Grads opt for more school

More students make the choice to continue their education with hopes of expanding opportunity

When Bethany Smith first began her collegiate journey she anticipated earning her bachelor’s degree then heading into the workplace. However as she approaches graduation from her undergrad, she is realizing the impact of a bachelor’s degree is not what it once was.

Many undergraduate students are beginning to question the longevity of their degrees, according to statistics from Kaplan Test Prep.

“The numbers are actually extremely interesting,” Director of Kaplan Graduate Programs Lee Weiss said. “Over 700,000 students registered to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in 2010 (nearly 25,000 more students than in 2009).”

The numbers are the highest they have been since 2001, which means more students are considering staying in school longer, Weiss said.

Smith is not the only student beginning to question her collegiate journey. In fact, she is now part of the majority of students graduating,
according to Weiss.

“We have seen a five percent increase across the board for all of our graduate schools,” University of Virginia’s Assistant Vice President for Research Jeffrey Blank said.

The GRE score is one of the most important factors for a student attempting to get into a graduate program, according to Kaplan.

“We have seen a great increase in the number of students who are applying to take the GRE,” Weiss said.

Having a plethora of adults with undergraduate degrees pushes students to consider pursuing higher degrees in order to stay ahead of the competition, according to Liberty University’s Director of Graduate Admissions Dr. William Wegert.

“Graduate school also gives you the opportunity to focus your energies and studies on what really interests you,” Wegert said.

“A graduate degree is increasingly necessary for entry into many fields,” Blank said. “It also enables individuals to progress in their chosen career path or begin a new career path.”

“Graduate school gives you a new perspective on the world, you know a lot of questions from your undergrad, graduate school helps you to answer those questions,” Wegert said.

“We do not really know the job market for college graduates two or three years from now,” Dr. Andrew Light, an economics professor at Liberty, said. “A student should not pursue further education simply because of the tough job market now.”

Students should not take the importance of education or experience lightly, Weiss said.

“In graduate school, you will be able to focus on what you are passionate about and leverage it for the kingdom,” Wegert said. “Combine the passion with the love for the Lord and the service of believers, which is what Liberty is all about, and become champions for Christ. You’ve got Christ, now graduate school helps add the champion to it.”

Making the decision to embark on the journey into graduate school is by no means a simple task, Weiss said.

“Having a job that I enjoy will make it easier to wake up and go to work every morning,” Smith said. “I believe that becoming a physical therapist will be something I will truly enjoy. Going to graduate school will help me to fulfill that dream.”

Choosing to attend graduate school is often influenced by a vision of higher earnings, Blank said.

“Financial burdens affect everyone’s daily decision, not just students.  Students need to analyze the financial costs and benefits of higher education in the short term and long term,”
Light said.

The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Liberty University have all experienced an increase in graduate school interest.

“Traditionally, applications to graduate school increase during difficult economic times,” Blank said. “Individuals often use such times as an opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge or gain new skills and knowledge.”

The push for higher learning has the potential to raise the standards of both the educational and professional worlds according to Weiss.

“I would suggest that students should pray and try both ways,” Light said. “That is to apply for the graduate or professional study and to apply for jobs.”

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