There are many reasons to attend graduate school. Personal fulfillment and intellectual curiosity certainly loom large, at least they did for me many years ago when I decided to pursue a PhD in history. But given the costs and myriad personal sacrifices, the bottom line seemingly has to be career development--more specifically, pursuing an advanced degree as a means of improving one's future work prospects in general and securing a specific job or opportunity in particular.
Inspired by this purpose, the savvy graduate student recognizes from the very outset of the academic experience that while it's important to excel academically such an end by itself is inadequate. Granted, one should strive to achieve high grades but such classroom-based accomplishments by themselves are no guarantee of future employment much less professional success. More importantly, a narrow focus on studying often precludes students from engaging in the kind of exploration and networking that's fundamental to securing work opportunities both throughout their academic experience (in the form of internships, classroom-based experiential learning activities, and the like) and afterwards (in terms of full-time jobs).
One of my former MBA students at the University of San Francisco artfully expressed this latter point: "Mitchell, I don't need to get an 'A' in accounting. I do need to network and build relationships that will help me secure a job when I graduate. In other words, there's a higher purpose here that studying and doing homework won't allow me to achieve."
So as you begin graduate school this fall, keep these sage sentiments in mind. Start today on your path to meaningful work by clarifying your interests and skills. Begin to communicate passionately about them by using social media and other tools. Attend relevant industry events. Most important, seek internships and other workplace experiences. In the end, the sum total of this effort--informed by the insight and information gained through your studies--will lead you in the direction you desire.