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### Should Liberal Arts Graduates Embrace Graduate Studies or Pursue Alternative Paths?

After [having] sawed off my arm and [while] applying to MFA programs, I am compelled to justify the pursuit of graduate school. If it [were] not worth it, then what [was] the purpose of all that effort? I [invested] over $400 in application fees and a hundred hours meticulously reviewing my materials for programs with an acceptance rate of less than 5%.

Individuals who claim to be part of “the real world” often emphasize the need to be “practical” and engage in pursuits that contribute to societal progress, such as “building bridges” or “programming… something.” However, Bachelor of Arts degrees are not inherently irrelevant. Not everyone can or desires to be a chemical engineer, as we already have sufficient individuals in that field refining our pesticides and food preservatives. There [exists] a common misconception that liberal arts degrees lack value beyond academia. As an English and philosophy major, many professors emphasized that my future would be challenging without a master’s degree.

Nevertheless, succumbing to societal expectations should not serve as a reason to delay the initiation of your career. It is crucial to engage in introspection. If you find yourself pondering the question “Should I pursue graduate school?” the answer [lies] internally, within your gut alongside the dining hall mac and cheese, rather than externally, where you may feel self-conscious hearing computer science students discussing their summer internship at Intel. This decision should not be passive or based on process of elimination. For instance, deciding to pursue further education simply because you are uncertain about your next steps is not a compelling reason to include in your personal statement for applications. If you are leaning towards a “yes,” is it because you are unsure of your next academic step or because you feel intellectually unfulfilled in your undergraduate studies?

A student in the NMU anthropology program expressed, “I keep feeling like I’m waiting for college to begin.” Their intellectual growth primarily stemmed from aging over the four years spent there, rather than from finding their undergraduate studies academically challenging. This situation may warrant additional education, either immediately or in the future, not solely for the potential of a higher salary, but because there are specialized areas and intricate details you wish to delve into that are not covered in a bachelor’s degree.

If you opt to take a leap of faith and enter the workforce, remember that a job is just a job; it should not define your entire life. The prevalent American culture of “toxic productivity” often leads individuals to associate their worth with their work, thereby making their self-esteem dependent on it. Your career will evolve based on your personal growth at the time. It is not mandatory to secure a job directly related to your degree. Humanities and social science degrees offer versatility, allowing you to explore various paths. Your decision at the age of 18 does not limit your chances of success or alter the course of your life. Each field presents its unique trajectory, with multiple avenues for exploration.

Before yielding to societal pressure and committing to graduate school, contemplate climbing the corporate ladder and spare yourself the stress of taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Consider spending the summer working at a national park to discover your true values amidst nature. Embrace being an office worker by day and an artist delving into the intricacies of realism by night. Above all, envision how you wish to grow and shape your life—ask yourself: “Do I truly desire to teach?”