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Going to Grad School Full Time | The Pros and Cons

A woman in a graduation cap and gown throwing confetti

There are many benefits to going to grad school full time. Above all else, dedicating all of your focus to your studies can help you avoid distraction and excel. But the decision does come with some compromises, and even sacrifices.

Here are some common pros and cons to help you decide how to best structure your graduate school experience.

The benefits of going to grad school full time

Some positive aspects to keep in mind when considering full-time enrollment in graduate school include:

  • The ability to more completely immerse yourself in your studies and the graduate school experience. Not having job-related distractions can be a real benefit to both your coursework and your peace of mind. Going to grad school full time allows you to put all your attention on your education, and helps prevent feelings of stress and overwhelm that may arise from juggling multiple responsibilities.
  • Potentially finishing your degree earlier than you would otherwise. A full-time graduate degree can be completed in 18 to 24 months, whereas a part-time degree can take 36 months or more.
  • The opportunity to take on research and teaching assistantships. Depending on the school or program, an assistantship may also be available to part-time students, but often require a scheduling commitment those students can’t make. Going to grad school full time opens you up to many of these options, which not only help cover tuition costs but also offer experience in the field.
  • More time to spend with professors and peers. The flexibility you’re afforded by focusing on grad school full time allows you to develop closer relationships, which can serve as a support system (and networking opportunity!) during your studies.

The downsides of going to grad school full time

As with most big decisions, enrolling in graduate school full time has its drawbacks, which include:

  • Reduced Income. Unless you opt to pursue grad school full time and work full time, you will likely not be earning a salary while getting your graduate degree. Depending on your financial situation, this may result in taking out additional loans.
  • Grad school can become the only thing you have time to do. While full-time enrollment can allow you to move through your program more quickly, there’s also the risk of it preventing you from engaging with other aspects of your life. If you have important responsibilities, concerns, or interests outside of school that may make full-time coursework difficult to commit to, it may be a good idea to defer graduate school until there’s less on your plate.
  • Graduate studies can keep you from direct service work. Particularly if your area of focus is in the social-impact space, grad school courses may make you feel a bit detached from your regular, active community engagement. If this sounds like something you might feel, then other options such as individual college or university courses or pursuing a service program before applying might be a better fit.
  • It could be difficult or disadvantageous to take time away from your career. While graduate studies can help to move you forward in your field, it may not be the most opportune time for you to take a break from work to study. Depending on your goals and where you are in your career, the scales might be tipped toward waiting until you’re more financially or professionally secure before pursuing graduate school.

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There’s a lot to think about as you determine whether going to grad school full time will be right for you. This includes additional considerations that may be specific to your desired school or program, so be sure to keep in close contact with the admissions offices to assess all the available options.

Wondering whether studying part time is a better fit? Take a look at our article Going to Grad School Part Time | The Pros and Cons to help you make an informed decision.