Many elements of life have begun to feel relatively “normal” again as more people get vaccinated, but the pandemic isn’t over yet. Americans may be back in the office and booking international travel, but many people are still hesitant to make drastic lifestyle changes as the economy and life as we know it continues to change.
The effects of the pandemic are obvious in many cases, but how has the pandemic affected students? For some, it has been a catalyst in their return to school. Without commutes and other commitments, an advanced degree became a possibility for many.For others, the pandemic has delayed or even derailed their plans for higher education. Changes in their financial situations, expanded caregiver duties, illness and stress have created new barriers that make going back to school exceptionally challenging.
If you’re wondering if you should go to grad school during the pandemic, here are some tips that will help you decide if going back to school is right for you right now.
1. Have Clear Intention for Going to School
The pandemic changed higher education practically overnight. The decision to go to grad school is always a big one, but the weight of the pandemic and the accompanying economic uncertainty have made that decision process more complicated.
If you’re still on the fence, it may help to consider why you want to go to grad school in the first place. Developing a clear intention for why you want to go to school and what you want to achieve will not only help you to feel more confident in your decision, it can help keep you motivated as you work toward your degree.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself to find your “why”:
- What do I want to accomplish in grad school?
- How will this degree help my career?
- How will it support my personal growth?
- Is it worth the financial investment?
2. Figure Out Which Modality Works for You
One good thing that came from the pandemic? Going to grad school has become far more flexible. Schools are offering more ways to learn than ever — online, hybrid, in-person, part-time, full-time — there’s something for everyone. Finding the one that works best for you will help you get the most out of your graduate education.
Every learning modality has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to make sure what you choose fits your lifestyle.
Consider these questions to choose your modality:
- Do you have the time (and energy) to go to school full time, or will you need to keep your day job?
- How long is the commute to campus? How often do you want to make it?
- Will you need child care?
- Do you have the right equipment for online learning?
Keep in mind that different schools might have different ways of offering online or hybrid classes. An admissions counselor should be able to explain how their school’s system works and help you understand the pros and cons.
3. Be Intentional about making connections
Networking means a lot of different things to different people, and everyone has unique needs. Perhaps more than anything, the pandemic has made us examine the value of our friendships and professional relationships. As a graduate student, your family and existing friends will help keep you motivated and supported along the way, but don’t discount the relationships you’ll make with other students.
Connecting with peer students is an important part of the graduate school experience. The other students in your program will not only be your collaborators and research partners, but they’ll also be a big part of your support system.
Whether it’s someone to lean on when you’re stressed, a friend to share notes if you miss a class, or just a like-minded person to vent to, developing friendships with people who understand the challenges and rewards of graduate school will help keep you motivated. This is especially important in online programs, so be sure to talk with your admissions counselor to find out how your program emphasizes networking and peer connection.
Ask these questions to find out if a program will meet your networking needs:
- How will I work with other students in my classes?
- What opportunities will I have to get involved on campus or otherwise?
- Does the school or department host happy hours, lunches or other networking events for grad students?
- Will faculty help me make connections to important people outside the program?
- What’s the relationship between graduate students and faculty like?
- How are connections and collaboration facilitated online?
Graduate programs that meet your needs at SHU
The pandemic has affected every aspect of higher education, from the way classes are taught to the value of a degree, there’s no returning to the pre-pandemic way of life. If you’re looking for a graduate school that will not only meet your needs in a rapidly changing world but prepares you to meet your personal and professional goals, look no further than Sacred Heart University.
Explore the graduate programs we offer, and how they’ll benefit you, in our Ultimate Guide to Graduate Programs at SHU.