GET THE FACTS
The decision to apply to graduate school for an environmental master's degree or other degree is one that should not be taken lightly. It’s a long and time-consuming process. While graduate school provides an exciting opportunity to further one's education, it may also create some unrealistic perceptions and expectations.
Myth 1: Applying for a master’s degree will increase my chances for a PhD
The majority of STEM PhD programs accept applications from students with a bachelor’s degree. While having a master’s degree helps you define your research interests and provides experience, it’s not a quick route to a PhD and doesn’t guarantee admission to a PhD program. Check your program’s requirements.
Myth 2: I can’t afford graduate school.
Most PhD students receive financial support that covers tuition, fees, health benefits, and a stipend adjusted to the cost of living. Funding resources are more limited and competitive for master’s students. Ask about financial packages before accepting an offer.
Myth 3: There’s no way a single parent can go to grad school.
There’s not one type of graduate student; students come from different backgrounds and experiences and have different needs. Most graduate institutions like the University of Michigan offer programs and resources to help parents.
Myth 4: I am a sophomore; I do not have to think about graduate school yet.
It’s never too soon to prepare! Starting early will give you the opportunity to explore your interests and career options. Get involved. Talk to your professors and graduate students at your home institution. The more relevant experience you have, the stronger your application will be.
Myth 5: A PhD is only for those who want to be professors.
The transferable skills graduate students develop (critical thinking, multitasking, etc.) are highly valued across many fields.
Opportunities for PhDs outside of academia include:
- Policy makers
Myth 6: I don’t know what I want to do with my life, so I will go to graduate school.
Graduate school is a big commitment of time and resources, not only for you but for the university as well. Before applying it’s important to do your homework. Get research experience, and talk to professors, graduate students, advisors, and those who can provide insights into graduate school life.
Myth 7: I attend a small minority-serving institution; I won’t feel comfortable at a large university.
Graduate school cohorts are smaller than undergraduate cohorts, and students work closely with faculty and other students in their program, forming a supportive network that can make a big school feel smaller. Large universities, meanwhile, provide more resources and opportunities for interdisciplinary work.
Myth 8: Financial aid = funding
Funding packages are managed by each university and program, and aren’t necessarily connected to the financial aid opportunities available through the federal government. Your graduate school may offer financial aid in addition to the funding package.