Rams’ Rede: Peace Corps, grad school

Rams’ Rede,

I am graduating in a couple weeks and my family wants me to go to grad school. I was accepted to a few, and while at first the idea was intriguing, now it holds almost no interest for me. What I really want to do is join the Peace Corps, to which I’ve also been accepted behind my parents’ backs. What should I do?




Dear Graduate,

I can tell you that if you have already made up your mind that grad school holds no interest for you, it will be very hard to succeed. Attitude has a huge impact on everything, and if you have already decided that you’re going to hate it, then you will.

So the easy thing would be to just join the Peace Corps. Take a couple years and do what really calls to you. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

If you have student loans, you don’t get a pass just because you’re teaching English in a third-world country. Those payments are going to come due, and I can almost guarantee that your parents are going to be less-than-inclined to help if you’re not in grad school.

Sure, your parents will probably forgive you, eventually. Unfortunately, the debt collectors don’t want to hear it.

Before getting on the plane, be sure that you can afford to volunteer for a couple years.

Don’t get me wrong, I think what you’re doing is more than admirable. It is absolutely fantastic that you want to sacrifice your current way of life in order to help those less fortunate, and I am sorry that your parents aren’t as supportive.

That being said, they have a point as well. If you are academic enough to be accepted to, not one, but a “couple” grad schools, that is no minor feat. Congratulations to you for doing what hundreds of college grads are currently trying to do, and some with little success. Grad school is notoriously competitive, and it sounds like you have what it takes.


So, naturally, with your parents being who they are and doing their job in wanting what is best for you, it makes sense that they want you to go the academic route. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but the Peace Corps will be there in a couple years, too.

I don’t have an easy answer for you. I want to tell you to follow your dreams, and do what you want. You’re an adult after all, and can make your own decisions. I don’t want you to go to grad school because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. And, I really don’t want you to be miserable.

That being said, I understand where your parents are coming from. Parents notoriously want better for their children than what they have, and grad school will get you there. I am not saying that they are in the right for saying that continuing your education is the only way to go, but I understand. So don’t write them off just yet.

Take the time and consider grad school. Consider what that means for your future and your finances. Consider what you can do down the road if you do make the decision to continue academics. And, maybe, when you have your Ph.D., you can go into the Peace Corps and come back to whatever job offer you’d like.

But, like I said before, if you have already made up your mind about that, you’ll be miserable. And, if your mind is made up, then go and do what your heart is telling you. Because there is nothing worse than living your life for other people and what they want for you. You’re in your early twenties; this is the time to live the life you need to.

But, think it through, because you can be miserable if you don’t consider both options as well.