This article was written initially for . It has been given minor edits before re-posting.
When the first day of May hit, something in the atmosphere felt different to me. I felt my environment beginning to change. What it was in fact, was a drastic change of weather to a much warmer and humid temperature and finals week. (Queue “What Time Is It” from High School Musical 2.) Students are at last leg of the race, only on-campus to finish off their exams, and the ones who are graduating are, preparing precisely for the moment to call themselves a college graduate.
In the traditional sense, I should be graduating this year, based on my age and year that I completed high school which was in June 2014. However, life happens, so I am a rising senior. Although I’d be fooling myself if I acted like I’m not in my feelings seeing my classmates I grew up and went to school to complete their college education while I still have another year (and maybe some to go). It’s like the dream destination train that departs without me because I was two minutes too late. Perhaps, why I’m overthinking this is because I felt like I was capable of completing college in 4 years without interruptions that I can control that many of my family members could not or did not want to.
Now I look at my degree audit, and I see I’m 87% finished with my bachelors. As my undergraduate career will soon come to a close, I feel torn between the idea and challenge of furthering my education in graduate school and freedom of full-fledged adulthood and jumping into my career field. There is one side of me telling me to be finished with school forever, but the other hand is telling me saying challenge myself and obtain a masters. (It is a definite hell no for a Ph.D., I’ll let you know that)
According to studies done by the National Center for Educational Statistics and National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 42% of the 1.8 million college students who graduated in 2014 will eventually go on to earn a master’s degree. Meanwhile, I’ve watched many of my friends and acquaintances announce their plans to attend graduate schools further their studies in various careers which do spark envious feelings in me.
My success adviser has even been encouraging me about earning a master’s degree. On one side, I see a few ups to going to graduate school. As crazy as I thought neo-hippie-activist Lynn Searcy from Girlfriends was spending the past eight years racking up several postgraduate degrees, I can somewhat understand the thought of continuing to delay adulting especially in 2018 where millennials can’t buy homes and have to deal with the older generation holding their positions until the wheels officially fall off. School is all I’ve ever known; I’ve never had to deal with being in the real world that plays out like an episode of HBO’s Insecure. And if I’m so passionate about my primary and prospective career field, then why not continue to learn more and walk out being the best that I can be.
College culture also plays in contemplation for graduate school. As a black person who has either gone to school made up of mostly white people or was created for the white community, I have my bitter and regretful moments of not attending and experiencing the culture of a historically black college or university. Lastly, I look back at my life five years ago and never thought I would have made it this far as someone who suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Students with disabilities are less likely to attend college as their general education counterparts because of the assumption by school faculty members that they won’t be able to handle the coursework. If I have made this far, why not challenge myself and take a further step and earn another diploma? No one can take away your education.
However, there is a slew of reasons why I feel compelled to scream MLK’s famous lines: “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Even if graduate school is affordable, it is still mental, emotionally and physically draining. Truckloads of homework, raising my hand in class, group projects that are difficult to be executed when everyone isn’t on the same page and general drama with people that play out like a prime-time soap opera. Moreover, graduate school, the expectation to on top of your academics is even higher. God forbid, your GPA falls below a certain level — particularly under a 3.0, and you will be put on academic probation as the cutoff is higher for graduation. And in journalism, you typically don’t need more than bachelor’s to enter the career field as opposed to if you want a psychologist or a doctor. It boils down to hands-on experience during your time in college, internships, and projects that you can do on your own in the age of online platforms such as YouTube, SoundCloud, and Medium. With that said, who wants to continually spend money when I could have the chance to make it finally and be in my dream workplace than classrooms.
Although it’s always an option to take a year (some years) off and go back for my master’s degree, it would feel like trying to ride a bike when I have done it almost ten years. I feel as though, I’ll be so caught up in my career to think about ever going to school. I’d instead go straight to graduate school, so I don’t run the risk of not being in a school mode anymore. It would most likely be a challenge to get back into the swing of academics. I also take into consideration the idea of one day — as a radio personality or broadcast journalist — to return to higher education as an adjunct professor or guest lecturer.
It’s safe to say that my decision on whether to pursue a master’s degree is as unresolved as a series finale cliffhanger. I may not have the answers now, but I plan to take the time to reflect on what I’ve learned and experienced, do some research and hope that a sign will come down and strike me like lightning. However, at 22-years old, I know that I have my whole life ahead of me to figure it all out.