5 signs you’re not ready for grad school

Education is a noble pursuit, but figure out if it's the right one for you.

A desire to learn more, earn more and advance in your field are all excellent reasons to apply to a graduate program, but they shouldn’t be the only things you think about when trying to decide whether to return to school. Grad school is a challenging, time-consuming and expensive endeavor, so you don’t want to jump into it lightly. Consider these five signs you might not be ready to go to grad school. You haven’t done your homework You’re setting yourself up for failure if you decide to head to grad school without researching what it will mean for your life. Often you have to balance classes, homework, a regular job and other adult responsibilities. “When challenges arise, as they often do, the student's motivation to remain focused on studies will be compromised,” said Jeffrey Pierce, a graduate admissions counselor at Albany State University. You haven’t done a cost-benefit analysis Grad school is expensive and takes valuable time, so you must examine the value of what you’ll gain in addition and in comparison to what you’ll be giving up to get your degree. You should be asking yourself if “attending graduate school for X degree will be worth the money and time,” said Alexander Ott, associate dean of academic support and enrollment services at New York Institute of Technology. “This 'worth' can be judged in a variety of ways, including the personal and intellectual growth that would hopefully be a result of the graduate school experience as well as the advantage the degree may confer in terms of added earning power,” Ott explained. You don’t know what you’ll do next Say you graduate...then what? This degree might qualify you for a high-paying job, but it's unlikely that job will fall into your lap. “Simply obtaining an advanced degree will not enhance your career for the sake of advancing your career,” said Debra Ann Matthews of resume service Let Me Write It for You. “You must activate a solid plan of career action based on your passions, your career interests, talents and the need for your career skills in the workplace.” You’re doing it for the wrong reasons There are at least as many bad reasons to go to grad school as there are good ones. You need to make sure you have the right motivations or you could end up with a lot of regrets. “Some of the worst reasons to go to grad school are to use education as a stalling tactic because you aren't yet ready to make a career decision,[or] to let someone else (like a parent or spouse) pressure you into it even though you aren't excited by the idea,” said psychologist and career coach Janet Scarborough Civitelli. You know nothing about the field You don’t want to sign up for a graduate program just because it sounds interesting to you. You need to know you like it and will like working in the types of jobs it can lead to in the future. The best way to find out if you’ll like working in a field is to give it a try, said Leigh Steere of Managing People Better. “I believe prospective graduate students can benefit from having two or more years of work experience in their proposed field of study," she said. "It's a shame to spend the time and money on a degree only to discover that you don't like the field of work.”