The Grad School Debate

After graduating from college, the possibility of grad school tends to hover off in the distance. Some graduates decide to take the plunge into eternal student-dom, whereas others decide it's time to enter into the world of monotonous labor to maybe pay off some of that hideous student debt, get married and have kids, or otherwise move on with life and all it has to offer.

Every student must come to his own decision, weighing the pros against the cons, and each student's decision is relevant in a personal way.

After careful introspection, I have decided (relevantly or otherwise) that approaching extended degrees of having-been-educated-ness is not for me.

Let's look at some reasons why people continue with post-graduate work:

Not terribly relevant. No matter what position an individual holds, he can probably make more money offering sexual favors full time. And don't think I haven't considered that.

An interesting concept. It looks good on paper, but in practice, no one really cares how much time you spent researching and grading undergrad papers. This basically boils down to the opportunity to flaunt an extra sheet of paper with a few signatures on it over somebody in your office who joined the workforce immediately after receiving a bachelor degree.

Once again, it's a great-sounding response to the question, "why do you want to do your post-graduate work at institution x?" Reflecting back upon what I really retained as an undergrad, I'm not too sure I would have any long-term benefit from spending extra time behind a stack of books. As a musician, all I took away from college that has really helped me learn any practical, applicable knowledge is the music of other academically-minded musicians, and with a few logical exceptions, those guys are pretty square.

People honestly believe completing research projects helps improve who they are. Absurd. People go to a four-year university to reflect on their usually demented upbringing, sort out the good from the bad, and try to pick up the pieces of their childhood and somehow create a life for themselves. Writing a 200-page thesis on the differences between a slushie and a sno-cone is not going to build upon that foundation in any useful sense. Besides all of that, I'm already awesome. What do I need with three more years of school?

Finally, a good reason to pursue post-graduate work. The average schmo off the street really sits up and takes notice of an individual introduced as "Doctor So-And-So" or "John Q. Public, Ph.D." The kind of studying that actually affects the way you're introduced must really be quite impressive. Although, after a bit of consideration, that title could also indicate to someone, "Wow, your twenties must've been really lame." A fine line to tread.

I've got a faster solution if this latter point is the only real reason anyone goes to grad school. Go down to the court house, and for a nominal fee, you can change your name to anything you wish, even if it's your current legal name plus a letter or two. Much cheaper than grad school.

Or, if you'd rather have official documentation of your doctorate, simply become famous enough to get asked to be the keynote speaker at a commencement ceremony. Universities almost always bestow upon these speakers some honorary doctorate in some bogus field like "letters" that you can use to boost yourself to the level of requiring that people address you as "Doctor".

This simply doesn't happen. It may look like you're only taking nine hours a semester, but there simply isn't enough time in the day to get through all your research, homework, and paper-grading to have a few spare hours to hit the bars. Forget the frat houses, because grad students come off a bit creepy for that crowd. There's something that just doesn't sit well about a guy taking a hit off the old beer bong one night and preparing to defend his thesis the next. Chicks don't dig professional students.

This option seems to be what the majority of grad students have decided is best. Because, face it: looking for a job sucks. No one really wants to work, but eventually it has to happen. Grad school is just a loophole that allows for putting real-world work on hold for up to seven years, facilitated by the siren song of a low, fixed-rate student loan that doesn't require repayment until 2013.

Let me conclude simply by quoting one of the wisest philosophers of our day, Bartholomew J. Simpson, after cutting off the ponytail of the man sitting in front of him at a screening of Kosovo Autumn:

Look at me. I'm a grad student. I'm 30 years old and I made $600 last year.

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