coursework, a social life, and finances in your undergrad, you are only trying to survive to the finish line: graduation. You don’t want to stop and think about the terrifying unknown of post-graduation, yet that’s the question everyone asks: “What are you going to do after graduation? Work? Grad school?” There is this moment of what feels like impending doom – make a choice to go to grad school now or never.

The truth that no one talks about? There is no “perfect” time to start grad school – it is different for everyone.

Take me, for instance. As a high school dropout who only went after her GED so she could work, college seemed like an unrealistic fantasy. As a first-generation student who started college almost as a dare to see if she could stick to it, it was all I could do to stay afloat between working 40+ hours a week and a full-time course load. I felt determined to get through and became obsessed with this idea of getting the degrees – any degree, all the degrees. It took seven years to graduate with my bachelor’s degree and every year I took off before grad school felt like a failure. When I started taking steps towards grad school, I felt disconnected from the process completely. I spent hours preparing materials for my applications although I felt nothing behind what I was writing. I repeatedly changed my mind on what program I wanted to get into and what I wanted to do with it. The red flags were there, but I was so convinced that this was my path. It had to be.

It took a lot of soul searching to realize it was not the right time for me. I felt like I was letting down everyone around me, including myself. I knew, realistically, if I entered into grad school with the mindset I had, I would drop out. My mental and physical health were rocky. After spending close to a decade of my life in college, my identity had become consumed by academia and I didn’t know who I was without it. I was exhausted. Graduate school was no longer a goal, but a crutch to help me avoid what I did not want to face. I discussed my decision with my support system – low and behold, they were not disappointed in me. They were proud that I was making the hard choice and that I was putting my well-being first.

Ultimately, we all have one life to live. No one else can decide what path we take or where we end up. The only person you have to answer to is yourself. Whether diving straight into grad school, into a career or just bouncing around different passions until you find one you want to settle on, the choice is yours. Just like there is no perfect time to start graduate school, there is no right or wrong path in your journey. As long as you continue to move forward, you will find your way, even if it means choosing a different route than you had always planned.


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