It’s been about three weeks and I still can’t get over it:
I’m done with grad school. I’ve officially graduated.
Obviously, graduation is the goal for all who are accepted into grad school, but it feels so far away on the first day of classes.
Two years and six straight semesters later, I can finally say I’m done.
Looking back on the past two years, I can say I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry, but I don’t know everything. I’m still reading articles on Scholarly Kitchen and looking at Retraction Watch, as well as trying to keep up to date with bestseller lists to identify trends and observe marketing techniques. Besides, the Internet and digital publishing has changed the way the industry works and with each innovative app or enhancement, the products offered change with it. (More on that another time.)
Working Full Time
If there’s anything else I’ve learned these past two years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I did my entire graduate program online while working full-time. I wish I could say it’s as easy as it sounds, but it’s definitely not for someone who isn’t serious about putting in the time and effort.
I was working downtown for five of my six semesters, which meant waking up at 5:30 a.m., taking a 6:30 a.m. train downtown, work until 5 p.m., hop on a train and get home at 6:30 p.m., eat, watch lectures, read textbooks or assigned readings, do homework, and finally sleep (generally around midnight, sometimes 1 a.m.).
I’m not complaining or boasting; it’s just the way my schedule was. I learned how to prioritize, so I’m definitely not that same procrastinator that I was during undergrad.
If you had told me eight years ago I would be earning my master’s degree while working full-time, I’d tell you there’s no way I would do that. Making it to 9 a.m. classes was already pushing it back then.
Tips for Success
It’s easy to over-think, worry and doubt yourself when you’re about to embark on a new routine, especially when higher education is involved. However, there are a few things I did that helped me get through grad schools with significantly less stress.
- Stay open-minded. The reason you’re even pursuing a degree is to expand your knowledge, so why limit yourself with preconceived ideas on what you know about the subject or profession. You’re there for a reason, so stay as open-minded you can about your coursework, your classmates and your ability to balance work, school and life.
- Prioritize. What’s more important? Going out on a Friday night or finishing up watching a lecture or outlining your assignment due the next day (or Sunday, or Monday)? There will be times where you’ll need to sacrifice either Friday or Saturday (or both) to finish your coursework for the week. The benefit for online education is that you set the pace (to an extent); you’re not stuck in a dimly lit classroom for three hours once a week. If it so happens lectures and assignments have piled to the weekend… all I can say is ¯_(ツ)_/¯. It’s not the best situation to be in, but this is where sacrifices have to be made.
- Schedule yourself. And I don’t mean have an appointment book marked with a strict schedule: 6 p.m. – Dinner; 6:45 p.m. – Watch lecture for x course; 8:15 p.m. – Read for x course, etc. Unless those types of schedules work for you, I suggest scheduling your week out by what needs to be completed each day. For example: Monday – Watch all 3 lectures for x course; Tuesday – Watch both lectures for y course. Wednesday: Makeup day for any straggling course lectures not completed on Monday or Tuesday. Thursday: Read for x course (or both courses, if possible). Friday: Homework for y course due at 6 p.m. Schedules will vary semester to semester depending on when assignment due dates fall, but working with a more “general” schedule will help you keep to it more (at least in my case) rather than a strict, hourly schedule.
- Do something else. You don’t have to sacrifice all your free time to school. Yes, you’ll need to sacrifice a Friday or Saturday night every once in a while, but it’s important you do something else as well to stimulate your brain. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a rut and you won’t be able to concentrate. Read something other than textbooks or journal articles, watch movies, exercise, take up a crafty hobby: Find something that will get those creative juices flowing.
- Realize it’s okay to be stressed sometimes. With two classes a semester, you’d think it’d be easy. If I could handle five classes a semester during undergrad, two classes a semester is a piece of cake, right? Don’t underestimate the level of difficulty or dedication needed for your courses, but most importantly, it’s okay to feel stressed at times. I had at least one panic attack each semester, but I had to remember to take a deep breath, step back, prioritize assignments, and work on things one step at a time.
Anyone else have advice that they wish they had before starting a program (online or not)? Any advice you’d like to pass on to fellow students and peers?