Pros & Cons of Grad School at Your Undergrad Institution

May 5, 2021

The decision to pursue a graduate-level education can be daunting. You need to consider the research you wish to conduct, the mentor who will guide you and the location that will be your home for the next few years. What if all of these considerations lead you to strongly consider pursuing your graduate studies at the same institution where you got your undergraduate education? As someone who chose this route, I have been asked by many current and prospective students about the pros and cons. Here are some things to consider.

Pro: You Already Have Connections

An immediate benefit is that you are likely already familiar with the faculty and staff at this institution. You may know the specialized areas of expertise for each faculty member and can use this knowledge when seeking assistance with your project or deciding who to put on your committee. There will be less time spent getting to know who is in your department, allowing you to spend more time addressing the other challenges of graduate school. 

Con: Less Opportunity To Make New Connections

A downside to already having established connections is that you won’t get the immediate opportunity to work with a whole array of fascinating new professors and researchers in your chosen field at another institution. Some of your graduate classes may also be taught by the same professors who taught your undergraduate classes. Diversifying your connections and instructors is important for getting a more holistic education and establishing future career opportunities. 

Pro: Familiarity With the Area

You already know that you like the city/town where your graduate school is located. You are comfortable and have thrived in this location during your undergraduate education. This familiarity with your location may also save you from the headaches of searching for the ideal housing situation, gym or places to enjoy your favorite leisure activities. Plus, you already have a support system of friends and maybe family that can help you through the stresses of graduate school.  

Con: Limited Exposure To How Other Schools/Departments Are Run

You may be comfortable with the way your school/department is run, but this limited exposure may not prepare you for future supervisors and coworkers who run things differently. By diversifying your education into different schools and departments, you can experience the negatives and positives of each and determine which environment is really best for you. This comes in handy if you are interested in applying for academic jobs in the future.

Pro: Easier To Finish Your Undergraduate Research

Continuing your education in close proximity or even in the same lab you worked in during undergraduate may provide you the opportunity to finish and publish that research. Undergraduate research projects are sometimes forgotten or handed down to other students when the undergraduate researcher leaves an institution. Finishing this research with a few more months of work as you start off graduate school can be an enriching experience and prepares you for the scientific publication process you will endure in the latter half of your graduate education.

Con: May Be More Difficult To Adapt To the Workload of Graduate School

You may find it more difficult to adjust to the heavier workload and longer lab days of graduate school if everything else from your undergraduate studies appears virtually unchanged. You found out what worked best during undergraduate, but now that’s going to have to be adjusted to account for the increased difficulty and workload of graduate school.

This list is not conclusive and is based predominantly on my personal experiences. Others may have different experiences after making this choice. The decision to attend graduate school is a personal one, and only you ultimately know what’s best for your education and future. 
The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students offers webinars for trainees on the graduate school experience. Watch recordings on putting your best foot forward in graduate school interviews and personal statement preparations.
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Author: Anthony Bonacolta

Anthony Bonacolta
Anthony Bonacolta is a second year Ph.D. student in the Marine Biology and Ecology Program at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.