Adventures in Online Learning: Introduction

As the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 has many universities (including my own) switching to a remote/online learning model for the time being, I thought it would be helpful to put together a series of quick posts that cover common tips and tricks to navigate this challenge. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be sending out short blurbs a few times a week on navigating your way through learning online.

Don’t forget to sign up if you want these delivered straight to your email address! In the meantime, stay inside and stay healthy!

Visiting Graduate Schools

If the end of undergrad has you considering graduate school over the workforce, you may be considering visiting some graduate schools.

Masters or PhD

Visiting a university where you’d like to attend graduate school is DIFFERENT THAN UNDERGRAD. Namely, it’s MORE LIKE A JOB INTERVIEW. The all caps here are because this is one of those notorious secret club like things. If you try to visit a graduate school before applying or being accepted, they might meet with you, but more likely you’ll be blown off, you’ll irritate the professors, and in a really bad case, it could hurt your chances of getting in. Trust me. When I was in graduate school this happened a couple of times with prospective students; I speak from observing how this was handled in the graduate office.

Graduate school visits are more like a job interview than an undergraduate college visit. Typically, they happen after you’ve applied and been accepted. It’s an opportunity for you to figure out if this university and these professors are the ones that you want to spend the next several years working for and with. Masters programs vary in whether or not they hold a formal visit; most PhD programs do. If you get an invitation to visit the school, you should try to go (many programs will cover all or part of your cost). You’ll have the opportunity to meet with professors, see the campus, get to know some of the other graduate students and prospective students. It’s a very valuable experience (even if you aren’t trying to compare programs).

When you prep for a graduate student visit, you want to approach it like you would any job interview. Get some background on the professors you’ll meet with, and the graduate program itself. This will allow you to prep a list of questions that you’ll want to answer, including: policies on graduate student research (will professors co-author with you, or expect you to hand over your ideas for them to publish?), health care (what’s the graduate student insurance policy like?), pay scale and schedule (are there assistantship opportunities? Will you get 12 month or 9 months of funding?), graduate student life (Do grad students have offices? Where do most of them live–and is it in a nice/safe part of town? What is the university culture like?). The better prepared you are, the more you’ll get out of the visit.

Law School

Before I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD, I seriously considered attending law school, including visiting a few universities with programs I was interested in. Law school visits can be more similar to undergraduate university visits. I experienced two types:

  1. The Tour: some law schools offer a campus tour (similar to the campus tours that are tailored to undergraduates). These can be helpful in introducing you to basics about the school and give you a chance to speak with a current student (albeit one who is being paid to talk the school up).
  2. The Open House: again, similar to undergraduate programs, these are events where the school puts together a set of events that introduce you to the school, sometimes to the faculty, and to student life.

These types of visits are really helpful at any point in the admission process. They give you some insight into what life is like at that law school, the program, the campus environment, and the students. The other cool thing is that you don’t have to have been accepted into law school in order to attend. Taking advantage of these types of tours and open houses allowed me to figure out that law school wasn’t really going to be in the cards for me. For you, it might help you figure out which schools you want to apply to.

Medical School

Med School visits fall into two categories. Similar to the law school process, you can visit the school prior to applying and take a tour. This will help you figure out where you want to apply.

Similar to the Masters/PhD type visits, you will also likely be invited to visit after you apply, and you’ve been invited to an interview. Like the Masters/PhD visit, you should treat this as a job interview. In addition to doing your research beforehand so that you have some good questions to ask, make sure you dress for success, have updated copies of your resume/CV, and are prepared to field questions they ask you. After your interview, make sure to send follow up thank you notes to the people you interview with–so be sure to get their names (and minimally their email addresses) while you are there. Bringing a business card to exchange is a great way to get this information easily.

Writing Good Exam Responses

It’s nearly midterm season at my university. My students have all gotten their study guides and are busy preparing to sit for exams before they can flee the classroom for a well deserved fall break.

The perennial question that arises this time of year is what is a “good” exam response? What every student really wants to know is how to get that elusive and mysterious A on their test. Here are some basic tips and tricks for how to make sure that your exam answers are A+ material.

  1. Identify what the question is asking you.
  2. Answer the Question–no really!
  3. Prepare well, Write well and Use your time well

Recall Questions

Some questions will ask you to recall information. These types of questions usually start with the words who, what, where, or when. Recall questions are designed to test how well you comprehended the material you’ve been working on all semester. The professor wants to know how well you paid attention during lecture, whether or not you did the readings, and how well you understood what you heard/read.

