To graduate or not to graduate

Hannah Hartline

Staff Writer

As the semester wraps up, students are already choosing classes for summer and fall semester. Many of us are getting ready for the next big step: graduation.

The question facing many seniors is whether they are really ready to get out of school and get into the workforce.

The struggle between deciding to stay in school and pursuing another degree has been something on my mind a lot lately as my own time at Troy University draws to a close.

Do I finish and graduate, or should I go to graduate school? What if my major doesn’t help me in what I really want to do? Should I keep going for another minor?

I am a transfer student, so my time here has been shorter than that of many students, and it makes me a little more nervous to graduate from college in the coming weeks. I am not quite sure I am ready to go just yet.

Senior year has been the best year of my college career, and the temptation of adding more skills to my arsenal is hard to resist. I want to take the classes that I think would help me significantly in doing what I love in the future.

However, I have taken all but one required class to graduate. In doing so, I have amassed more than $18,000 in student loans. For me, I know that college cannot last forever.

I know many college seniors are facing a similar financial dilemma. Some may want to pursue higher education after receiving their bachelor’s degrees, but there are so many factors to take into consideration.

Graduate school can be an option for some students, but there are upsides and downsides.

On one hand, a graduate degree might open opportunities that may not be available to students with just a bachelor’s degree. It can add up in the potential earnings that higher education may bring.

Nathan Smith, a junior computer science major from Florala, said that his desire to teach higher education has influenced his decision about attending graduate school.

Smith said that with a master’s degree, the average entry level salary in his field goes up $20,000.

“So it (graduate school) comes with its benefits,” Smith said.

Yet, the programs are small and there is a chance that, depending on the program, the job outlook may not be as promising as you hope.

And for some students, the idea of taking more student loans is worth less in the long run. Some dreams do not need a degree.

Melanie Lloyd, a former Troy physical education student from Andalusia, wanted to become a dance teacher.

“I was in the physical education program in hopes of one day teaching dance and tumbling,” Lloyd said. “To be a dance teacher, there is no certification or degree requirement.

“Because I was getting a loan, by the time I graduated in 2016 I would have had $44,000 worth of debt to do a job I didn’t need a degree for.”

Lloyd dropped out of college without a degree, and began working instead in her hometown as a dance and tumbling instructor at a local gym.

Graduating, graduate school, or choosing an alternate path is all about commitment.

“Know your end result,” Smith said. “If you are committed, you will succeed.”

Some students may even choose to extend their college experience because they have yet to receive a competitive job offer.

There is no right or wrong answer for which direction to go now as the semester draws to a close. Ultimately, Trojans, the choice is yours. Only you know what is best for yourself. That is the perk and the cost of growing up.

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