Am I ready?
After completing my undergraduate education, I was not ready for graduate school. I was exhausted from leading student organizations, competing in a highly-demanding academic environment, and so not ready to accept that I would no longer live within a one-mile radius of all my brilliant best friends with whom I would go to Burger King in the middle of the night.
I knew nothing about the “real world” beyond a 10-week summer internship I did after my junior year. I wanted work experience, a normal sleep schedule, and a solid workout and cooking routine.
So instead of rushing into grad school, I took three years after my undergraduate degree to work at one of the most rewarding and welcoming Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. I moved back home, paid off my student loans, saved money, adopted a healthy lifestyle, and made myself personally ready for graduate school.
My point is, it’s okay to press pause. Get some work experience, pay off your debts (if you have any), and put yourself first—whatever that means for you (enjoying hobbies, picking up a new skill, or binge-watching TV).
Have I built a support system for when things get tough?
Going to graduate school full-time, especially after being in the workforce, is a big adjustment. Maybe you’ve given up a salary, moved far away from all your friends, and found that the academic demands are more challenging than you anticipated.
All of this happened to me when I moved away from my home state of Illinois for the first time to go to law school in California. Having a support system you can rely on—your parents, your best friend, a significant other, your pet, a study group—is key to motivate you, to remind you to believe in yourself when the task ahead of you seems insurmountable. It will ensure that you see how special you are—beyond any letter grade, fancy job, or prestigious award.