10.18.17 19

Why I Decided Not to Go to Grad School

Everlane Day Market Tote

This post is a long time coming. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write it–mostly, how to articulate it in a way that accurately describes how I feel–so we’re going to give it a shot and dive right in. You might remember back in the spring and early summer when I mentioned studying for and taking the GRE. This life update post addressed my plans to go back to school to get my MBA…basically, I work in higher education and one of our benefits is a pretty solid tuition remission program meaning that after accepting this role in mid-2016, it seemed obvious to go for a second degree.

A little background: Basically, I’m not a big “school” person, in a sense. I love to learn, actually like attending class (and have probably ever only skipped 1-2 classes ever, if that), but academics, particularly test taking, don’t really come naturally to me. I worked really hard in high school and college and did just…fine. Not great. It was frustrating to watch people around me who studied and/or cared a fraction of the amount and who came through with As, or those who could study for one evening while I studied for five and we’d end up with the same grade on a test. I’m not saying this to complain, but to illustrate that I’m confident there are people to whom comprehending tough concepts and taking tests (particularly in the way of memorization) come more naturally. Can academics just include papers and not tests? That’d be amazing.

Everlane Day Market Tote

After hearing this, you’re probably wondering why I even entertained the idea of going back to school to begin with! Both sides of my family are very entrepreneurial and most–including my parents and several aunts, uncles, and cousins–own their own businesses. It’s long been a career aspiration of my own to do the same, and it seemed like a no-brainer to take advantage of the tuition benefit to earn such a coveted degree that would support business ownership. That, plus the reality that I actually love learning, meant that initially, I assumed going back to school with this new job would definitely happen.

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Onto what actually happened, because life….

First off: If you plan to take a standardized test that requires a lot of studying and happen to have a slower few months at work and in your personal life, I cannot stress this enough: take advantage of that time. My original plan was to take the GRE last fall and be able to spend the spring focusing on my non-degree class and our move. Looking back, I really should have just taken the test last summer right after starting this job, but isn’t it the worst that hindsight is 20-20? In any case, I basically didn’t even crack open the book until the beginning of the year and by then, what was supposed to be a busy few months became unexpectedly even more nuts. Studying wasn’t my priority and unsurprisingly, when I did take the test, my scores on the math section of the test really indicated that lack of focus.

When it came time to submit my application, there were a couple of options: 1. Apply without GRE scores and cross my fingers my work experience would illustrate enough quant work (a long shot because I haven’t had numbers-heavy jobs or been in the workforce for 5+ years), 2. Send in my scores and hope for the best, or 3. Plan to retake the test this fall and reapply for the spring. Long story short, I went with the first one, got a response from the committee that they needed test scores, and had to make a quick decision on how to proceed.

Having to decide was really stressful at the time (#tears) but as is the case with much of what life throws at you, it all worked out. I immediately chatted with a coworker and former coworker who had both gotten two-thirds of the way through the program before dropping out, and got an honest take on why they made the decisions they did. We had similar backgrounds, creative interests + talents, and longer term career aspirations so hearing from them provided a lot of clarity. J was supportive either way and knew how miserable I’d been trying to stay afloat.

One thing I haven’t mentioned on here is that the six months prior to all this were rough. J and I luckily had a pretty smooth transition with the move (more on that in a week or two), the one class I was taking was going fine, but basically I was just stretched way too thin. Between class, my full-time job, adjusting to my new lifestyle, some side + freelance work, and this blog (which dropped to three posts/week during this time!), I experienced anxiety for the first time and was consistently more stressed than I’d ever been. That stress quickly started affecting my health and it was scary. I kept trying to tell myself this was only a three year thing, but three years isn’t an insignificant amount of time–especially given my track record of struggling to grasp and test well with complex quantitative concepts in the classroom. Was it really worth putting so much of what made me happy on hold for a degree I didn’t actually need to advance my career?

