Hello everyone! I've been an AOM reader for awhile now, hoping to get some insight on a life decision.  I've been planning on starting grad school this fall but, without going into to many details, things haven't worked out as favorably as I had imagined financially.  I've played with the idea of doing some traveling abroad for a few months and coming back to grad school next year. I've got friends in Europe and have been wanting to do a big trip for awhile. 

My first instinct is that I should just stick it out in grad school and prove that I belong there, take out loans and try to pick up some funding. But by going to grad school, I feel like I could be missing out on a pretty spectacular opportunity. And I hate to miss a good opportunity. On the other hand, traveling may just be considered a form of running away from my problems, I'd like to avoid that.

I realize you don't have all the details of my situation, but In the spirit of manliness, what  do you think is the right decision here? 

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It depends.  Do you really, really, really love what you'll be going to grad school for?  So much that you are willing to take on potentially crippling debt to start classes right away?  Enough that you'll pass on what sounds like a cool (and if you have friends to stay with, likely affordable) trip?  Do you know the professors you'd be studying with, at least by reputation?  Are you willing to sink large sums of money into hanging around them and learning from them? 

I don't know the exact amount you'll be taking out in loans, but they'll still be there, waiting to be taken on, when you get back.  Unless you are absolutely chomping at the bit to start grad school, put it off and have some fun, don't go into deep dept, and see if you can get funding for the next year.

Not sure what you are studying, but in my case it was business.  I completed my BS and was being pressured by my mother to go for the MBA immediately.  I was tired of school, so I decided to go into the work force.  I did a variety of jobs and also opened a small business.  I went back to get my MBA after I turned 40.  The class had a lot of folks right out of undergrad, and I could tell that they were missing a LOT of what was being discussed.  I felt like I got a quite a lot from it because I had experience. 

Not all fields of study will be like that, but consider getting some time in your field under your belt before continuing on the Master's degree.

My three main regrets from my undergrad time in college was as follows.

  • Not taking the flint knapping class.  As I computer engineer I wanted to know how to make paleolithic knives.  I think it is something about working on advanced tech that causes one to want to go low tech for hobbies and such.
  • Not going to Europe for my summers.  I wish I was more outgoing and more of a loner so that I would have backpacked Europe.  I did backpack for a month in England and it was a blast.
  • Not learning a foreign language and heading over to the country to use it.  

What are you going to grand school for?  If it is finances you have to be careful with the advice you get.  If you have a 3.5 GPA and are in an engineering / science degree you can afford to get loans to a greater degree.  If you are a 3.0+ and engineering / science.  You still may want to take loans.  If you are not 3.0 or in an degree that pays well.  You need to be very careful about debt.  

If you don't have a 3.0 you might as well not be in the program whatever it is.

Also look up what your career income is and use the bottom 25% as your expected income.  I know that seem harsh but we are running SAFE numbers not EXPECTED or HOPED for numbers.

 

You should stick it out but you need to be careful.  As to taking the summer to grow in life, I would recommend that also at the right time (summer).  Manliness is about knowing your own character and being well versed in life and social interaction.  It is also about knowing when to throwdown and when to walk away for a while.  

Another way to examine the question is to build out two blueprints (search the site about it) and see which works the best.  But run the numbers.

All of this careful thought and planning is manly.

For the most part, if you don't go to school now ... you'll probably never go back.  Life happens.  You'll find a girl.  You'll get a job.  You'll settle down.  You'll have a kid.  Its difficult to go back to school once you're used to living on a full-time income.

I don't see the value in taking a break from life to wander around for a year.  Particularly if you're wandering around broke.  Same problems will be waiting for you when, and if, you make it back.  Personally, I'd rather be a year further along in my life than to waste time wandering around finding myself.

You're doing it backward.  Earn your keep, build your life, find your better half ... then travel.

JB

I would recommend doing this at a low cost state college or community college. I often tell people unsure about what they want for the future to hold off on college because college is an extremely expensive way to find yourself.

I agree with your comment about wondering around broke for a year.

However once you have your life partner and a career it is harder to take off for the a few months.  

