You Should Go To Graduate School If:
You Love to Read….
You Love to Talk (And You Talk To Win)….
You Love to Write….
You Are Strongly Self-Motivated….
You Participate in the Happy Delusion that Intellectual Work Matters….
If You Are an Intellectual.
You should read the full post if you want to get the whole argument, but let me just say that I desperately hope that none of my students who are contemplating graduate school read this. If nothing else, they need to understand that even if applicants believe such things about themselves, they should certainly never say so in a statement of purpose. “You should admit me into your graduate program because I love to read, I love to write, and I’m an intellectual” — that is most certainly not what admissions committees want to hear. Graduate school in most fields is training for a profession: people who teach in such programs want to admit people who understand that and are willing to undertake the necessary disciplines, not people who are looking for venues to explore their passions. (And yes, you should be passionate about what you study, if you’re going to be good at it and make a difference to others, but your passion is not a qualification for admission.)
More important: You do not need to go to graduate school in order to read, to write, to debate, to do intellectual work. You do not even need to go to graduate school to learn from brilliant scholars, though that would be a much better reason to go than any cited in this post, which, oddly, never mentions professors, scholars, or learning. If you want to read, write, and debate, you can do all that for free, and while you’re earning a living and putting money away for retirement. Why should you give up years of your time and earning potential to do what you can do right now, on your own? — and that’s in a best-case scenario, in which you’re getting full funding and therefore at least not hemorrhaging money. But what if you’re not getting that funding, and doing graduate study only by incurring crushing debt?
There are very good reasons for some people to go to graduate school, in some circumstances, but they aren’t listed in this post. This advice only encourages a shallow romanticism about graduate education, and we don’t need any more of that. And Lord help us, the very last thing we need is more people in academia who “talk to win.”