Answering a recall question is relatively straight forward. Make sure that you provide a full accounting of the information that you are being asked. For example, if you are being asked about the three characteristics of a particular concept, like Democracy, make sure that you cover all three characteristics in your answer. It is also important to define the class vocabulary that you use. If you just use a buzzword from class, you aren’t letting the professor know that you know what it means.

Argument Questions

Another common type of question will ask you to make an argument. These types of questions will typically start with the words why, how, or the phrase under what conditions. Argument questions want you to take a side in a particular debate, and they test to see how well you can defend a particular position within this debate. For these types of questions, the professor wants to know two things. First, they want to know if you understood the two sides of the debate. Second, they want to see how well you can think through the arguments and counterarguments for each side of the debate.

Answering an argument question is pretty easy, once you know the formula to apply, so here it is. (1) Take a side. You MUST pick a side in the debate. If you don’t pick a side, you cannot make an argument. (2) Support your side using evidence. Why is the side you picked a good or reasonable answer to the question? You need to be able to answer this question in order to write a good exam answer for this type of question. (3) Acknowledge the other side of the debate. Here, you want to tell the reader what the other side thinks, and why they think that’s a good answer to the question. (4) Explain why your side is the better answer. In this section, you want to provide a counterargument for the other side, and reaffirm the side of the debate you picked. This really brings your argument home. And there it is: follow these steps and you’ve got yourself a strong “argument” question.

Application Questions

A final common type of question will ask you to apply the information you learned in class to a particular case or scenario. These types of questions will be about a particular event or refer to a specific case. Application questions often seem to be the most “out of left field” questions on tests, usually because students assume that these questions are asking them about an event/case that they didn’t study, so mid-exam panic ensues. The key to answering an application question is to figure out what information you are being asked to apply, and then to analyze the event using that information. For these questions, the professor is looking to see how well you can take the information you learned in class and use it to analyze and interpret it.

Like the recall question, to write a good response for an application question, you need to fully outline the information you are being asked to apply. Make sure you define any key terms that you use, fully outline the concepts, characteristics, steps, etc. of the information you are being asked to apply. Second, make sure that how you are applying the question is clear. Don’t make the mistake of trailing off on unimportant details about the case you are applying it to–use those details only as they are pertinent to how you are applying the information.

Prepare Well, Write Well, and Use your Time Well

Like any exam, midterms–especially essay exams, require good preparation. If you were given a study guide, put it to use. Make sure you understand how the test will be structured and graded ahead of time. And, organize your notes and readings so that you have all the information you need to study.

On the exam itself, make sure that you write well. Follow the basics: write in full sentences. Unless your professor explicitly says it’s all right, don’t use bullet points, abbreviations, or other writing short cuts (no “b/c” or “w/r/t”). Make sure that your ideas flow, and if it’s long enough, that you structure your answer into recognizable paragraphs.

Finally, make sure that you use your time well. Figure out how much time you can spend on each question of the exam ahead of time. Don’t waste time dithering about what questions to answer, and if you get stuck, come back to it. Importantly, leave yourself time to come back at the end and reread your answers all the way through. This will help you catch any errors, sentences that weren’t clear, or other mistakes or problems.

Study hard and good luck!

Taking an Effective Spring Break

Somehow the media and Hollywood seem to think that Spring Break is a booze filled, raucous party on a beach somewhere. While I’m sure that someone, somewhere probably does spring break like this, as a midwesterner without a trust fund, my spring breaks were usually considerably tamer and (disappointingly) never included a beach.

If your spring break plans also don’t include a beach setting, scandolous behavior, or the opportunity to make some really questionable decisions, don’t despair, there are still ways to make the most of this time. But fair warning, I’m probably going to make some forward thinking, goal oriented suggestions.

