For undergrads who want to go to grad school, one of the hardest decisions to make is all about timing. Should you wait a few years after graduation and get work experience? Or should you go for it and continue your academic journey? Rachael Sherman knows the ins and outs of this decision-making process. She graduated from James Madison University with a degree in Creative Advertising in May 2018 and is now pursuing her Master’s in Strategy at VCU Brandcenter. She shares why she decided not to wait and how her grad student experience has been so far.
Why did you decide to pursue your Master’s?
There are a few different reasons. I knew that there are typically two paths to get a strategy job after graduation. You either work in the industry as an account manager and then get promoted, or you go to grad school to help jump start your career. I knew I really wanted to work in strategy as soon as I could, so this was my main reason. I didn’t want to have to work for years to get promoted, I wanted to go ahead and get that base knowledge. I also felt that I wasn’t done learning as I got closer to graduation. There was more I wanted to learn and understand about strategy and advertising before I got my first job.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of going straight from undergrad to grad school?
One of the major advantages that played into my decision is that I’m already in school mode. I was used to late nights studying and long group meetings working on hypothetical problems. It wasn’t as big of a shift as transitioning from a 9-5. I think that’s such a huge advantage to already be in that college mindset. The main disadvantage is it’s harder to get a real world grasp on some ideas and projects. I have to apply my internships to everything I do because I haven’t had a real job yet. Also, people look at you as inexperienced, so I constantly try to make sure everyone knows I’m putting forth the effort to learn. I know I have more to learn since I haven’t had a real job.
What’s a typical day like for you as a graduate student? How does it differ from undergrad?
A typical day is not typical at all. I feel like every single day is different! I usually wake up and immediately go to campus and then stay there until nine at night. During the day I have group meetings, class, and individual assignments to work on. The work and meetings never end and then I come home and go to bed. In undergrad I just had a lot more free time. I slept in, went to class, went to the library for a few hours, and then I would go home and hang out with my roommates. Grad school is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and if undergrad feels like an extension of senior year of high school, then grad school is definitely an extension times a million of undergrad.
What’s your favorite part of grad school so far?
My favorite part of grad school is I haven’t had an assignment that I hate. Every single assignment I’ve been given is something I can see myself using in the future!
Do you have any advice you want to share with undergrads deciding whether or not they should go straight to grad school?
I would say go for it and at least apply! Once you send in your application you get a moment of clarity. You either just don’t care once you submit or you start really hoping and thinking about it a lot more and how your future could be if you get into grad school! It doesn't hurt to apply. I think everyone should go to grad school!