Tuesday, September 17

To work or not to work


Postponing grad school to get some real-world experience can build a successful career later

I am a global studies student, and the discussion surrounding my field of study has always been the same.

I have repeatedly been asked three questions in exactly this order.

First: What is global studies?

Second: What is globalization?

Third, anxiously: What are you going to do with that?

Come graduation, I will deviate from the goals I made for myself while in high school. No longer will I be submitting applications to graduate schools, but instead to Teach for America.

Contrary to my own expectations, I have decided to reject the refuge that graduate schools represent and instead travel a lesser-known route commonly known as the real world. Although my father is not too thrilled with this decision, I feel as though this is an important time to rebel.

At UCLA, there are too many things I want to do but never enough time to immerse myself in all my interests. But what I did learn after suffering in Math 31A (basic calculus for those in North Campus) was that my interests were as far removed from South Campus as they could get.

Although I eliminated being a doctor as a future career, it hasn’t helped me to decide if I want to be a lawyer, a teacher or even a writer.

Similarly, Andrew Yancey, a law student at UCLA, was unsure of his future. After graduating from Davidson College as a political science student, Yancey tried working as a bartender, on a Senate campaign and at a steel company.

“Some undergrads may have their routines and study habits down a little better, but I really appreciate being in a classroom and really learning,” he said.

Richard Montauk, author of “How to Get Into the Top Law Schools,” acknowledges that many undergraduates are compelled to get into law school as soon as possible because they believe they cannot attain a prestigious position otherwise. However, he provides two good reasons for prolonging the deliberation process.

“First, your chances of getting into a good law school increase with real-world experience,” Montauk wrote.

In his book, he cites Susan Robinson, the associate dean for career services at Stanford. Robinson advises three to four years as a good length of time between college and law school.

“In fact, you can have a lower GPA and still be very marketable to top firms if you have significant work experience,” she said.

Grace DiLaura, a law student at UCLA, said that students with more work experience have been snapped up on the job market faster than students with shorter resumes and better grades. She herself worked at a litigation consulting firm for one year before applying to law school.

The second reason Montauk gives for exercising caution before mailing in the application to law school is that getting out of the wrong field is easier said than done.

Those who attend law school will feel pressured to continue attending so that they can pay off the loans. The opportunity cost of graduate school should not be neglected in the decision-making process.

“I’m just troubled about how everybody wants to go to law school since the legal market has taken such a hit, and I think a lot of people have this idea that a law degree will pay for a degree relatively quickly,” DiLaura said.

Besides the staggering loan that will have to be repaid, there is the issue of forgone work experience during the time spent in graduate school.

So, to use the words of Montauk, “Make sure law school is an affirmative rather than a default choice.”

This need not only apply to liberal arts students considering law school, but also to any undergraduate seeking to apply to graduate school. While it may feel secure to tread the familiar road, veering off from it does not necessarily have to be fraught with anxiety.

If you have reservations about graduate school, e-mail Oh at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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