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Beyond the Van Wickle gates: Students share views on grad school

Students reflect on grad school plans, pressures to pursue post-grad education

Within 10 years of graduation, 80 percent of Brown students will have pursued some form of graduate school or professional study.

The Herald spoke to five undergraduate students about whether they plan to attain a graduate degree. While some students said that they plan to attend graduate school immediately after graduation, others hope to wait a few years before doing so.

“For the kinds of jobs that I would want down the line, law school or a (Masters of Public Policy) would make it a lot more feasible for me to advance to the level that I'd want to,” said Rebecca Blumenthal ’25, who plans to attend graduate school but has not decided when or for what kind of program

Similarly, Michelle Zemlyak ’24 said that her plan to attend medical school will allow her to reach her professional goals. Graduate school, she said, “is a chance to actually be able to apply my knowledge more and get closer to a career that I actually want to have.”


But Zemlyak added she still had to decide whether graduate school would be a worthy investment. “Graduate school is more time and more money, aside from already these four years at Brown,” she said. 

Anna Brent-Levenstein ’25 said while she is confident she will apply to law school, she is curious about other graduate school options after taking history and sociology courses at Brown.

“Ultimately, I think that the classes that I've had on the law are still the most interesting to me (and have) reoriented me back towards law school,” Brent-Levenstein said.

Adam Lalani ’26 wrote in a message to The Herald that he has “no idea” if he wants to attend graduate school but would like to gain “experience (in his) industry before going.”

Dena Salliey ’24 said her experiences at Brown made her “more aware of the graduate school path (she) want(s) to take” but also wished her desired program path had “been made more clear at the beginning” of her studies. 

“I feel more confident in what I want to study and when I want to study for graduate school but it’s slightly different than what I thought I would do when I first got” to Brown, Salliey noted. “I think I would have made some different decisions if I had known that my graduate school plans weren’t possible in (the University’s) undergraduate setup.”

The students also reflected on whether there is pressure at Brown to continue one’s education.

Blumenthal said that she speaks with friends about graduate school often. “In junior year, we’re starting to think about the future,” she said. “It definitely is a much more prevalent conversation topic than I’m used to,” she said.

According to Brent-Levenstein, graduate school can seem a necessity to achieve career goals in the humanities for many, leading to competition. “There’s just a lot of fearmongering about how, if you were to apply to jobs with just an undergraduate English or history degree, you wouldn't get them,” she said.

Zemlyak said that she discusses graduate programs with friends in a non-competitive manner. “I don’t think there’s a pressure,” she said.


Lalani felt similarly, writing that there is “not really” a pressure to apply to graduate school among his friends. “Med school is often a topic of discussion among premed friends but, aside from that, (there is) not really” discussion of graduate school, he added.

But Lalani noted that “the academic freedom of Brown let (him) explore other career paths that don’t necessarily require grad school.”

Salliey added that she decided to take an extra year before applying to graduate school after discussing post-graduate plans with friends. 

“It felt less isolating knowing that other people were delaying their graduate studies or doing different things or even just applying later than they initially planned,” she said. 

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While navigating the application process for graduate programs can be stressful, Zemlyak said that she has leaned on her peers for support. 

“We are just trying to use each other as a sounding board,” she said.

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