Time Management Isn’t a Course, But You’ll Learn It Anyway

So I went into this semester thinking my life would be less hectic than the fall…I was wrong.

I thought running a 1/2 was a good idea...when I signed up in June.
October: I thought running a 1/2 was a good idea…when I signed up in June.

Quick recap of the fall: I was in 4.5 classes (lyceum was once a week with very little work involved beyond going to class) and was recruiting. I also ran a half marathon and had pneumonia (yes…at the same time); took the whole week of Thanksgiving off to attend a wedding in Key West,  then passed through on Austin on my way to Denver to see the Broncos beat the Patriots in OT. So…I was a little busy!

I can't lie, spending a week in South Florida was an amazing way to relax before the homestretch.
November: I can’t lie, spending a week in South Florida was an amazing way to relax before the homestretch.
Later that same week. It was 16 degrees during the game, but given the result I was ok with it!
November: Later that same week: it was 16 degrees during the game, but given the result I was ok with it!

I assumed that this semester would be lighter-5 classes, but no recruiting, no racing beyond a 10K in April, and no skipping school for personal obligations. HA! I didn’t consider that my course load would involve group projects in 4/5 classes, with tests in some, plus individual homework and projects.

Some days, this is me
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

I no longer get to spend my Fridays at home sleeping in and doing homework in sweatpants, which I miss terribly. Instead I’m up early every day of the week (including weekends) trying to get my work done and pull my fair share in projects. For my own sanity and health I’ve also upped my days at the gym to at least 4/week, alternating between weights, swimming, and running.

While I am extremely busy, I don’t see this ending anytime soon. Students are drawn to UT’s MPA program because it gets you to your goals faster, whether that’s a FT job offer, CPA eligibility, or a chance at a new career.

This.
Future?

This is, logistically, one of the busiest times in my life, but I am going to leave McCombs knowing myself better and how to make the best of any future work or personal situation…and if I’m not sure, well-I’ve been taught how to learn and question by the best…so I think everything’s going to be fine :)

Courses by Semester

Fall 2015: Finance, Managerial, Intermediate, Audit, Lyceum

Spring 2016: FSA, Management Audit (Internal Auditing), Strategic Controls, Business Law, ITAC

It Depends…

For many of us in the traditional MPA program, our lives have changed drastically in the past few months. Exiting the workforce, entering grad school, trying to get offers to re-enter the workforce, maintaining a life (with some of us fairing better than others), and balancing shifting priorities.

I came into this program with my ideas of what grad school, accounting, and being an accountant all meant. Most of my preconceived notions have been shattered.

The Beginning of the Journey
The Beginning of the Journey

Grad School
I’m not sure what I really thought grad school would be like, but it’s hard. Like, really hard. It strains your patience, brain capacity, and time management skills. But it’s also amazing. I’m learning so much, often about things that I never questioned or thought would be of interest to me. I’m also finding unique intersections between my communications background and accounting.

Accounting
Taking introductory accounting courses in a low pressure environment made accounting seem easy. Shocker-it’s not. There’s such a steep learning curve here, especially since I don’t have an accounting background that I sometimes want to cry.

Being An Accountant
I came in thinking that numbers are everything. And they are, but only when paired with professional judgement. We constantly hear the phrase

“It depends”

and it’s so true. Nothing is black and white, and if someone tells you it is, as one of my professor’s says, “Run away!”

So before committing to this program or this profession, do a self-assessment. Do you want to be challenged? Can you handle tears, both your own and your classmates? Do you want to learn everyday? Do you want to apply what you learn in one class to all your others, and the real world?

Burnt Orange Everything
Burnt Orange Everything

As always if anyone is considering our program please reach out to myself, or another MPA Student Ambassador. We love this program, and want to help you figure out if it’s the right fit for you!

 

MPA Educated Eats is more than just a sandwich…

MPA-Educated-Eats-1efeea0-300x300

Besides a Jason’s Deli Sandwich, there is also a cookie, a bottle of water, and a pickle… AND a professor who is open for conversation! I attended seven Educated Eats events during summer and fall of 2015, talking with both professors and peers who I knew from classes or who I met for the first time. My experience is exactly like the description on the MPA site: “a series of lunches and cookie breaks hosted by faculty and staff. These meetups provide an opportunity for students to interact with faculty and staff in a small-group setting and engage on a variety of topics.”

A few highlights from my lunches:

Professor Singer, who had years of experience in International tax and Mergers and Acquisition tax, talked about an interesting court case about whether a pre-born child can be claimed as a dependent, since “person” is not defined in the primary tax sources. He also gave valuable career suggestions based on our individual backgrounds. For instance, my biochemistry degree may offer me an edge in dealing with tax issues related to biotechnology companies.

Professor Holbrook, who worked in various professional settings- small, medium and large accounting firms and investment banking, among others, listened to questions from students and offered her opinion on what to consider when choosing between the tracks of audit or tax, as well as the differences between accounting firms of different sizes.

UT MPA faculty are leaders in the accounting research arena and are experts in business fields. On top of that, they care your success and are generous with their time. Do not miss the opportunity to interact them in a small group setting.

