It is now the middle of April and final exams are in sight. In a mere 30 days I will be one summer session away from finishing my degree. With the end now clearly on the horizon, I am well placed to properly weigh all of the decisions I made this year and identify where I went wrong and what I would do again. Some developments were unforseen. Some things I should have taken more seriously. My list is below.
1) Course load: I went out of my way to torture myself this year by maxing out with 15 credits (five classes) in both the fall and spring semesters. Sure, I was not the only person to do this, and I certainly have heard horror stories about classmates who have loaded up with even more, but, the point is, I could have easily gotten through the program taking only four classes in the fall and spring and then doubling up on my classes this summer. It simply wasn’t necessary for me to take so many classes at one time.
My advice for the incoming class: If you don’t absolutely have to do it, don’t take more than 12 credits in the fall and spring. Your GPA will thank you for it.
2) Plan your schedule well: I was pretty laissez-faire in terms of how I went about scheduling my classes. My philosophy was: “I have to take everything anyway, who cares what order I take my classes in?” Wrong. If you plan on recruiting in the fall, it is important to fill your fall semester with lighter classes. (If you think you will not recruit in the fall, trust me, you will. You just don’t know it yet.) Make sure you sit down with MPA Academic Advisors Kathy Saqer and Jason Tasset and get your fall semester planned correctly. Otherwise, be prepared to perform at 8 a.m. interviews on only two hours of sleep.
3) Location: It is absolutely impossible for me to study at home. Impossible. It is just too easy to distract myself in the kitchen or with the computer…I really need the library to function. It follows that I would have been better off living even closer to UT and its 13 libraries. I say “even closer” because I live pretty close to campus now, just 2 1/2 miles away. But, I live just far enough away that I cannot drop by the library after dinner. Despite the cost, it would have been worth it for me to live within a mile of campus.
My advice for the incoming class: If you have trouble focusing at home, live as close to school as your budget will allow. It will make a big difference in your productivity.
4) Preparation: My finance class was a real trial. If I knew in advance that I would have so much trouble with it, I certainly would have prepared for it–perhaps taken some kind of online review–before classes began.
My advice for the incoming class: If you have to take a beginning finance class here, it is in your best interest to get a handle on the basics before you arrive at UT–IRR, discounted cash flows, WACC–know it before you arrive.