Grad School

It was, to this day, the biggest, hardest decision I have ever made in my life.  I don’t think it is the right path for everyone, but if the idea has ever crossed your mind, I encourage you to think about some of the things that helped me make my decision.

1) Research a variety of programs.
There are a plethora of options when it comes to grad schools for the performing arts.  Some are more conservatory-based, some more traditionally academic.  It’s important to know how the schools you are considering actually function.  Looking at many options will not only help you know exactly what to expect, it will ensure you’re applying for programs that fit you.

2) Know exactly why you’re going and what you want to get out of the experience.
Going to grad school is a selfish choice.  You are making the decision to take a few years of your life and focus on yourself.  It is not a necessity; and it will not guarantee anything.  There will be many moments when you will need a succinct, concrete reason to remind you why you willingly subjected yourself to it.

3) Expect a challenge and be ready to create one if you don’t find it.
I knew going to grad school would be challenging and I was eager to test myself.  I sought out additional assignments and volunteered for extra projects because I knew this was a one-shot deal.  If I didn’t completely exhaust my opportunities now, who knew if they would ever come around again? 

4) Don’t be discouraged by the cost.
Yes, grad school can be expensive.  I know; I went to Yale.  Performing arts schools are keenly aware of this and work towards making it affordable so you can focus on what you’re there to do.  Yes, you will probably be in debt when you graduate, but all of us have been in debt at some point.  You won’t pay off the loans in a month or a year, but, don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere.

5) Don’t let the time commitment scare you.
Remember why you are going to school in the first place.  In the grand scheme of things, are two or three years really too much to devote to that?  

6) Don’t worry about being out of the job pool for a while.
While you are going into debt to challenge yourself, there will be people doing the same amount and kind of work and getting paid for it.  If that thought is more than you can bear, grad school might not be for you.  If it still sounds appealing, I can personally attest that nothing else is an experience quite like it. 

Choosing to attend grad school is not a simple decision.  It will continue to have repercussions long after they hand you your diploma.  For me, the decision was entirely worth it.

Lisa Shuster

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