Why 22-year-olds are going to grad school

In the next 10 years, more and more 22-year-old college graduates will enter graduate schools than ever before. The reason they will do this is two fold. 1) The delay of adolescence and 2) student loan debt.

The hard reality is that there are not enough jobs for 22-year-old college educated men and women in the current American economy. And there might not be for some years to come. So graduates with degree in hand will have to make other choices in lieu of going to work.

I believe attending graduate school will be the primary solution. Graduate school delays, or at least defers, payments to the student loan which will be essential if you’re not working with a sizable income.

Graduate school also allows for a continuing a pattern of life which is semi-grownup. Grad students still live in reduced-priced residential housing, eat Ramen noodles, and play intramural sports with their friends while working part-time jobs. They can still make time to go to the gym, grab a coffee before going to the library, catch a movie with some friends or play Halo all weekend. It is like college, but with more homework. Parents are still carrying some of the financial burden until age 25 with medical insurance leaving the graduate some freedom.

But it is not a full entrance into the workforce. This leads to the second reason 22-year-old college graduates will enter grad school: the delay of adolescence. Sociologists and educators have been noting this delay for years. A child enters adolescents at puberty, but the ending of adolescence into adulthood is getting later and later. Some have determined the period to end around 25 or 26 years old. Even others have moved it closer to 30 years of age.

Regardless of the biological age, the ending of adolescents usually arrives when either a full-time job with full-time financial responsibilities begins or the young adult gets married, which both are being put off later and later.

So colleges and graduate programs all over the United States, you better get ready. Programs that have been traditionally designed for adults-full-time working with full-time family responsibility-will now need to be modified to accommodate younger, 22-year-olds right-out of college who are not working full time with more free time, more flexibility in class scheduling, and a degree of less maturity and life experience.

I think it is going to change the academic market.

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One thought on “Why 22-year-olds are going to grad school

  1. Interesting thoughts, and unfortunately, probably true. The scary part is that these young adults will graduate from Grad school at 24 with an even larger mountain of debt and still no guaranteed job waiting for them.

    Do you think the proliferation of higher quality online grad programs will fuel this trend even further? For example, Colorado State University offers an online counterpart (www.csuglobal.edu) to their traditional campus that offers graduate programs.

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