Not long ago I posted about where I could be one year from now/how up in the air the possibilities were. Recently a crazy idea has crept into the back of my mind, and it is beginning to take shape - what if I went to Grad School? Now, there are a lot of reasons why this idea has popped into my head: Greg getting ready to take his GRE and researching Architecture Grad Schools, Josh recently getting accepted into MUSC for Med School, my Macromarketing professor emphasizing the decreasing value of a college education and recommending graduate school to all of us, going to the Career Fair and only seeing entry level sales jobs or management trainee programs, increasing doubt about pursuing Sports Marketing as a career. There are most likely even more reasons I could list off if I really dove into it. As I've mentioned, I've enjoyed and had success in my statistics courses and have considered Market Research as an alternative if Sports Marketing does not work out.
Perhaps it's natural to have cold feet about my path, and it's certainly not the first time I've considered a change or come up with some crazy scheme of what I could do with my life - switching majors to Psychology and interning/studying abroad in Germany during my senior year come to mind. In reality, I came to Clemson as a Management major (I had applied to schools thinking Business Administration in high school), without a real thorough idea of what I wanted to do. It became quickly clear to me that Management was not the way to go - I went through the Pre-Business class Business 101 searching for answers. It finally came on the last day of class: one speaker on the panel was talking to us about his career in Sports Marketing. I don't recall his name, his actual job title, or even who he worked with. I just remember being enthralled with the idea.
I have always loved sports, and here I was pursuing a business degree at a school that offered a business degree related to sports. As a freshmen, it was easy to fantasize about what could be - as a senior, it has become a lot less idealistic. In all actuality, my degree will be in Marketing, with a specialization in Sports Marketing. I could walk into my adviser's office tomorrow and change to Services Marketing, and it would not change my curriculum one bit. I've taken all the required classes for a general marketing degree plus Sports Marketing, and it's been up to me to choose the additional support courses. There are only four Marketing specializations, and Sports Marketing is overwhelmingly the most popular. A lot of people love sports, but how many jobs are realistically out there? How many others have the same vision I had, just within my own school, and what have I done to set myself apart from them? Obviously I've taken all the sports related marketing classes that are offered, but I've also tried to pursue a well-rounded array of marketing/business classes as well. You know, "just in case."
Well, "just in case" is quickly setting in. My biggest fear is sending out a million interviews to highly competitive sports marketing jobs, sitting on a desk ignored without an interview, and reluctantly accepting a job in another area of marketing (read: entry level sales) that I dread, but become deadlocked into for a career. I also fear, to a lesser extent, tainting one of the most influential and important interests I have. I've already noticed when I go to a sporting event or watch on TV that my perception has changed - I pay attention to the sponsors, think about the process of selling/maintaining those sponsorships, observe the management of the game or pre-game events. Sports has always been a separation from reality, something that I could always rely on to take my mind from the mundane. By making this my work, would I lose this magical connection? Would I go to a game and think only in terms of ROI, activation costs, branding, signage, mid-inning PA announcements and who this replay was "brought to you by" instead of enjoying the game, the pageantry, the athletes, and the competition? Perhaps the first option wouldn't be so bad, if I could always retreat back to sports to take me away to my real passion: being a fan.
I posed a hypothetical question to Greg - "What if I just up and decided to go to grad school?" - and poked around a little bit about different programs. It was an intriguing idea, but one I figured was being considered way too late in my college career. After all, I would have to study for and then subsequently take the GRE, get my personal statement together, fill out applications, wait, make a decision, and be ready to go for more years of school. Today in the library, however, I decided to sit down and actually do some legitimate research on the idea. The information was actually really helpful, and I've opened it up as a legitimate possibility. I'm actually not in any crunch for application deadlines for a few programs that looked enticing. I'm looking at a one year MS in Marketing Research program, and there are a couple backed by the Marketing Research Association. The two most intriguing as of now are Michigan State and Georgia. I want to find out more about Texas at Arlington and keep searching for a few more. Wisconsin had a very cool looking program named for A.C. Nielsen of the Nielsen Ratings, but it was an MBA with a Specialization in Marketing Research - they were looking for candidates with at least two years professional experience, it was a lot more expensive, and an MBA is not what I foresee myself pursuing.
Michigan State seems like the most viable option as of now. The program only accepts candidates starting with the Spring Semester, so after I graduate I would have about 9 months to work a part-time job/do an internship and still have plenty of time to take the GRE or GMAT and apply before Spring 2014. I would be able to stay in Michigan and get in-state tuition. It would finally push me to pick a side in the Wolverines/Spartans rivalry. At the end of the coursework, there is a paid internship to help break into the field with the corporate partners or Marketing Research Firms that MSU pairs with. It all seems like a well respected program, and more or less what I am looking for.
One time freshmen year, Greg brought me over to Ryan Newman's place right before Christmas Break for a little post-Thanksgiving leftover feast. I met one of Ryan's friends who had recently graduated and went to UGA for I believe Law. When he found out I was a marketing major, he wanted to talk to me about a new program they had recently started in Marketing Research. I tried to explain that I was actually going to be a Sports Marketing major, and I wasn't really interested in going to grad school for research. Ha ha. Ha. Well, here I am. Although it is a relatively new program, Georgia has partnered with Coca-Cola through their Business School given the proximity to the headquarters in Atlanta. How cool would it be to get a degree with a foot in the door to my favorite beverage company and their consumer research department? Obviously a lot would need to fall into place first. They actually start their one year program in the Summer, so I would have until mid-February to apply for June 2013 entry. That would leave me just enough time to move out of Clemson, stop home for a little bit, but really jump right back into schoolwork. It appears to be a highly competitive program (but what school is going to promote that they are easy to get into?), and it really would not leave me any room to at least test the waters of the job market. Also, continued out-of-state tuition...although they list it around $11,000/semester and under $1,000 per credit hour. I'm not too familiar with the going rates for grad school tuition, and there are always opportunities to combat those with fellowships, financial aid, grants, etc. It would be a quick turnaround, but it's not too late for me to start the process like I kind of figured it may be by October of my senior year.
I'll definitely have to look into it more. It is by no means a for sure decision. To some extent, I think I may just be delaying entering the job market with more schooling, which is not what I want to do. However, if I'm going to change my career path, this is a fairly seamless way to do it. Graduate from Clemson with a Marketing degree that could get me into a Market Research program, possibly attempt a sports marketing related internship in my gap time/year off, and see where I am from there. A lot is on the line, but I still have some time to play with some different possibilities for my future.