My wife and I have talked about Europe for over 9 years.  Life seems to keep having other priorities. 

It is why I posted a split the difference idea.  Touring in the summer.

Some good points being made out there. Its interesting hearing peoples' personal stories and I think valid arguments have been made for both sides.

As for me, I'm in engineering. I'm viewing grad school as more of a not 'if' but 'when' proposition. I can defer my enrollment for a semester and not have to go through the application process again. To get into the areas I want to work in, a technical masters degree is basically an entry requirement. My concern is that by taking a semester off, I may be putting myself in a worse situation largely due to timing of funding cycles. But there's also a chance something could come up in the spring that's not available now. Its always the uncertainty that kills me. I'd be comfortable taking out loans to cover a semester, maybe two, but not so much after that if nothing else comes up.

My mother went from kindergarten to MD without skipping a single semester. She did spend a couple summers in Europe.

My father left a graduate program he didn't like to lead Bible studies, met my mother, went back to graduate school, but remains ABD. He went on one of Mom's trips to Europe.

One of my life regrets is going straight from kindergarten to JD without skipping a single semester. Significant work experience would have made me a better job candidate as a new lawyer, and a better law student.

I think my family is typical of the anecdata you'll get: For every story of someone who took time off from school and never quite got back on track, you'll hear a story of someone who regrets not taking some opportunities that only exist for the young.

I wouldn't pursue a teaching degree unless someone else is paying for it. The prudence of loans for a professional degree depends on the program. If you've been accepted to a small program with an obvious mentor, his upcoming retirement might influence your decision. It would be a bummer to time off and later find that time off means someone else will step in as your dissertation adviser. Honestly, "prove that I belong there" and "pick up some funding" sound like someone not ready for grad school, but my family tend to be over-achievers.

Unless you have commitments of some kind (financial or other), it is too easy to try to answer your question directly as a rational choice between continuing education and travel. Apart from anything else, the experience of travel can be an education in its own right if you allow/make it happen that way. There is some research to suggest that spending a semester to a year abroad can have positive effects on personality development. You might, if you haven't already, take a brief step back from the decision first and consider what might be the underlying opportunities you have in the here and now, before you make the bigger decision. In the 'spirit of manliness', these might include practising discernment (for which there are a number of methods) and listening to your heart's deepest desires. The latter will tend to be for good but might not be as specific an answer as you would like: whatever your decision, however, you should trust that you have the resources to continue growing as a good man; ultimately that is what people look for in others. The other thing that stands out from your message is the possibility of avoiding changes that you might need to make in the present. There is a restlessness and 'need to get away' in most of us at some point which is part of being human, but this is quite different from escaping a difficult situation.

If you really feel you'll be missing something valuable in your life if you go straight to grad school then don't go but realize you will be a different person than who you would have been if you did go. Same is true the other way. If blow off your other plans and go straight into grad school you will be different for that choice.

Ask yourself this, of the two possible yous, due to the choice you make now, which will bring you the most peace in the winter years of your life? In the overall scheme of things is it worth it to blow off school? Is it worth it to blow off travel? When you reach that age is it really going to matter at all? If not, why does it matter now? If you think it will make a difference to you then, you probably already know your answer.

So if anyone is still paying attention to this, I thought I'd provide an update. Sorry its been a long time coming, but I've been in and out of internet access for the last couple of weeks.

I will for sure be going to grad school. One of the things I've realized about my life over the last few years is that I'm getting tired of moving around. About every 6 months I've ended up in a different city for various reasons including travel. The prospect of committing myself to being based in one city for a couple of years, and not gallivanting around other countries, has become somewhat appealing. I've ran some numbers and could go more into the financial aspect, but it looks like the money I would spend traveling could go to better use.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Thanks for the update!!!  It really is encouraging to those that comment to know how our advice is listened to or not.  At the minimum it lets us know we where heard.

I wish you good luck in your studies.  Work hard and network hard while you are there, it will open doors.  Also look at other Masters programs while you are there.  You might pick up an extra concentration or masters easily if you look about as you go.

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