Making the decision to go back to school can be extremely difficult to make on your own. Personally, it took me at least a year before I thought I was ready to even look at programs.

With having worked through an eating disorder during undergrad I was apprehensive of my capabilities of handling a graduate level program. I had always been an above average student until I became sick. While I recovered and graduated with my Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology I was still skeptical if I could manage it.

Honestly, there was no single “aha moment” for me. I was not hit with an overwhelming feeling of confidence in myself before applying. I actually became extremely anxious when it came to the topic of applications.

Unlike the impairing anxiety I’ve dealt with for years this was different. It was normal. I was dabbling with the idea of making a huge change in my life and I was scared. Who wouldn’t be? Would I crash and fail during the first semester? Would I be the one struggling student in my cohort? Was I smart enough for this? Would my dream job become unattainable? I had no answers for these questions.

As cliche as it seems, I took a leap of faith. Though I wasn’t one hundred percent confident in myself or my applications, I was one hundred percent sure that if this was the path intended for me, it would happen.

The right moment never really happens. We, the choice makers, make the decision when is the opportune moment and jump. But before you dive head first into a pile of applications here are a few questions to ask yourself before applying!

When should I apply to graduate school?

Life isn’t a race, you’re not being timed or competing against anyone else. Which is why I highly suggest taking a year off between undergraduate and applying to a graduate program. Give yourself some time to decompress from undergraduate studies. The most common complaint that I have personally heard from students who went straight into their graduate program was that they didn’t take time off. They were burnt out before the end of the first semester. Apply when it feels right, and not a minute before.

Can I afford graduate school?

Realistically, no one can afford graduate school out of pocket. And for most people, that reason can hinder their decision to pursue another degree. It can be daunting to mentally wrestle with the idea of being in crippling debt. I too struggled with the idea of being weighed down by college tuition debt. But in the end, it’s just money. If this degree will improve my life in the end, it will be worth the monthly loan payment.

What type of learning experience do I want as a student?

Surprisingly there are a lot of graduate programs that offer online programs and in-person based programs. With that being said, you have to know what type of learner and student you are. As much as I would love to believe I have the will power to focus on an online program I know I need the personal experience and structure having in a person based program would give me.

Should I consider a part-time or full time program?

Do you currently have a job? Is it a part-time job or full-time? Are they aware you will be going back to school? Do they support your choice? What other responsibilities do you have? These are some basic questions to ask when deciding what type of program you should enroll in. Most programs offer the choice between the two. Full-time students generally graduate in the shortest amount of time. Where part-time students may take a year or two more. In the end it comes down to this simple question: How much time do I have to dedicate solely to my education?

Can I get the same job without a master’s degree?

It is always a good idea to do your research about the career path you have chosen. Personally, with my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology there is very little I can do in the field without a Master’s degree or Doctorate. And as my interest is working with females who struggle with eating disorders, it is highly necessary that I continue my education. Without the completion of my Master’s, I would not be able to pursue my dream job.

Are you using graduate school as an excuse to escape the real adult world?

Just a head’s up, this doesn’t work. The real world comes at you regardless if you are still a student or a fully employed member of society. So if you are tempted to use the idea of pursuing another degree to delay real world responsibilities, don’t. Being a student doesn’t make you immune to the real world.

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