Take a Break

By this point in the year, you’re probably starting to get burnt out. Especially in the United States, where we are smack dab in the middle of the dreariest season of the year: dark days, cold, rain/sleet/snow, etc. Add a full class load for the second semester, and some mornings, you’re really not sure if it’s worth it to get out of bed. In short, it’s time for a break. Here’s a few tips on how to make sure your week off really turns into a break:

  1. Change your location. If you have the opportunity to get away from your dorm room or apartment for the week: do so. Getting out of your “workspace” allows you to clear some mental space away from things you might’ve been procrastinating over prior to break.
  2. Plan something to do every day. It’s tempting to spend every day sleeping til noon, scrolling through social media, and following that up with some epic TV binge watching, BUT, if you do that, you’ll actually be less likely to feel rested and relaxed at the end of the week. Instead, pick one thing to do or accomplish each day (even if it’s as simple as meet a high school friend for lunch, or go to the movie theater).
  3. Don’t Reverse your Nights and Days. This is one I am (still) guilty of every time I get a vacation. I end up staying up waaaay later than I normally do and sleeping in. Catching up on sleep is a good idea, but slowly reversing your days and nights is going to make going back to your normal class routine come Monday really rough. So sleep in to your heart’s content, but don’t become a vampire.

Travel

Spring Break can be a great time to do some actual traveling. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to [insert country here] or perhaps you haven’t had a chance to see your parents or siblings since Winter Break. Taking the opportunity to trael a little can be an excellent use of this week away from class.

  1. Go on a Short Term Study Abroad.Several universities I’ve taught at have offered special spring break trips to students. At one, students could attend mini-travel abroad classes during their spring break (and actually earn credit hours). At another, the college offered the opportunity for students to take a focused trip to different countries where tours were focused around a specific topic of interest (i.e. government). Trips like these can be a great way to see the world, (maybe) get college credit, and fund it using a student loan, since it’s for educational purposes.
  2. Participate in a Service Trip. One university I worked for sponsored service focused trips for students over spring break. During these trips, students were introduced to social justice topics and had the opportunity to give back to a community in need. The cool part about these trips wasn’t just that students broadened their worldview, but that they learned about opportunities to continue service after graduation, and even learned about how nonprofits worked and ways to work in the industry.
  3. Visit Family and/or Friends. Spring Break can be a good time to reconnect with people who are important to you that you haven’t seen in a while. Spending time with people we care about can be a great way to reaffirm important relationships. As a bonus, you usually get to crash at their place, meaning no hotel fees.

Catch up on Work?

As you get farther into your academic career (grad students, I’m looking at you in particular), it becomes really tempting to tell yourself that you are going to spend the week catching up on work that you’ve let slip or haven’t had time to get through yet in the semester. This is a risky proposition, and here’s why. That wide open week with nothing on the schedule seems like a great time to get ahead, with no interruptions from roommates, no classes that you have to get through, and bonus–the library is empty. BUT, it’s also a week where technically you don’t have anywhere you *have* to be, there’s no one who is going to get angry at you for not doing anything, and the accountability for actually getting work done is basically nonexistant. Inevitably, what happens is that you tell yourself that you are going to be Mr./Ms. Productivity, but the temptation to actually take a break is overwhelming. Meaning there are two possible outcomes at the end of the week: One, you work all week, finish it more exhausted than you started (keeping yourself on task is a tiring job), and you drag into the second half of the semester frustrated and jealous of anyone who had the audacity to post photos of themselves at the beach. Two, you tell yourself you are going to work, but when it comes right down to it, you can’t manage to force yourself, all the work goes undone, and you end the week beating yourelf up for being unproductive.

But, what if you have work that legitimately needs to be done? How do you solve this problem?

  1. Make a plan. Write down a manageable list of tasks to accomplish and figure out where and when you are going to get it done. Prioritize your list: what do you absolutely have to get done? What would just be nice to get done? Then, figure out where you’re going to do it: Maybe on Monday, you are going to spend the day in the library and Tuesday you are going to work from a coffee shop.
  2. Schedule some down time. To avoid the jealously of anyone who took time off and/or the issue of procrastination, make sure that you plan on taking some planned down time. This can be “Wednesday night, I’m planning on ordering in pizza and binge watching the new show that I’ve been waiting for on Amazon Prime” and “Friday night, I’m going to go out with a few friends who are also in town.” Having these planned down time in your schedule will make you feel better about being productive earlier in the day/week and will keep you from feeling like you deserve a break you’re not getting.
  3. Consider working shorter days. If you do not normally spend eight straight hours at the library, spring break is NOT the time to try this out. Setting your alarm for an hour later; taking yourself out for a longer lunch; and leaving the library early in the afternoon to hit the gym before going home are all great ways to break up a long day of studying. It’ll also help you feel more focused while you are actually there.

