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Overcoming Barriers to Graduate School

August 11, 2015 by Coventry Kessler |

BooksStepsWe know more formal education generally equals career advancement and greater income. Yet many of us who want a graduate degree often don't try because the barriers seem impossible to overcome.

They're not.

Many barriers have practical solutions. Here are the top reasons most people think graduate school is not feasible - and why and how you can overcome them.

Too Old

According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, 28% of graduate students are aged 30-39 and 22% of students are 40 and older. Ironically, age, maturity, and real world experience are often assets in dealing with the challenges of graduate school. You may need an update on the latest technology, but otherwise age should not be a barrier. Graduate programs designed to satisfy general curiosity like UNCG's Master of Arts in Liberal Studies are often strong draws to older students, who have a desire to understand and explore the world.

New Discipline / Field of Study

Many people switch interests and fields after they graduate from college and enter the work force. Some professional or graduate programs, like law school or psychology, don't require a specific undergraduate major. However, some may have general course requirements, like a year of biology. For others, you may have to make up a few specific courses to qualify. It pays to check with the program you're interested in to learn about specific requirements. A good undergraduate GPA, some relevant work experience, and good recommendations from former professors or employers who can speak to your skills and work ethic can also help you switch fields.

Don't Have Time

Lack of time is one of the big practicalities that make people cross grad school off their list. The good news is that many high quality accredited graduate programs are available online, including some at UNCG.

Online programs have three big advantages:

  1. Location Doesn't Matter

    You can take courses anywhere, whether in the same city, a nearby state or even halfway around the world. Some programs may require you to appear on campus occasionally, usually annually or once a semester, but for the most part you can study and attend class from anywhere you want.

  2. Study Anytime

    Most online graduate programs are asynchronous. This means you can attend class and study whenever it's convenient: before breakfast, during your lunch hour, or after the kids have gone to bed. While finding time is never simple, online learning eliminates the need to commute or be on campus and lets you study when it's convenient for you.

  3. Flexibility

    Online graduate programs are often flexible. Many are designed for students to attend part-time or full-time. You can take one or two courses at a time - whatever works best for you.


While generally a good value, higher education is not inexpensive. But there are ways to manage the cost.

Some employers will contribute to or pay for graduate education, especially if you're trying to advance in the same field. Check with your boss or Human Resources Office to see what your company offers.

Also, just like undergraduate programs, many graduate programs offer scholarships and financial aid. UNCG also offers a tuition payment plan to spread payments over a longer period of time.

Keep in mind public institutions like state universities generally offer the highest quality education at the most reasonable price. Be sure to investigate those before looking at private or for-profit colleges and universities.

And just in case you need a reminder why graduate school can be a good thing - check out our blog Why Go To Graduate School.


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