What's a good way of deciding if I should wait a year before applying to grad school?
December 7, 2006 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What's a good way of deciding if I should wait a year before applying to grad school? I'm in a surprising circumstance that my music career might be somewhat sustainable and potentially profitable, and with many of the new opportunities coming at me, I wonder if my plans of going to grad school could be placed on hold for a year. What's a good & rational way to decide?

I just moved to a new city a few months ago because my wife was hired by a university in town. We both thought that part of the benefits package included a tuition-waiver for immediate family, so I planned on applying to grad school to pursue a Masters degree in New Media & Animation. Everything was on-track until two months ago when we learned that the tuition-waver benefit was only available to my wife, and no one else. Faced with the prospect of having to pay for school, I did more research and actually found a much better program at a university an hour away from us.
I'm also a musician and DJ, but originally thought my new city's music scene wasn't robust enough for me to fully pursue that part of my art practice, and the only way for me to make a decent living was to get a graduate degree.

However, right around the time I found a better grad program, my music and DJ career started taking off. I'm starting to book way more shows with my band, and I'm starting to get DJ bookings at clubs. I know if I really pursued this angle, I could potentially be quite successful and financially stable - but I'm concerned about putting grad school off for another year. I got my undergrad in 2002, and if I wait another year, I won't start my grad work until I'm 29. I have a bunch of pro's and con's either way, so I'm looking for some advice or a better way to make this decision. Luckily, my music and art practice are related (both in content and theoretically,) and the experience I gain through my music career is very applicable towards my art work.

Part of my concern is that if I go to grad school now, all the work and momentum I'm gaining in my music career will be lost - but if I don't start school soon, it'll be much harder for me to get into a program (as an older student) and start a decent career afterwards.
posted by itchi23 to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Once you get into your grad program, you'll be locked into that for several years. I know a ton of grad students in their 30s. Maybe I don't know much about the new media and animation grad school world, but I would hope they wouldn't be so ageist as to exclude someone in their late 20s or early 30s. Hell, I have a med school classmate who started in our class at 35.
posted by gramcracker at 11:15 AM on December 7, 2006

Launching a music career seems much harder to me than getting into grad school. I'd capitalize on the momentum! It sounds like you are doing really well DJing.

Believe me, if you change your mind down the road and really, really, really want to pay tuition - they will let you.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2006

Concurring: Grad school is an opportunity that will always be there. Older students tend to be better. Go pursue your music, come back to school later if you want to.
posted by u2604ab at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2006

I don't know, but it looks like you've already decided and is just here for "peer confirmation". See, you list many problems with going to grad school right now (an hour away, paid, will prevent the music career from taking off) and speaks enthusiastically about your new found chances in the music field. Well, if advice is what you want, go for the music while you can. You can always go to school afterwards (actually, gramcracker said it: mid-30s or even 40s are not uncommon ages to get a Masters degree).
posted by nkyad at 11:29 AM on December 7, 2006

Some level of success in music is likely to help with your grad-school admission. A fantastic run in grad school is unlikely to help with your music career.
posted by Good Brain at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

Find out if you can defer if you're accepted. It might make sense to apply now, and then if you get in and can defer, you'll have the acceptance in hand for the next year. Which means you'll have a definite pull to go back to school, and less stress during the coming year about having to apply.
posted by occhiblu at 11:39 AM on December 7, 2006

It sounds like you're doing well with you're music career, why rish into grad school? I know many people completing their grad programs that are 30+. There is no rule that says you have to finish by a certain age. You only live once, you might as well do something you enjoy while you still can!
posted by bluehermit at 12:20 PM on December 7, 2006

If you are paying for grad school yourself, then no rush as they will be just as eager to cash your checks in a few years as they are this year, assuming you can be admitted later.

However, a wise mentor once told me regarding grad school, if the thought of more school doesn't make you physically ill, you should go ahead and do it now and get it over with. This was good advice, I think.
posted by jtfowl0 at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2006

Is it possible to go part time? That might be a good compromise
posted by echo0720 at 2:46 PM on December 7, 2006

can you apply, accept, and then defer?

one of my friends did just that. only they deferred so long that eventually they lost their chance to go to school. (i'm talking years.) their band did reasonably well, but not well enough to really sustain it. luckily some other avenues opened up for them (from their music career), but it hasn't been easy.

if you're really not feeling grad school now, then don't do it. just be aware of how hard it can be to get by as a musician or dj alone.
posted by kendrak at 5:32 PM on December 7, 2006

My experience with applying to grad school right out of undergrad was that it ended up being the reason I didn't get accepted. When I had my interview, the professors said they were really into my work, but were concerned that I hadn't had the chance to have "life experiences" and truly fend for myself independent of an institutional structure. They didn't want someone who only knew school. I think success with your music that you have made happen of your own motivation and enthusiasm, especially since it's related to your other artwork, will only make you look all the more promising when you do eventually decide to go.
posted by white light at 8:33 PM on December 7, 2006

Make sure you are clear about what you want to gain from graduate school. If you are a musician and and artist, is there really something that you think you can learn in school that you can't learn on your own or through hands on experience? Much of graduate school is self-directed learning. Maybe you can gain more specific expertise by taking private lessons (even from a teacher at the university.) At the moment, you can be successful in life without the degree. Do you believe that will change in the future? (Of course, in the future you'll have all the great experience of being a professional artist.)

I wouldn't be worried about starting later, if at that point you still feel like you need a graduate degree to be successful. As others have mentioned, you will be much more appealing candidate because of your experience.
posted by imposster at 7:30 AM on December 8, 2006

For what it's worth, my grad school experience was WAY easier than undergrad (I did a film grad program). Were I in your situation, I'd do both (of course, best thing to do would be to talk to someone in the program already and ask how much free time they have).
posted by JPowers at 11:30 PM on December 8, 2006

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