Grad School – How do you decide?

Do I need a master’s degree? Is it worth the investment? What’s the point? I must have asked myself these questions a hundred times before deciding that graduate school was, indeed, my next move. Here was my rationale:

  1. I enjoy learning. Exploring the gaps of knowledge that encourage me to perform my job more effectively is important to my success.
  2. I want to advance my career. Maybe it’s pursuing a leadership role, or finding new ways to develop and apply my skills. Graduate school can help me find my direction.
  3. Personal growth is important to me. I want to grow as a professional, but I also want personal fulfillment; that’s something graduate school can facilitate.

Finding the Right School & Program

A notable difference from my undergrad was that this time around I knew exactly what I wanted out of a program. Some of those needs included:

  • Face to face interaction. Well acquainted with my learning style, I recognized that an online program was not ideal for me.
  • Flexibility to explore other disciplines. The opportunity to take classes outside of my program would enable me to gain diverse perspectives that I could apply to my education and professional career.
  • Quality interaction with advisors and professors. The ability to discuss concerns and questions with faculty without chasing them down was vital.
  • Flexibility. I wanted an outline of what I needed to do to complete the program without pressure to finish within a certain time-frame.

Ultimately, the Professional Communication program at IPFW met my needs and was an affordable, convenient option. My personal conversations with friends and colleagues really sealed the deal. A college peer earned her MA in Writing from IPFW through the Master of English program and had wonderful things to say about her experience. Ashley Motia, a friend and mentor of mine, earned her MA in Professional Communication. I remember asking Ashley about her experience in the program when I was researching schools. These conversations, with people who were in my shoes not long before me, were helpful and reassuring as I explored my options.

Student-faculty interaction was key in my search for the right school, so, I appreciated how willing and eager IPFW faculty were to meet with me and answer my questions. To quote the wise words of my friend and mentor Ashley, “Your graduate school career should start with and be sustained by quality conversations with faculty and advisors. Those personal interactions are what infuse value into your degree.” The significance of these interactions is obvious, even when I talk to other students. Ian Lese, a graduate student in the Master of Public Management program at IPFW shared how his interactions with faculty influence his experience saying, “I am challenged every day at IPFW and it has made me a better student and person.”

Addressing Concerns

You may be wondering about the IU/Purdue split and how that impacted the graduate programs. I was curious too, and was hesitant to pursue a graduate degree from IPFW at first. I discussed my concerns with knowledgeable staff, and they reassured me that the programs would remain the same. Same programs, same faculty, same classes. The only change was the university awarding the degree—Purdue, a change that doesn’t impact every program, as many already award a Purdue degree. I asked Ian if he’d choose IPFW again, despite the change from IU to Purdue (Public Management is currently awarded an IU degree), he said he would, “because like IU, Purdue is a world class institute of higher learning.”

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Taking the Leap

Regardless of where you choose to pursue your degree, it’s important to feel confident that the payoff, though not always financially motivated, will be worth it. Perhaps more than in my undergraduate education, I was well aware of the investment graduate school requires, in both time and money. Before you take the leap, be sure to ask yourself what your expectations are and why those things are important to you. Talk to your friends and colleagues about their experiences. You may find that you don’t have to go very far to meet pursue your goals.

If you’re interested in learning about the programs IPFW offers, or are interested in learning more about a program, you can request information and a department representative will reach out to you. Or, if you have an hour or so to spare, the Office of Graduate Studies is hosting an Open House on November 29, for anyone interested in meeting with program directors and faculty to ask questions and learn about the program details, requirements, and curriculums.

 

*Note: I am currently employed at IPFW; however, all opinions are my own and were not influenced by my employer. A graduate degree was not a requirement of my employment and the decision to pursue continuing education was my own and made without any pressure from supervisors.

Cassey H. Suthers

Author: Cassey H. Suthers

Digital marketing enthusiast. I run on coffee and creativity. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to enjoy my commentary and random photos of my kids and hectic life: @that_cass

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