Why Tuition Reimbursement Might Not Be a Good Thing

Thank God for good makeup and that little trick where you apply a light pink pencil in the corners of your eyes to make it look like you are more awake than you actually are.

After what will be 5 long years of postgraduate pursuits, I’m worried about more than concealing the dark circles that have become permanent fixtures around my eyes. After all of this time, effort, lost sleep, and money spent – will there even be an ROI?

I’m not so sure.

Either way, I’m still glad that I didn’t have an employer footing the bill because the graduate experience isn’t the same for those who pay themselves vs. those who have an employer picking up the tab. After all, when you pay for your education, you are doing something for yourself. When your employer pays for your education, you are doing something for work.

A few unexpected downfalls of allowing your employer to buy that very pricey piece of paper:

  • Believing that grad school is an answer to a question. Gen Y is no stranger to the quarterlife crisis, and it is so tempting to think that going back to school is a sound solution to cope with career frustrations. I would know, that’s why I went. Eventually, I found my way but I also found out that my double masters degree isn’t necessary to achieve my goals. Go to grad school when you find out what you want to do, not when you are trying to figure out what you want to do. Only then, can you have enough facts to determine if it really makes sense. Even if you don’t pay anything out-of-pocket, is it the most strategic use of your time?
  • Mistaking a tuition check for investment in your future. Ahh…what a great selling point to recruit you to an organization: “We invest in the future of our employees.” Whatever.  If an employer really cares about your future success, they will take an active role in your day-to-day professional development. They will take the time out of their busy day to coach you, mentor you, include you, and empower you. To me, that carries more weight than a tuition check.
  • Overestimating the classroom’s contribution to individual growth and development. When I was in college, I loved my accounting classes and got really good grades. Does that mean that I should have pursued a career in accounting? Absolutely not. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I loved accounting because it was easy and I could get my homework done quickly and go back to focusing on sororityland. I loved being involved in my sorority because I got to use my creativity (my first marketing job was when I was the recruitment chair) and try my hand at leadership. This is that often held debate about what matters more – experience or education. Having had a bit of both, I have to lean toward experience because that is where I’ve learned what I’m good at, what I’m horribly bad at (anything administrative is a disaster), and where I thrive. Understanding your unique contribution is the key to pursing growth and development.

Photo Credit: Mathpiourde

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