"What do you want to do after you earn your degree?" I asked.
Jennifer was trying to decide which graduate program to attend. In our telephone meeting, she had summarized her options, along with the strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons of each, but she was having difficulty narrowing down the options. My deceptively simple question stopped her. Cold.
"Ah, I, I don’t know." Jennifer stammered sheepishly.
"Then how can you choose a program? Are you planning to pursue this degree just for personal edification? Or do you want it to prepare you for a career?"
"Oh, I want it to prepare me for a career," she answered immediately.
"Then you need to do more homework. The answer will probably determine which programs you should apply to."
There are lots of bad reasons for applying to grad school, and Jennifer had supplied a few. Here’s a bad reason sampler:
1. My parents want me to go and will pay for it.
2. I hate my job.
3. What else is there to do after you finished college?
4. I like school.
5. Grad school is the next thing to do.
6. It’s there.
For George Mallory climbing Mt. Everest, the logic in #6 proved fatal. For you the above examples of flawed logic are unlikely to be so devastating, but they certainly don’t impress admissions committees and/or justify a graduate degree.
Unless you are one of the fortunate few who can attend grad school simply for personal growth, which is fine, you need to have a professional goal in mind and know how the degree will help you achieve it — before you choose schools and apply.