Grad School: The Higher Ed Vocational School

As a last-minute decision last year, I decided to pursue my MBA with graduate school at Loyola. I wasn’t confident in my decision at the time, but I also didn’t have much of a backup plan since I wasn’t getting hired anywhere. I didn’t have to take the GMAT because of my GPA, so I thought, “why not?”

In one of my early classes, a professor had said that graduate school, especially business school, was a vocational school. At the time, I thought this was bullshit because I thought I had learned so much in undergrad. As a marketing major and now a marketing concentration, I thought my education that far was sufficient since many of my classes overlapped.

Now that I am two weeks from graduating with my MBA (ahhh!), I realize how correct she was. Sure, I had learned a lot of principles and theories in undergrad and I had also learned crucial critical thinking skills, but I wasn’t able to put them into practice until grad school. All of these skills I had learned were now being applied to realistic situations. I most realized this when I began the interview process and was using more tangible examples from my course load than from my internships.

I had hated group projects in undergrad because I always felt like I was pulling the majority of the workload and because they felt like busy work. In grad school, everyone was committed (if not over-committed) and we often used real Chicago businesses for our projects. I felt like I was doing meaningful work, and it made me more excited to pursue projects professionally.

In undergrad, I knew I wanted to pursue digital marketing, but I had no idea what that meant. Social media? Digital ad placement? I knew the realm I wanted to pursue, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. After completing projects like a digital marketing audit for W.E. O’Neil and multiple business plans, I had a better idea of what I actually wanted to do.

Grad school may not have been vocational school in the traditional sense, but it was the best way for me to decide how I actually wanted to begin my career, build relevant experience, and network with other hard-working classmates from a variety of fields.

A year ago, I had questioned if grad school would be worth the immense student loans. I joked that it would be worth it if I got a well-paid job out of it. So far, the job hunt is still in full-force (let me know if you hear of anything!), but I can definitely say grad school was worth it. It’s more than having an MBA on my resume, but my experience with Quinlan this past year has been the most transformative of all five years at Loyola. I am eternally grateful to be a Loyola alum, and I am so excited for the future.

++ Mary K

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