Move It! Why Moving is Important for Focus

College is–for the most part–a sedentary activity. You sit in class. You sit while you study. You jack yourself up with caffeine and sit to write that term paper you left until the night before it was due. But all that sitting, combined with the dark and gloom we get in the U.S. this time of year is an excellent recipe for feeling tired, down, and unhappy.

The solution? Find time to move.

I am by no means a natural gym rat. I wasn’t in sports as a kid, and I joke with my students now that I probably couldn’t run the mile (let alone run it at the military standards). But I do know that on days when I make a conscious effort to move–walk, lift weights, yoga, etc. I feel so much better: I have more energy, I feel happier, and I get more done.

Early in college, moving every day was pretty easy: I didn’t have a car, so I had to walk everywhere I wanted to go. But once I got a car, and wised up on how to more effective stack my course schedule, I found that I moved dramatically less each day. Today, if I don’t make a conscious effort to move around, I probably average 2,000-3,000 steps a day.

Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to make sure I get moving every day:

1. Start with 10 minutes of yoga.

I am NOT a morning person–far from it. But on the days that I get myself out of bed and get in 10 minutes of yoga before starting my day, I feel more focused and refreshed and ready to tackle whatever is coming at me than the days where I blearly stumble into the kitchen to find the coffee pot. There are a lot of free resources available on a variety of platforms. I use “Yoga with Adriene” on youtube.

2. Take a walk at lunch (or during a break)

When I was a graduate student, I used to walk around the campus lake during my lunch break. Even though I was walking to and from class, taking those 30 or so minutes to walk in a green area really helped me refocus during the afternoons.

3. Use the track at the gym

Some days it’s simply too cold to walk outside. On days like that, I would head over to the gym, change into my asics, and walk the track while listening to music, a podcast, or an audio book. This was great–it counted as exercise, but it took very little effort to achieve: all I needed to do was change my shoes. If you don’t have access to a gym, try walking the halls of your dorm or classroom building.

4. Use the Pomodoro Method and Walk on the break

I’m a big fan of the pomodoro method, or “work sprints.” You work for a certain set amount of time (typically 25 minutes) and then you get a short break (5 minutes), using a timer to keep you on track. I use the breaks to get up and move around: sometimes I stretch, sometimes I pace by my work table, it depends on the mood I’m in. But working in that helps keep me focused during the next “sprint.”

5. Use an exercise plan

I may not be the most athletic person in the world, but I am still extremely competitive, even with myself. I found that I was much more likely to hit the gym if I had a program that I was working my way through. Apps like BodySpace (for weight lifting), or FitBit Premium (for body weight programs) are great ways to create a plan that you can stick to. I also really liked being able to track my progress.

Disclaimer: Always talk to a doctor before starting any kind of exercise plan!

Resumes: Some Do’s and Don’ts

As a professor, I maintain a Curriculum Vitae, which is a fancy way of saying, I don’t use a traditional resume (CVs are longer and contain different kinds of information. You can see mine at https://kathrynmgboehlefeld.com/curriculum-vitae/) However, this past week, I found myself needing a traditional one page resume. So, I had to ressurect an old one from the depths of my dropbox folders. But it got me thinking about the utility of resumes and some of the common mistakes people make when writing one.

Do:

  • Have a Resume. Even if you are a freshman in college, even if you are pretty certain that you are going to graduate school and won’t need one right away. Resumes are helpful in a variety of contexts at all stages, including applying for on campus jobs and scholarships.
  • Make use of Resume writing tools. When I went to edit my resume this week, I was pleasantly surprised that Microsoft Word offered to connect me with the tools available on LinkedIN. There are a variety of useful resume writing guides available on line, from professional development blogs (I’ve found themuse.com to be one helpful place) to professional social networking sites, like LinkedIN. Just make sure that whatever you are using has been written by someone with actual credentials, and is not an answer by a random individual on a open questions forum.
  • Pay Attention to Formatting. Resumes should be concise, clear, and easy to read. The purpose of a resume is to convey a specific set of information about your job history, skill set, and education to prospective employers. If the reader has to go searching for the information they need, they will likely move on to the next resume in the stack.
  • Keep Your Resume Updated. You should revisit your resume at least once a year, not just when you leave a position or get a new job. You can add or switch out new skills, update any awards you have won, or include additional education you’ve achieved.
  • Make sure your resume accurately reflects any “digital resumes” you have. In other words, if you have a linkedIN page (and you should! See: https://the-office-hour.com/2018/11/08/why-you-need-a-linkedin-profile-and-how-to-set-it-up/) make sure that it aligns with the information you have on your resume.

