I went to college for seven years. Yes, seven years. Five years as an undergraduate and two as a graduate. Those years in graduate school were hard – while my friends were going out nightly and enjoying their new wealth, I spent the better part of my life in the library or grading papers as a TA to barely earn enough to cover tuition and living expenses. After I was finally done, degree in hand, I had thought that completion would mean that the symbolic load would be lifted off my back. Sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes I wonder how I even got past it.
I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy graduate school. But it was more of an act of perseverance than a pleasurable activity. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe I should enjoy studying 12+ hours in the library, deciphering Greek symbols and formulas constructed tens, and sometimes hundreds of years ago. The weekends and late nights spent hunkered over a homework problem, staring blankly at code, or sitting around a table of peers discussing a project.
Going to graduate school in engineering is like that. It teaches you a new way to think – that the formula that was served so elegantly to you as an undergraduate isn’t enough. And there will be many more questions raised than answers. And most of these answers will be expected from you, not given to you by the professor. In fact, it teaches you that what is given to you as fact is not enough – that you should try to understand the underlying details to truly understand.
Let’s not ignore the benefits…exposure to new topics, being around like-minded people, and challenging ideas. The potential for a higher income later in life. And most of all, pushing oneself.
But everyone I’ve talked to in graduate school has asked these questions many, many times: Why am I doing this? Why am I here? So my warning to you considering graduate school is this: be prepared to ask yourself these questions many times as well.