The Dilemma: Undergrad vs. Grad

Three years ago I was in your place, deciding on whether to go to college in-state and save for grad school or go to an out-of-state institution that was more than double the price.  You hear it all the time: students forced to decide between Ivy’s or full-rides to in-state schools, or other elite private institutions and lesser-known colleges that may have given larger scholarships.  It’s a really tough decision to give up a prestigious undergrad program in favor of grad school down the road; it’s always hard for humans to delay gratification.  As you’re going through the admissions process and weighing undergrad vs. grad, keep these things in mind.  And know that you are in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of other high school seniors who are faced with the same dilemma.

  • Current financial situation: Is money tight? Are you going to be taking out loans or paying your way through school? Do you have siblings who will be in college at the same time as you? These are all questions to consider when going through the admissions process with grad school in mind.  It’s important to have this conversation with your parents sooner rather than later to set realistic expectations on both sides.  It’s better to have this conversation now, than during sophomore or junior year of college when money’s really tight, you’re practically on your own, and you definitely want to go to grad school.
  • Career goals: What do you want to do? No seriously, undergrads are really good at skirting this question by saying they want to stay in school forever.  It’s really hard to figure out exactly what you want to do when you’re still in high school, or even in your first few years of undergrad, but if you can even get a general sense of a field or area that is helpful.
  • Educational goals: Ideally, these should be on par with career goals.  This is when the decision to forgo costly undergrad for grad school comes into play.  Start with the graduate degrees that are required for entry-level positions in the field you want to pursue.  Most of the time, it’s a Master’s or professional degree.  Focus on this particular aspect before planning too far down the road (i.e. Ph.D.).

If you take these considerations into mind, you’ll be better off than most students (and parents) who seem to fail to have these conversations.  Three years ago I decided to attend the in-state honors program over other, way more expensive out-of-state schools.  Now that I am halfway through, I am so glad I did.  I will most likely go to grad school and have minimum student loans from undergrad. Make sure you take these considerations into mind when you are making a smart, logical decisions for your educational future.