Don’t:

  • Get too focused on the formatting. There are a lot of really fancy things you can do with your resume. But style versus substance can be a fine line, and you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of it. Also, you don’t want to end up with a resume that’s hard to read.
  • Try to include everything under the sun. Resumes are designed to be short. One maybe two pages depending on your field. If you are considering going below 11 or 12 pt font, you’ve got too much information. If you are including every job back to the lemonade stand you ran at age 6, you’ve got too much information. You need to be picky about what you’re including–go for the most important/relevant items.
  • Send it out as a .doc. Unless someone has specified that they want that a specific document format, play it safe and send it out as a PDF. PDFs can be opened on all computer types. MS Word documents or Mac Pages can sometimes prevent someone from opening your resume if they don’t have the right program.
  • Forget to have someone else proof read it for you. God forbid you accidently send it out with a typo in your contact information. After you’ve spent so much time perfecting your resume, you may be “too close” to the document to see small mistakes. Outsource the final proof reading to someone who can look at it with fresh eyes.

How to Pick a Research Topic

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I’ve run across in terms of students and selecting research topics for a course paper is that students do not feel like they know enough about the topic to select a topic early on in the course. This feeling is completely understandable! I get it! Many classes are “survey” courses, meant to introduce you to a new set of topics in the first place.

However, on the other side of the coin, research is a skill and an important one to practice in class, it takes time to do well so you can’t just work on it for the last week of the semester, and writing a research paper can help you engage with the class topic in a more in depth way (i.e. you get more out of it).

So how do we fix this problem?

One simple solution is to use the syllabus to help you narrow down your topic selection. The syllabus is going to outline the topics covered in the course and the assigned readings for each day. Peruse the syllabus to find a topic or two that you’ll be covering in the class that you think looks especially interesting. Then, read ahead to figure out if the topic is as interesting as it looks at first blush.

Another solution is to meet with your professor during office hours. Assuming you have a few very broad ideas in mind (if not, return to the previous paragraph), you can visit your professor during office hours to ask for help in narrowing down your topic selection. Some things to think about before stepping into their office: (1) Why did that broad area seem interesting? (2) How does this class relate to your major/career goals? (3) Is there a specific case/event/study that you read that sparked your focus in this direction? Being able to provide a little bit of extra context will help the professor help you narrow down your topic to something that you’ll actually enjoy working on for the remainder of the term.

A few other rules of thumb:

  • Don’t pick a topic you hate, or you’ll be in for a long, tough term.
  • Pick a topic as early as possible, if you hate it/cannot find enough information/etc. you can more easily switch topics.
  • Make sure you transition from a topic into a question about that topic fairly early on. All good research papers should answer a question.

4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Writing is a necessary and important skill, regardless of what your major is, or what your career is likely to be. Here are 4 simple ways to improve your writing before turning in your next assignment.

1. Know Your Audience

Who is the intended audience for your writing? The answer is not simply–Duh, Dr. B. it’s the professor! Rather, think about the kind of writing assignment you are being asked to complete? Is it a research paper? A business proposal? Maybe it’s a blog post/op-ed or a report. Each of these kinds of assignments have a different intended audience. A research paper is going to be aimed at other people studying that same topic. A business proposal is intended to be read by potential investors. A blog post or op-ed is intended to be read by the general public. A report should be written with a specific person or group of people in mind.

Knowing your audience allows you to consider how to pitch your topic. If you are describing a concept or issue for the general public, you will want to avoid discipline or industry specific jargon. If you are writing for a specific group, you can think about what background information they already know versus what you need to explain to them. Keeping your audience in mind allows your writing to be more focused and more accessible.

2. Keep It Simple!

When writing, particularly about complex ideas, it is easy to get wrapped up in the details and dive into the really meaty sections right away. But that’s a big mistake. When you are describing a complex topic, you want to start by explaining it in the simplest way possible. By attempting to explain a concept/issue in the simplest way possible, you ensure that you get the full picture into the writing piece without missing anything important. Then, add details and more minutia as space (and the audience!) allow.

