Graduate School Myths

The decision to apply to graduate school 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 will increase my chances for a Ph.D.

The majority of STEM Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. and doesn’t guarantee admission to a Ph.D. program. Check your program’s requirements.

Myth 2: I can’t afford graduate school.

Most Ph.D. students receive financial support that covers tuition, fees, health benefits and a stipend adjusted to the cost of living. Add Did you know Michigan Engineering offers full funding?

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 Ph.D. is only for those who want to be professors.

Engineers have access to many different careers, and the transferable skills graduate students develop (critical thinking, multitasking, etc.) are highly valued across many fields. The University of Michigan PhD Program statistics offer a glimpse at where PhDs land in their careers.

Opportunities for PhD’s outside of academia include:
  • Analysts
  • Directors
  • Statisticians
  • Policy makers
  • Consultants

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; talk to professors, graduate students, advisors and those who can provide insights into life in graduate school.

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 = 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.