You know where this is going…I decided to table the MBA. And it’s been the best decision ever. A couple other factors that I don’t want to discuss here (related to the admissions process) also rubbed me the wrong way, and all of a sudden my “cons” list was more than twice the size of my “pros” list. It was a fork in the road and I definitely think I took the right side, at least for now–being able to refocus on things that mean the most to me has been the most satisfying sense of relief.

Everlane Day Market Tote

Present day…

The aforementioned freelance? One is Steph Boutique, which is located in the town where I went to college. I’ve helped Steph with some marketing work over the past couple of years and it’s something I really enjoy and really didn’t want to give up. Second, I’ve been lucky to work under the wing of Victoria for the past year or so in a mentorship/internship capacity. While they will obviously evolve, my current career aspirations include doing a lot of the type of work she does, so I wanted to be able to maintain a mutually beneficial working relationship with her and knowing that studying for my next finance test would have to take priority was a terrible notion that made me feel like my actual career goals were taking a backseat.

So there you have it–a [kind of condensed] account on why I decided that it’s okay to forego my tuition benefit for things that make me happier. There definitely would have been advantages–if you’re getting an MBA, you’ll surely see them!–but I realized that the “why not just do it” approach was too dismissive for a three year part-time degree that would still cost upwards of $20k and keep me at the university through graduation. Not to mention the econ class I was taking when I decided not to move forward…not having to show up the following Tuesday was the best.feeling.ever :)

Fall workwear

As to what’s happening now and what’s next, well–I’m a lot happier, less stressed, and feel like I’m reworking how I spend my free time because for a minute there, it was nonexistent. I watched all of Suits (obsessed), actually sat around without a laptop open, started getting back into reading for fun, and booked a couple trips. Not being able to travel because of class was a huge thing I struggled with…seeing the world is one of the highest priorities that would have also taken a backseat. I’ve also managed to be a more sane girlfriend/roommate and went back to making an effort with my friends (actively maintaining relationships is so important to me and it was the worst feeling not to do this)…all good things! And on the blog front, a few changes are coming–really soon. Like in the next couple of weeks soon. Stay tuned for a rebrand and redesign…and me probably biting off more than I can chew. But if this post indicated anything, you know I’d much rather be busy than bored :)

Everlane workwear outfit

And of course I’m not going to neglect talking about this outfit! This is essentially my work uniform this time of year. I do typically swap out the heels for flats depending on what I’m wearing up top (if it’s a more casual sweater, I’ll sometimes wear heels but luckily work in a pretty casual business-casual office.) Stretchy black pants are my favorite because they feel like leggings but look like nice workwear–this Everlane pair has a nice high waist and is machine washable. They also sent over this bag a few weeks ago and I can’t recommend it enough. The leather is so soft and buttery (definitely leather-proof it before use!) and it’s really spacious. It can easily fit my daily essentials as well as a laptop and large sweater or lunch containers. Also, Meghan Markle has it in cognac, which should speak for itself! Unfortunately the shadows caught it in some unflattering light but it’s even more beautiful in person–my coworker saw it on me in a meeting and immediately decided to order one for herself.  You guys may remember my constant praise for Everlane so I’ve been really excited that they’re rapidly expanding their product offerings while continuing to maintain very fair pricing (helloooo, $100 cashmere!)

IN THIS POST:

J.Crew sweater (On sale! I’m wearing a medium)
Everlane pants (c/o; I’m wearing a size 2)
Everlane tote (c/o)
Knot earrings (vintage; similar and similar)
J.Crew heels
David Yurman bracelet
Tissot watch
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Essie ‘Mademoiselle’

Everlane Day Market Tote

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19 Comments

  1. Ashlee wrote:

    Love this post! So nicely written. I’m so glad you’re in a much less stressful time now! Definitely sounds like you made the right choice!

    -Ashlee

    Published 10.18.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Thank you, Ashlee! And for all your support along the way…friends like you help keep me sane :) xox!

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  2. Congrats on making the right choice for you! I actually ended up tabling my Masters program this summer when I realized that I was putting aside actual career priorities to study for classes that didn’t feel relevant to my goals – you are much better off realizing that before getting into it! Unless you’re in a super technical field or something that requires licensing, real world experience is the way to go.

    Published 10.18.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      That totally makes sense! I remembering being so envious of your program because it seemed so creative and fun (LOL, and you obviously saw the other less fun side of it, too), but it makes sense that sometimes priorities have to be what’s in the present and not just what lies ahead. And now that you have your new role, seems like it’s yet another reason to focus on that and table the degree for now. Yay for making these decisions!!

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  3. Good for you for making the right choice for you! I have a friend who was also considering an MBA (she works at a school here in NYC) and I know how it can feel like you HAVE to go back. But sanity is important too, as is pursuing the things you’re truly passionate about. I loved this post and I’m so happy for you!

    Also I SO agree about taking a standardized test when you have time. I dated a guy once who took the GMAT in the months after he graduated from college but hadn’t yet started his new job. Such a smart move!

    Published 10.18.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Glad to know your friend has thought about it from this perspective, too! It’s tough when it’s such a good perk of the job so is definitely worth the reflecting and carefully considering your options. And that guy TOTALLY knew what was up! I’m a firm believer that that’s the way to go if you know you want an advanced degree. Though I know people who studied and took the exams only to change their mind about going back to school at all…haha.

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  4. Meg Hall wrote:

    I have gone through a similar process over the last year – health issues caused me to delay my MBA but now I am grateful that they did. I would’ve been way over my head commitment-wise (and financially!) for a degree that most likely wouldn’t further my career. I would still like an advanced degree but am holding until I can find an option that adds true value for me. Glad you made a decision you are happy with and are enjoying your freedom!

    xo Meg

    Published 10.18.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Haha us and our GRE/GMAT books! Unfortunate health issues aside, seems like everything happens for a reason–little bebe would not have been happy to have you be at school around the clock, either :) Completely agree on waiting on a degree that feels right and one you knows will have the desired affect on your career–yay for making these [scary and exciting] decisions!

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  5. katie wrote:

    Amazing post, Monica! I am so proud of you and can’t wait to see what’s next! xox

    Published 10.18.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      THANK YOU for all your love and support!!!

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  6. Sarah wrote:

    This is a great post! I actually just wrote something similar about feeling overscheduled, and it’s important to listen to yourself and understand what is right for you. Your freelance work sounds really cool!

    Published 10.20.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Going to go read now! The over scheduling this is so unfortunate and real today. Thanks for the kind words!!

      Published 10.23.17
      Reply
  7. Julie wrote:

    This post really resonates a lot with me, thank you for being so authentic in your writing. I just started blogging and that’s something I’m working towards. I’m happy you made the choice that was right for you! I’m actually studying for the GMAT now and I’m thinking through how I want my career to be, what I’m aiming for etc – and it’s not too easy to say the least – I feel you on the #tears! Again, thanks for sharing this! It’s nice to hear other people are going through or have been through similar situations!

    Published 10.20.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      Thank you, Julie! That means a lot. That’s awesome you’re studying for it now–it’ll be worth it! I feel like advanced degrees are almost second nature in today’s working world that it makes you wonder if everyone is weighing the pros and cons before proceeding…there have be people like myself who just kind of haphazardly went into it, but glad you aren’t in that boat :)

      Published 10.24.17
      Reply
  8. Rachel wrote:

    I feel the exact same way about the MBA and decided to table it (at least for now) too. I took a few classes that would fulfill the pre-reqs for it and also give me a certificate in business but test taking was a big downside for me. I did great on them but it was too stressful!

    Published 10.22.17
    Reply
    • Monica wrote:

      No way!! That’s great you got the certificate out of it for your hard work–test taking is literally the worst so good for you for tabling it to focus on you (and hopefully reduce those stress levels!). Thanks for your comment :)

      Published 10.24.17
      Reply