3. Start with an outline

As anyone who has ever had me in class will tell you, I LOVE outlines. That’s because an outline will help you capture all the main ideas you need to include in your writing and help you figure out in what order they are best presented.

When students attempt to write without an outline, they often end up meandering all over and never really get to the point. The argument can be hard to follow–if you can even find it, and it reads more like a stream of consciousness novel than an accessible piece of writing. The issue with diving right in sans outline is that it is going to make the writing hard to grade, and that’s likely going to cause you to end up with a lower grade!

4. Find a Proof Reader

One of the biggest mistakes students make when it comes to writing assignments is not rereading the paper before turning it in. At minimum, you need to reread your paper yourself. But a better solution is to find someone to read your paper over for you. The reason? When you write a paper, you can accidently miss typos, grammatical errors, or other pesky mistakes because you wrote it. The paper is in your “voice” and your brain inherently knows what you meant to say, even if that’s not what made it onto the page. Getting a second set of eyes to read over your work means you’re less likely to turn in a mistake filled paper. BONUS: proof readers do not have to have any truly special qualities beyond being able to read at a college level and not being you–so go ahead, ask your mom!

The Joy of Binge Watching TV shows

Most productivity websites will probably warn you away from binge watching television. Beware the streaming services and all that. Me? I think it can be a good thing-healthy, even-if done correctly.

Binge watching netflix, or prime, or hulu, or Disney+, or whatever your streaming service of choice is, can be a healthy escape from the pressure and reality of being a full time student. Also, as a bonus, it’s cheap: you are already paying for the service, and you don’t have to pay more to stream more. The key to a good binge watching session is to do it…responsibly.

Times when you should avoid binge watching

  1. when you should be studying for an exam/writing a paper/finishing a project. Issue: you’re using it as a way to procrastinate and it’ll cause more stress and panic later.
  2. when you should be sleeping. Issue: college students don’t get enough sleep as it is, and TV is not an acceptable substitute for actual shut-eye.
  3. when you should be in class. Issue: I’m assuming you’re smart enough to figure out why that’s a problem all on your own.

Times when binge watching can be healthy

  1. when a new season of your favorite show drops and you’ve prepared adequately (i.e. finished all necessary projects, studying, sleeping, etc. and stocked up on the appropriate snacks.)
  2. when you need a mental health day (recommend trying to schedule this for sometime over the weekend when you have fewer obligations to pull you away from the TV)
  3. when school is not in session (when I was an undergrad and could get away with it, the first week of break was nearly always devoted to sleeping and binge watching. Sometimes it can be fun to save up series to watch specifically during this time).

When binge watching becomes a problem and you may need to seek help

  1. when you are binging more than you are doing all other things (class, studying, extra curricular, friends)
  2. when you are binging instead of sleeping

In either of the above two scenarios, binge watching is taking over an unhealthy amount of your time. It could also be a sign of anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Many schools now have programs that help students to identify and work through these kinds of issues. If you need help, remember, there is nothing wrong or shameful about asking for it!

Happy Binge Watching!

Thinking about Grad School?

If you have been considering whether to attend graduate school after college versus searching for a job, here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I need additional education to get the job I ultimately want? If so, what kind of education do I need and when in my career do I need it?
  2. Are there funded programs available for this kind of degree or will I need to take out additional loans?
  3. If considering professional school (i.e. law school): Do I actually want to be a [insert profession here]?
  4. Is there anyone I know who has the kind of job I ultimately want that I could ask for advice regarding graduate school options?

Taking a long look at each of these questions before you decide to skip the job market for graduate school applications is critical.

Some careers do not require additional education. Others require additional education part way into a career (for example, many companies will pay or partially pay for you to get an MBA after you start working for them).

One of the biggest mistakes students make is thinking that they must/should attend graduate school as a safety net. But these kinds of schools can be expensive!! If you don’t ever see yourself being a lawyer, why are you spending money on law school? And however you do graduate school, it won’t be easy financially. Some programs you should expect to get funding from (doctoral programs, in particular), though it may not be enough to fully support you. Others like medical or law school, will require additional loans. Thinking about the likelihood you’ll use the degree and the ability of your finances to support it is a critical step.

Finally, if you have the opportunity to seek out someone in the field you want to be in, reach out and ask them about their graduate school experience (or lack thereof). If you don’t know anyone personally, you can always contact your school’s alumni association or career services center to see if they can get you in touch with someone.