In summary, MPA Educated Eats offers:

  • Free lunch (which is always nice)
  • The opportunity to learn the stories of your professors, hear their advice, and let them get to know you
  • The chance to meet your peers in the program

To give you an idea who is usually hosting lunch and what topics are discussed, here is the schedule for spring 2016. I am looking forward to MPA Educated Eats this semester!

10 Rules of Good Studying— by Dr. Oakley

Scoring below average led me to search for new study methods

Over the last semester, I have been very impressed by the quality of my peers in the MPA program. More impressively, they are not only competitive but also collaborative. One of the UT MPA alumni, Jaanki Jeevan, summarized it nicely,

“I think UT Austin’s MPA program attracts some of the best minds from around the world, which automatically leads to healthy competition.”

Even though scoring below average on exams was painful, I benefited by adapting new study methods that expand my learning capacity.

Here are some methods I find particularly helpful. They are recommended by Dr. Barbara Oakley in her book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), Penguin, July, 2014. Dr. Oakley is one of the instructors of the Coursera online course Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjectsIf you have time, I strongly recommend you to check out this course, which offers exceptional study resources and interviews with some of the leading scientists and learners.

  1. Use recall. After you read a page, look away and recall the main ideas. Highlight very little, and never highlight anything you haven’t put in your mind first by recalling. Try recalling main ideas when you are walking to class or in a different room from where you originally learned it. An ability to recall—to generate the ideas from inside yourself—is one of the key indicators of good learning.
  2. Test yourself. On everything. All the time. Flash cards are your friend.
  3. Chunk your problems. Chunking is understanding and practicing with a problem solution so that it can all come to mind in a flash. After you solve a problem, rehearse it. Make sure you can solve it cold—every step. Pretend it’s a song and learn to play it over and over again in your mind, so the information combines into one smooth chunk you can pull up whenever you want.
  4. Space your repetition. Spread out your learning in any subject a little every day, just like an athlete. Your brain is like a muscle—it can handle only a limited amount of exercise on one subject at a time.
  5. Alternate different problem-solving techniques during your practice. Never practice too long at any one session using only one problem-solving technique—after a while, you are just mimicking what you did on the previous problem. Mix it up and work on different types of problems. This teaches you both how and when to use a technique. (Books generally are not set up this way, so you’ll need to do this on your own.) After every assignment and test, go over your errors, make sure you understand why you made them, and then rework your solutions. To study most effectively, handwrite (don’t type) a problem on one side of a flash card and the solution on the other. (Handwriting builds stronger neural structures in memory than typing.) You might also photograph the card if you want to load it into a study app on your smartphone. Quiz yourself randomly on different types of problems. Another way to do this is to randomly flip through your book, pick out a problem, and see whether you can solve it cold.
  6. Take breaks. It is common to be unable to solve problems or figure out concepts in math or science the first time you encounter them. This is why a little study every day is much better than a lot of studying all at once. When you get frustrated with a math or science problem, take a break so that another part of your mind can take over and work in the background.
  7. Use explanatory questioning and simple analogies. Whenever you are struggling with a concept, think to yourself, How can I explain this so that a ten-year-old could understand it? Using an analogy really helps, like saying that the flow of electricity is like the flow of water. Don’t just think your explanation—say it out loud or put it in writing. The additional effort of speaking and writing allows you to more deeply encode (that is, convert into neural memory structures) what you are learning.
  8. Turn off all interrupting beeps and alarms on your phone and computer, and then turn on a timer for twenty-five minutes. Focus intently for those twenty-five minutes and try to work as diligently as you can. After the timer goes off, give yourself a small, fun reward. A few of these sessions in a day can really move your studies forward. Try to set up times and places where studying—not glancing at your computer or phone—is just something you naturally do.
  9. Eat your frogs first. Do the hardest thing earliest in the day, when you are fresh.
  10. Make a mental contrast. Imagine where you’ve come from and contrast that with the dream of where your studies will take you. Post a picture or words in your workspace to remind you of your dream. Look at that when you find your motivation lagging. This work will pay off both for you and those you love!

Thanks for reading!

Why Accounting is the BEST Major Ever

While many of us experience frustration that comes along with pursuing your MPA, we often disregard the prospects that the major provide to its graduates. Below are some of the benefits I believe only accounting majors have the privilege of enjoying:

  • High Demand in the Workforce – whether you are planning on working in public accounting (Big 4 or otherwise) or industry accounting, there are limitless opportunities in the workforce for accounting graduates.
    • Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 4.24.41 PM
  • Wealth of Opportunities– have you ever wished you worked for Google or Apple? Accountants can easily attain job positions in the most selective companies after attaining just a few years of public accounting experience.
  • Flexibility in Concentrations – when people think of accounting, they always seem to think about debits and credits. However, the accounting major consists of many different concentrations/ tracks (as our program provides) to cater to all different preferences.
  • Reasonable and Stable Salary – while working in the accounting industry can have quite the crazy hours, the salaries that accountants receive for their services is pretty fair and stable. In addition, accountants often receive year-end and CPA bonuses that are not readily available for other jobs and majors.

“The grass is always greener on the other side”, is a statement that none of us can deny, especially during the toils and hardships of exams and projects. However, let’s remember that just being part of the best accounting program in the nation is nothing short of a blessing. Cheers!

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