Students pick grad school as economy declines

By Alissa Groeninger

Kate Bowen knows the economy is frightening her peers.

“It’s definitely intimidating. There’s only so many jobs out there and there are so many applicants,” said Bowen, senior in Media. “That makes me happy I am going to law school.”

According to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million people in the U.S. have lost private sector jobs in 2008, and the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in almost 15 years.

“(People are) unsure whether they’re going to have a job in a couple of months,” said Priya Dasgupta, director of graduate programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, which helps students prepare for graduate school entrance exams.

The percentage of people interested in business, law and graduate programs increased by the highest percentage in five years, according to a Kaplan study. Kaplan surveyed 245 business school admissions officers, including a representative from the University, and found that a majority of business graduate programs are more selective than three years ago because more people are applying. Information about law and graduate programs was taken from past Kaplan reports.

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More students are interested in graduate programs because the economy has made it difficult to find a job, Dasgupta said.

“People are trying to weather the storm. (They) view grad school as a safe haven to ride out the job market,” Dasgupta said.

So far, inquiries about the University’s Master of Science in Finance, a one-year program, increased by 56 percent and the number of applications for the first deadline increased by 7 percent.

The University’s law school saw a 30 percent increase in applications between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years. Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the law school, said this increase is significant.

“We’re looking at a trend that’s starting to go up,” Pless said. “That’s usually the case when the economy is slower. People can’t find jobs.”

Although the study’s findings include law school applicants, Bowen does not believe that most people go to law school because of the economy. She said that while the economy may affect some peoples’ career choices, the decision to become a lawyer is something most people think about for years.

While the poor economy may be the reason people are applying for graduate programs, Dasgupta said the trend will ultimately pay off.

“It’s always better to enter the workforce with a higher education,” she said. “This ends up becoming an opportunity. A challenge, but an opportunity.”

The unemployment rate in October was 6.5 percent, according to United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.1 percent, compared with a 2 percent unemployment rate for people with master’s degrees. “With a graduate degree you can recession-proof yourself. (Graduate school) makes you a much more competitive employee,” Dasgupta said. “(The United States) already (has) one of the strongest work forces. It’ll make us much more competitive in the world economy.”

Tips for getting into graduate school

1. Spend one to two years on a graduate school application to do it justice . It requires more then just filling out an application. Make it so that you highlight yourself the right way.

2. Find programs you like and then find schools that have them. Get a sense of where you want to go, and consider graduate school as a means to an end..

3. Prepare for standardized tests. Take tests early even if graduate school plans aren’t in the immediate future. Use free practice tests, see what you need to prepare for because standardized tests are usually the most important factor of acceptance.

Source: Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions