When to apply to graduate school and what skills are considered valuable?
November 21, 2008 9:13 PM   Subscribe

How do I decide when the time is right to go back to school?

I graduated in 2007 from a small Canadian university with an Honours BA in Psychology and Sociology. My average was a B and I did not enjoy my Psych courses, particularly in later years. I was extremely interested in my Soc courses; especially those that involved social inequality, feminism, class conflict, forms of oppression, etc.

I performed poorly due to anxiety, burnout, depression, disorganization, lack of focus (all of which is highly correlated with a really negative personal situation that I have since escaped and every student's favourite crutch: large amounts of marijuana).

If I can possibly say this without sounding unbearably conceited, I am intelligent and never had any difficulties understanding the material or comprehending the theories and concepts. Some professors approached me throughout my undergrad and asked if I had considered applying to graduate school. (I applied to four schools and was rejected for low grades). I do not believe that I had the work ethic necessary during my undergrad and at the time could be roundly classified as a smart slacker.

I took a year off and am gainfully employed in finance (unrelated to my interests but the company treats employees very well). I'm also taking a professional certificate for nonprofit management at a local university; I'll be done in 5 semesters of part-time study. I'm doing well so far and getting my work done on time, completing all my readings, getting good grades... so I know that my lack of success with school was due to the factors detailed above and not a lack of competence or ability.

My questions: When and if should I go back to school? Is it ever more valuable to go back to do graduate school after years of working? How successful are mature applicants? Will this professional certificate reflect well on me, should I apply again? Should I also take additional upper-level undergraduate courses to aid my application? What other qualities/experiences are considered valuable? Should I wait until I feel mature and focused enough or should I take a loan and push through the pain now?

Thank-you very much for your time, everyone; I do appreciate any thoughts and wisdom you may have on these issues.
posted by cranberrymonger to Education (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My parents both taught grad students for years, and both believe pretty strongly that no one should be allowed into grad school without being out in the real world for awhile. Relzx, you're good. You've only been out a year, and I think some time to figure out what you want to do, experience life, blah blah blah is a very good thing.
posted by purenitrous at 9:33 PM on November 21, 2008

Judging by your profile, you are in Canada. I have no idea what the situation there is, but university contacts in the States have mentioned a great upswing in "mature" students, whether they are finishing an abandoned undergrad degree , retraining for a career change, or for any reason.
Here,, at least you would not be the oldest person in classes, especially in post grad work.
Old saying, "No one regrets getting too much education".

Love first half of your nick; the second half makes me worry about slavery.
posted by Cranberry at 11:48 PM on November 21, 2008

One thing to consider if you wait awhile to apply and go back to school: Keep in touch with those professors from undergrad who thought you were pretty great.

I went to a Canadian university for my BA, had similar marks that weren't going to get me into any decent grad school, but the phone call/glowing letter from my prof, who for some reason saw the potential through the partying, to the grad school did get me in. They could be your golden ticket.
posted by meerkatty at 12:44 AM on November 22, 2008

You don't say why you want to go to grad school. Do you want to go for love of learning? Do you want a PhD to teach university? If it's the latter, be very careful -- grad schools are overcrowded and they're pumping out way too many PhDs for the dearth of tenure-track jobs out there. If it's the former, make sure you can support yourself for the year or two that you'll be in MA studies if you don't get a grant and/or TAship.
posted by pised at 8:05 AM on November 22, 2008

Best answer: I don't think that anybody is ever "ready" for grad school - the experience is overwhelming and terrifying for virtually everyone at first. I'm a second-year grad student in a top-tier PhD program in the humanities, and I - and everyone else I entered with - suffered from anxiety, burnout, and a severe case of the "imposter syndrome."

In short, it's perfectly normal to feel hesitant and/or afraid about going back to grad school, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you're not ready.

That being said, however, people who have had a decent amount of time "off" (aka in the workforce) before entering grad school tend to have a much easier time adjusting to it.
posted by aether516 at 7:48 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

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