I was talking to a friend over lunch today and he told me that he had recently decided to go on to graduate school instead of doing a one-year MEng program. Why? Because he wasn’t ready to graduate and have to find a job, he wanted to put off joining the workforce. He also mentioned he felt like that was a bad reason for going to grad school, but to me it’s hardly a reason to feel guilty. Hell, I think putting off “the real world” is a great reason for going to grad school.
I love learning and I love college. I might not love the all-nighters, exams, and term papers for those courses you’re required to take, but I love knowing things. If you had told me five years ago that one day I would understand quantum mechanics and organic synthesis – ok, maybe not ‘understand’ but even just to begin to grasp the concepts of such difficult but marvelous fields of study, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. But studying chemistry at Cornell has been incredibly rewarding often enjoyable. When and where else can I be taught by the leading scientists in their field? To study and tackle problems with some of the smartest (and coolest) students in the country if not the world? To do research in a modern laboratory alongside not one, but THREE brilliant group members whose work has just been accepted for publication? I feel so fortunate to be where I am now, why would I ever want to leave? As college students, we might feel like we’re living for the weekend, and that all we want to do is scrape by with a decent GPA so that we can hurry up and live life, but then we forget how much of an opportunity our college years really are.
When people ask me what my plans are after I graduate from Cornell, I answer, “Probably go to graduate school. I really don’t know what else I want to do.” And it’s true. I don’t know if I want to go into industry, or academia, or healthcare/medicine. And even if I did, why wouldn’t I get a PhD? When you do join the workforce, a PhD makes you a much more valuable employee. Not to mention, personal satisfaction and maybe the right to be a little smug (there’s nothing wrong with that) that you’re truly a specialist if your field. If I could, I would choose to extend my student status indefinitely. Of course, that’s not practical or sustainable, especially if I one day decide I want enough money to buy a car and a house, etc. I also don’t want to be that one creepy middle-aged person sitting in on classes full of 20-year olds…. But honestly, I’m in no rush to grow up and enter “the real world.” I have no desire to work 9 to 5, to have a manager and a boss, to swap my backpack for a respectable handbag. So for as long as I can, I’m staying in school.