The Graduate School Process: 3 myths busted

Three grad school myths debunked

Graduate school is both an exciting prospect and an intimidating one. As with all things in the era of the internet, there are also many myths circulating that are not based on these things called “facts”. Sara Stasko, Myth-buster extraordinaire, is here to set the record straight.

Myth #1: You should always try to attend a prestigious institution

Let’s be real: we all want to be fancy! I understand that you would love to tell your condescending Aunt Karen that you will “be attending HARRRRRVARD in the Fall”. That would undoubtedly be awesome. However, this myth is false on several fronts. First, attending a graduate program simply because the school, or for that matter the program itself, is deemed to be “prestigious” is a bad move. Perception does not account for the most important things in a graduate school program: faculty who will be great mentors, experiences that will be meaningful to you and a program culture that allows you to thrive. Remember when you were searching for an undergraduate institution, and you were very focused on fit? That still applies to graduate school. Second, a school with name-recognition does not necessarily have the best program in everything! That is in fact impossible. So, don’t be fooled: give each school a deep dive to look for fit beyond the name.

Myth #2: Graduate school is too expensive

Listen, I hear you. You probably have some student loans post-Denison. The last thing you want is to jump into more education with the possibility of additional debt to stack on. However, not only can graduate school be a great way to build skills, enhance your knowledge, and grow your job & salary prospects, but it can also be way more affordable than you may be thinking. Ever heard of an “assistantship”? This is a magical, work & study partnership, where you can serve as a teaching assistant, work in a lab, or in an on-campus office, and get paid (not a ton, don’t get crazy) as well as gain a partial to full tuition waiver. What I’m saying is, if you select a program that has an assistantship built in, you could get your education for basically free, plus gain work experience at the same time. Whatttttt? I know, exciting. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider the financial outcomes, such as what your salary may be with the degree you are considering. However, don’t knock graduate school out of the field of consideration without doing your due diligence. Do some research, be smart, know your options.

Myth #3: You should go to graduate school right after Denison

This is a huge misconception. First, if you do not have clearly defined goals for graduate school and why you want to go right away, it is likely that you are not giving this decision enough thought. Your future graduate school class will have people of a wide spread of ages, backgrounds, majors in college, tastes in pizza, etc. Time away can not only clarify what type of graduate degree is right for your goals, but will also give you additional work experiences that can make you more competitive in the graduate school process (hello maturity!). About 18% of each Denison graduating cohort goes straight to graduate school, but within 5 years of graduation closer to 80% have attended graduate school, so you are in good company. My advice: give timing of attendance a real thought and don’t allow yourself to be pressured to attend right away if you are not ready.

Authored by Sara Stasko, Associate Director for Graduate School & Pre-Health Advising