By KIRA HARADA-STONE
Since starting Stony Brook University three years ago, Stacy, now a junior, has changed her major four different times. She has sampled majors in pharmacology, writing, nutrition and journalism. Perhaps one reason that she hasn’t felt pressured to decide on a major is that she’s always planned on going to graduate school.
While, Stacy, 20, who did not want to give her last name, decided on grad school long ago that’s not the case for many millennials who are plagued by the question, “Should I go to graduate school?” Enrollment at graduate schools has increased each year by an average of 1.5 percent since 2003, according to a Council of Graduate Schools Study.
With more and more people receiving graduate degrees, despite being in fields that do not require them, it seems that millennials are feeling pressured to attend graduate school. There is a wide variety of reasons that people are choosing to attend graduate school including financial stability and parental influence and to have a buffer between college and the “real world.”
“Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation,” a study done by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, found that millennials desire money more than any other goal in life. Almost 75 percent of millennial respondents answered that being very well off financially is more important to them than discovering the meaning to life. So, it’s no surprise that many millennials are citing potentially increased earnings as a reason to attend graduate school. “I don’t feel that money would make me happy, but it would allow me to be comfortable,” said Stacy. “I want to be able to take vacations and send my kids to college.”
Parental pressure is another factor millennials consider when debating graduate school. Stacy’s goal is to earn an income similar to what her dad made as a financial analyst for Morgan Stanley. Her parents claim that if she wants to do that she has to go to graduate school. “My parents pushed it into my head that I was going to graduate school no matter what,” said Stacy. However, it seems that this pressure has more to do with the fact that Stacy’s father has four graduate degrees and less to do with actual necessity.
At some point millennials need to stop listening to their parents, argues Zoe Zorka, author of “The Great Grad School Debate: 5 Reasons To Reconsider That Second Degree. Zorka, who has a master’s degree in finance and statistics from Colorado Technical University, noted that she went to grad school because it what she wanted, no one else. “It’s got to be your own decision. If you go [to graduate school] because of somebody else, you’re not going to like it. There has to come a point where you stop living through your parents.”
Some consider graduate school a way to hide from the real world under a blanket of academia, while others claim that graduate school offers the time to sort out life goals. “It’s the closest you can get to staying in college for another 5 to 10 years,” said Adam Ruben author of “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School,” and professor at John Hopkins University. “It’s sort of a compromise between college and the real world.”
Ruben stresses that graduate school needs to be a carefully considered choice based on personal motivation. “They need to consider whether they would be happy,” said Ruben. “This is an analogy I came across on a blog, it’s like buying a gym membership. You’re buying access to the machines and equipment, but you’re not entitled to be healthier or slimmer at the end, it depends on how much work you put in.”