When I finished my undergraduate studies, I made a neder not to go back to school. Almost 15 years later I embarked upon graduate school. Circumstances change and the world changes. That’s one of the reasons we have hataras nedarim! I know that many readers are just starting school – whether after a break of a few months or many years. Wherever you are on your path to enlighten others and to self-enlightenment, I wish each of you hatzlacha. For those who are interested, I’m happy to share some data regarding how few (with a couple of exceptions) employers care about what your undergraduate major was; I hope this is a relief to many.
That’s my long way of saying that this column is for anyone considering graduate school in 2022 and beyond. I am writing it before the summer ebbs away while some may still have a little extra time for contemplation and preparation before work or college commitments ramp up (and distract them from longer term goals).
Graduate school is almost a rite of passage in some industries. this popular pursuit has become even more common at our university since the opening of The Katz School for Science and Health about five years ago, and the introduction of a range of Masters programs in “hot” industries like Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing & Media, Cyber Security, and Biotechnology. (In fact, YU now has more Masters students than undergraduate students!) Many of our undergraduates embark on a Masters program in their senior year (or at least fulfill many of the prerequisites) and save significant time and money by accelerating their path toward a Masters.
Regardless of the Masters program or choice of school, it’s increasingly important to consider your options early. Be sure to spend sufficient time doing your research and speaking to people in your desired field (or talking to a career coach like myself!) to see whether a Masters is necessary and at what stage of your career it would be best to pursue it. Some large companies sponsor their employees’ graduate studies or PhD work in order to benefit from a more educated workforce. As with any contract, read the fine print before you sign so that you know what the company expects of you if you pursue further education. For example, do they expect you to stay with them for a certain length of time beyond completion of the program? Will they pay university fees for registration, etc., and study materials? These can add up significantly over a number of semesters.
Students and readers frequently ask me when is the right time to apply. To this I generally reply, “Early.” I recommend that you list all the due dates of the places you are seriously interested in, and aim to have your application ready to submit three to six weeks before the deadline. You won’t be penalized for applying early, but the price of a late admission can include the application fee in addition to your application being at the bottom of the pile – if it’s even considered. Deadline in mid-December? Allow plenty of time to get hold of transcripts and references you may need to submit, and to study for any entrance exams you may need to take (such as the GRE).
To paraphrase Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, it’s not for nothing that the Jewish New Year in much of the world coincides with the start of the academic year, as each year we commit to expand our horizons and knowledge. Whether or not more formal education is in your future (and I’m sure many of you feel like I originally felt: Isn’t one degree more than enough!?), we are proud to be known as People of The Book – lifelong learners. Regardless of our educational backgrounds and aspirations, may we all be inscribed in The Book of Life.