Have a Plan B if Your Grad School Plan Doesn’t Work Out

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As you start sending off your applications to graduate school, it’s important to take a breath and take a moment to consider your backup plan or plan B. Your plan B will come into play if you find yourself unable to implement plan A (going to grad school) for any reason, such as lack of school funding, being waitlisted but being unable or unwilling to wait, being denied admission, or changing your priorities. A critical component of your plan B is remembering that if you can’t go to grad school right at this moment, you can still pursue your future plans and explore other ways to get there.

Your plan B could be strictly career-related. If you’re not headed to grad school, you might consider continuing in your current position if it’s personally fulfilling, or meets your basic needs. Alternatively, you might have seen grad school as a means out of your current position and your plan B may involve seeking new professional experience. This might be a different full-time role, an internship to gain skills in a new field, or a opportunity that will give you relevant experience in your field should you choose to apply to grad school again in the future.

It may also make sense for your plan B to involve seeking an alternative education path. For example, you might consider auditing courses, enrolling in a certificate program, or attending school full-time as a post-baccalaureate student. These alternatives may end up being the educational boost you need or scaffold a transition to graduate school in the future. 

If you are faced with implementing your plan B because you weren’t admitted to grad school, you can also work on strengthening your application for next time. You might want to strengthen your professional experience, try for better standardized test scores, or reflect on if the schools you applied to are the most aligned with your academic and career goals. If you’re able to follow up with the admissions committee, see if you can ask some questions about weaker points of your application or reasons you weren’t admitted into this year’s cohort. 

Alternatively, your plan B could be something unrelated to your graduate interests. It may be worthwhile to pursue something like traveling for a while, volunteering or working overseas for several months, or devoting more time to a personal passion outside of your regular routine. Experiences like these can sometimes offer a bigger picture and opportunity to assess where you’re at in life and where you’d like to direct your attention next. 

Whatever your plan B may be (and the options are not limited to our list above), it’s important to think about your plan in a few different ways. Specifically it’s important that your plan B be:

  • Feasible - it’s easy for plans to get grand but in order for your plan B to be effective, it’s critical that yours is easy to implement and remains doable. 
  • Fabulous - especially if you had your heart set on grad school, it’s important that your plan B excites and inspires you as an alternative. 
  • Forward-looking - just because your next immediate step isn’t grad school, doesn’t mean your next year can’t move your career and personal goals forward. Make sure your next chapter pushes you and offers you opportunities to grow and challenge yourself. 

Get inventive, think about what you need and what’s going to help you take full advantage of your future as you construct your plan B. Who knows, you may develop a plan B so appealing it makes you think twice about investing in school right now!