The Pros and Cons of Attending Graduate School at your Undergraduate College

I went to the same school for both my BA in English and my MFA in creative writing. My experience in the undergraduate program and the graduate program were different from one another. I felt like more anonymous in the undergraduate program, having transferred into my junior and senior years from a community college. Unlike the typical college experience, I did not cultivate many friends. My graduate program, however, did result in meeting many new people. Given that, here are my pro’s and con’s about going to the place for BA & MA/PhD.

Close to home, family, or career. Being close to family is one reason. For others, a career or a steady job that sustains them is motivation. Some teachers in a given city, for example, are graduates of the local university and they return to the school to get their MA or PhD in order to upgrade their job status and pay. Others many need a reliable income that isn’t provided by the TA, tutoring, and assistantships available to graduate students.

Who you know. Some professors are influential in their respective programs, and having them get to know a student’s work as an undergraduate can lead to a very strong recommendation. These professors do provide support to prospective graduate students they would like to see in the program. Here, networking is key. Plus, knowing other professors enables one to put together the thesis committee early on. Having familiarity with a student’s work, these faculty members can be effective guides and mentors.

Campus policies and geography. The university’s double alum to be may have to learn a few new ones, but they learned many of the college’s policies as an undergraduate. This helps them adjust to a new graduate career with ease ,while their peers from other universities have to learn everything all at once. Plus, knowing where the library and other campus facilities saves time for the student with the home field advantage to focus on their studies.

Having only one university transcript. When a prospective employer requests college transcripts, one is only needed, saving the trouble of having to make multiple requests.

Missed experience of new places. The going to another university for graduate studies offers new experiences. A new location, a new culture, and new people all around are things that someone who attends their alma mater misses out on. While one may not be near family, that’s what phones and e-mail are for. The opportunity to start anew is not available to the graduate student unless their major is in a different department from their undergrad. However, migrating to another department on the same university is not the same as migrating to another university.

Who you know. There are a few problems here. Networking with influential professors can be nepotistic. It reeks of crony-ism and the price the student pays is wondering if their merits were enough to get into another university’s program. Plus, the professor’s know a student’s history on a very personal level, both good and bad. The prejudices a professor had of someone’s undergraduate education can carry over into that student’s graduate career. Favoritism, negative bias, or disappointment are some of the things that can result from a grad student being too intimately acquainted with the faculty from their college years.

Missed opportunity to learn. Learning new policies and campus geography is part of the experience. Learning these things helps one adjust to new environments in the future, such as new workplaces, towns, and homes.

Less interesting history. While a single transcript has the advantage of ease, having several degree transcripts shows a better rounded history and paints a more interesting picture of the graduate. Who seems more adaptable? A candidate with a single transcript or one who has two or three?