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Plan B: Don’t put all your eggs in the grad school basket

Some crucial things to do as you begin the graduate school admissions process include searching for financial aid, and establishing a Plan B.

Plan B is the fallback plan; the plan you will implement if you find yourself unable to implement Plan A (going to grad school) for any reason—lack of school funding, being waitlisted but being unable or unwilling to wait, being denied admission, or changing your priorities. It's crucial to remember that if you can't go to grad school right at this moment, you can still pursue your future plans. You can explore other ways to get there—and these ways comprise your Plan B.

Types of Plan B

Plan B could be strictly career-related, such as continuing in your current position, if it's personally fulfilling, or meets your basic needs. Plan B may include seeking a new professional job or internship, or accepting a full-time service opportunity that will give you relevant experience in your field should you choose to apply to grad school again in the future.

Additionally, Plan B could be an alternative path to seeking the education you need if grad school falls through for the near future. For example, auditing courses, enrolling in a certificate program, or attending school full-time as a post-baccalaureate student. You can also consider these other alternatives to grad school.

In the end, if you are faced with implementing Plan B because you weren't admitted to grad school, you can also work on strengthening your application for next time as part of your educational Plan B. Many articles in this Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center focus on strengthening your application to graduate school. Please keep in mind that if you are denied admission the first time around, you should not give up the dream of going back to school later on. You may simply need to get more specific experience, earn better test scores, or find grad schools more aligned with your academic and career goals. Learn what the admissions committee perceived as weaknesses in your application, so you can overcome them next time around. Learn more about how to respond to denied admission.


Further reading


Finally, Plan B could be some other alternative that helps you get on with your life if grad school isn't in the cards for the immediate future—traveling for a while, volunteering or working overseas for several months, or devoting more time to a personal passion outside of your regular routine.

While it's challenging to plan for several outcomes at the same time, it may be a good idea to have a few different Plan Bs in mind, to make your transition easier if grad school doesn't pan out for any reason.

Tips for a good Plan B

As you make your plans for grad school, develop your Plan B simultaneously. To be effective, Plan B should be:

  • feasible—easy to implement;
  • fabulous—so that you can get excited about it; and ideally,
  • forward-looking—so that you can continue to further your career even if grad school doesn't work out for the coming year.

Conclusion and further resources

An enticing Plan B offers you many benefits. If your Plan B ends up being more exciting than going to grad school, you may want to think twice about investing in school right now. Also, as you talk to others about your future plans, you can share your grad school aspirations as well as your "other" plans—that way if grad school doesn't work out, you can save face by letting people know you opted to pursue Plan B.