7 questions to ask yourself before applying to grad school

Fall is the season when leaves change color, pumpkin-spiced drinks conquer Starbucks, and people decide whether to delay the start of their professional careers by attending graduate school.

Whether one chooses to make this personal and financial commitment can play a significant role in influencing their life’s trajectory.

Graduate school can open doors and expand horizons over the long term. It can also induce years of frustration and destroy relationships in the near-term.

I’ve experienced all this firsthand during my own challenging eight-year graduate school experience, and lived to tell the tale. Here’s some unsolicited advice to help decide if attending grad school is worth it for you. (A caveat: these seven questions are tailored narrowly for those considering a Ph.D. in political science or international relations.)

Can you write well, and do you enjoy writing?
While reading is the most time-consuming thing you do, writing is by far the most consequential. You get no credit for hiding unique scholarly insights between your ears. It is only by submitting written content to professors that you demonstrate you engaged with the required readings and lectures. You will write constantly — short memos, literature reviews, 40-page research papers, and perhaps eventually a dissertation. So, if you are comfortable staring at a QWERTY keyboard and composing hundreds and hundreds of words each day, then graduate school might be for you.

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