Not sure whether or not to go to grad school? I’m in a similar situation.

I know I don’t need an MBA to open up and run a coffee shop. The time and monetary expense of grad school would only delay that plan. However, since graduating college way back in 2000, I’ve had the expectation I’d being going to grad school. After all, I was a psychology major, and I pretty much knew that I wouldn’t make good money without an advanced degree. Nearly seven years of letting this unmet expectation linger is like seven years of hitting the snooze button of an alarm clock. I’d like to settle this issue once and for all.

Graduate SchoolSince taking a class in finance, the idea of going to B-School has been on my mind. Through work experience and further studies, I’ve ruled out the possibilities of law school, a PhD in clinical psychology, and an MFA in creative writing. An MBA is my last shot at joining the 10% of the U.S. population over 25 with a Masters degree or higher. But that’s not one of my reasons for considering B-School.

I believe I have some business savvy, and a genuine interest in money, particularly behavioral finance. I’d say the main reason I’m considering B-school is a personal vendetta. Yes, a vendetta! One of my big regrets in life is missing out on going to an Ivy League or Top 20 school. Not exactly the best reason to go to grad school, or is it? I did some research and found links that will help anyone seeking to answer the grad school question.

Critical Questions

When car shopping, you’re not going to buy the first car you see, right? You’d do some research, take some test drives, figure out how you’re going to pay for it, and then you’d buy one. Grad school is more expensive, so why not take much greater care in considering it? presents five vital questions you should answer before deciding. These questions basically are:
1) Why do you want to go?
2) When should you go? Straight from undergrad or after some work experience?
3) What’s the best degree for you?
4) What’s the best school for you?
5) Can you afford it?

The great thing about this link is that specific points support each of the questions you should consider, and they are followed by further questions that dig deeper. For instance, Question 1 discusses how people usually consider graduate school for one or more of the following reasons: meet career goals, greater compensation, staying marketable, or a career change.

This forced me to consider how an MBA would fit with my career goals. It’s not exactly clear. I just want to have a coffee shop so that I can have reliable income as I pursue my great joy of reading and writing in cafes. I also love the idea of being my own boss, and I love good coffee. Besides my vendetta, I’d want to have an MBA in case I get bored with my coffee shop and want a different challenge, or in case I want to make more money and travel through work. There’s also a possibility I could want to own several coffee shops, at which point, an MBA may help me manage that task. I don’t have enough information. That brings me to my next point:

Evaluate Your Career Goals

It can’t hurt to make sure your graduate studies of interest are in line with your career goals. If you’re not clear what career best suits you, or what career goals you have, take some assessment tests to help you out. (one of my favorite websites) has a great page on career tests. There are a number of links to career personality and aptitude tests, as well as links to information about self-assessments and career planning. A few of the assessments require a fee. I have not tried the fee ones, but I’m familiar with many of them from my psych undergrad days and I know they are well-respected assessments.

One of the free links is the Princeton Review Career test. Like all other career tests I have ever taken, this test suggests I would enjoy a career in writing. My knowledge of writing careers is that they are not very lucrative except for a lucky few, hence why I want to have more reliable income with a coffee shop. I’m not making a good case for my MBA interest. I still don’t have enough information. Next point:

Gather Opinions and Talk to People

You will hear all sorts of stories about whether or not you should go to grad school. I say, ask anyone you can who pursued the degree of your interest and take everything you hear with a grain of salt. What works for some may not work for others. In the meantime, check out these samples of what you may hear.

MSN Encarta presents some reasons to go, and reasons not to go. There are many points in this link I never considered. Also, the cost issue was raised in a manner that brought me great worry: “I love my work, but I’ll finish up in a couple of months carrying $40,000 in loans. I’m only beginning to realize how long it’s going to take me to pay that off.” provides a personal account from someone who was glad to have gone to B-School. Of course, this person’s company had a tuition reimbursement plan that made B-School free. If my firm would reimburse me for B-School, I’d consider it a bit more heavily.

You Are Not Alone

There are many other people stuck with the grad school question. has another great link with real Questions and Answers about all types of grad school pondering situations. You can even participate in a grad school forum to get feedback specific to your situation.

The Verdict?

Grad school is not going to be a snap decision. I’m going to stick with my priorities for now, which is paying off debts and saving money. In the meantime, I’ll keep up with the writing and see if my interest in behavioral finance gets any stronger. I don’t want to go $90,000 in debt for an MBA just to satisfy a vendetta.

The snooze buttoning continues.