Should you pursue further education during the pandemic?

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Imagine this: you’re in your last year of undergrad, panicking and figuring out if you want to pursue further education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Do I pursue more schooling? What if I regret my decision?

Well, (un)luckily for some of us, we don’t even have to imagine this-we’re living it!

It would make sense if applications for higher education would drop during this pandemic, but surprisingly, two of Canada’s largest graduate schools have been experiencing vast increases in applications. 

Masters programs at Western University have seen a 31 per cent increase this past year, and graduate program applications at the University of Toronto have seen a 32 per cent increase.

Laurier has also seen a spike in graduate program applications, between a 25 to 30 per cent growth. 

Let’s consider some thoughts before diving deep into this decision.

The first thing to consider when pursuing further education is: are you passionate about it?

Don’t pursue further education just because you feel like you “should.” If there’s one resounding sentence I’ve heard in my last year of undergrad, it’s that you don’t pursue something as strenuous as a Masters or Doctorate unless you’re truly passionate about it. 

From alumni and professors alike, they express that pursuing further education is no walk in the park—it requires determination, discipline, and hard work. You don’t need to have your entire career and future figured out, but at the very least, make sure you have a deep desire to learn more about your field of study.

What if I start working and never want to go back to school? Shouldn’t I just take the plunge now while I still want to? Hint: not really. 

Another piece of advice I have received from alumni and professors is that if you are passionate about it now, you will be passionate about it later. Yes, interests will evolve as you do; that’s normal! 

But if you’ve been wanting to work a bit more, if you need a break from school, or for any other reason, then that is even a wise decision. Make choices that will benefit you and that are tailored to your life experiences. 

Consider the hurdles ahead. Are you in the proper headspace and time in your life to do so right now? How have you been lately, really? 

Develop that self-awareness to ensure that you’re making a clear-headed decision and one that is in line with taking care of other areas of your life, such as finances. 

If this isn’t the right time, that’s perfectly okay. If it’s something you want to do, then that’s exciting too! Just make sure that you are taking care of yourself and balancing that work-life divide well. 

If it makes sense to you, you can even pursue further education with a lighter load, and or volunteer on the side. 

There are several approaches to pursuing further education, so make sure that you are not pinning yourself to a specific archetype. This is your life and future, so create it in a way that you envision.

Another question worth considering is: how does the educational institution handled the changes of this pandemic?

It’s been a trying time for everyone, even educational institutions, but you still want to make sure you are supported. 

How does your potential institution provide academic, mental health and financial support? Are there potential students whose opinion you could ask? Do the institution’s values align with yours? 

Ensure that you do ample research and engage in conversations so that you can gauge your best options for which school to attend.

Finally, speak with others!

This is quite a loaded decision and one that shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. Speaking to alumni, professors, TAs and other students can give incredible insight into your decision-making process. These individuals have been in your shoes before or are going through it with you. Receive support as needed, and act on that advice. 

Our Career Centre also provides appointments where you can get career and job advice, which you can schedule on Navigator. It’s okay to be overwhelmed and even excited at the same time, but just make sure that you are accessing all the resources that are available to you.

Whatever your next step looks like, get excited about it. It isn’t an easy decision to make! Don’t be scared that this is an ultimatum that will set you down the wrong path—there will always be life changes coming your way and new experiences to come. I’ll be cheering you on! 

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