Private, Student Life

The mysterious world beyond Roddick Gates: Apprehension in the face of New Beginnings

As the end of the year approaches, many McGill students will venture out of the world of undergraduate studies. Yet even after convocation, many choose to return to university, this time for graduate school. While going to grad school can be a fun and rewarding experience, social pressure to earn post-graduate degrees and the burden of adulthood leave many students feeling apprehensive about this decision.

One such voyager into the land of graduate studies is Claire Motyer, U3 Music. She has recently been accepted to a Master’s program in Performance Science across the pond at the Royal College of Music in London, England. While this is an exciting new prospect, Motyer worries if she can both financially afford and emotionally handle more schooling.

“[The fact that I have] already been in school for four years and doing another degree right away is what is holding me back a bit,” Motyer said. “It can be draining for me not to take some time off. I’m not worried about the program I would be in, I think the program I chose is a good fit for me and I’m excited about that. It’s more aspects like living in London, overseas and far away, and the financial [aspects].”

Melanie Greenwald, U3 Arts and Science, is also ready to graduate this semester and head into more schooling. Though her post-grad arrangements are not quite set in stone, she plans to return to her hometown on Long Island and study at a graduate school near her parents’ home to save money. For Greenwald, the deflating value of an undergraduate degree is pushing her to attend grad school; however, she worries that finishing a Master’s degree will still not be enough to help her find stable employment.

“I’m worried about not finding a job with just a bachelor’s degree,” Greenwald said. “Or even with a Master’s degree, which is what I’m going for. It’s asking yourself, ‘How am I going to find a job?’ [….] I feel that in the 60s, [since] everyone got a high school degree, [people were] like, ‘Now we have to go to college [to compete….]’ It’s really bad for people who can’t afford that [because] university is expensive.”

There’s a lot to worry about when getting a Master’s degree in modern society. On top of the fatigue of completing more schooling comes the fact that in North America a bachelor’s degree is perceived similarly to how high school diplomas were once viewed—a basic necessity. According to a 2014 article in the National Post, 51 per cent of Canadian adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, but many post-secondary graduates earn less than the national median. This is because the saturation of degree-holders have forced many employers to increase their qualifications. Low-paying jobs that used to only require a high school diploma now require a bachelor’s degree or more. Yet, according to the same article, a Master’s degree earned immediately after university can make job applicants seem overqualified, despite having no job experience. This leads to many Master’s graduates who are either unemployed or underemployed, making it difficult to pay off even the $27,000 average debt owed by bachelor’s graduates. These realities can cause a lot of apprehension for those pursuing even higher education.

Despite the many factors that can make one hesitant about attending grad school, the Washington Post found that a Master’s graduate who acquires a job earns more than a bachelor’s graduate on average in the U.S. There’s also the fact that for some, going into a field one is passionate about gives excitement and hope about what lies beyond the bounds of Strathcona or Burnside.

“I really find it very appealing going to London since it’s a new environment, […] so I’m really excited about the abroad aspect, experiencing a different city and being able to travel around there,” Motyer said. “I’m hopeful about expanding my network and meeting new people. Also, I’m really happy that I’m doing this [program because] it’s something I really like and am passionate about.”

Ultimately, the apprehensions of going to grad school are rooted in the pressure to be successful and live a stable life.

“[In the end], I just want to be stable, financially stable, living in harmony, and being happy,” Greenwald said “Maybe in a romantic relationship, maybe having a family. That’s too far in the future. Definitely, I want to be financially stable and in a house where I don’t have to depend on my parents and I’m happy working and doing what I’m doing for a living.”

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