The decision to come back for a master’s (or a PhD) isn’t an easy one. If you’re anything like me, the prospect of at least another year of lectures, homework, and all-nighters seems daunting, especially if you’ve been away from school for long. Now that I’ve gotten a full semester under my belt, I thought I would share how my tMPA classmates and I have made the transition easier.
1. Relearn – or learn – decent study habits.
Now is the time to really figure out what works for you, rather than just showing up to class. Get analytical about it, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Sometimes the key to understanding difficult material is as simple as doing the reading after class instead of before, or hand writing notes rather than typing them.
2. Don’t forget downtime.
The type of schedule that school demands is grueling compared to a 9-5 job. Not only is it irregular, but you take a lot of your work home. If you don’t make some sort of relaxation a priority, it’s easy to wear yourself out within the first month. I make a point of getting a massage once a month and keeping up with my recreational reading to get my mind off of class work.
3. Respect the difficulty of graduate coursework.
It bears repeating, over and over, that graduate level coursework is totally different than the vast majority of undergraduate coursework, and is taught differently. Your finely honed memorization and recitation skills aren’t going to be nearly as helpful as they used to be, since topics quickly become very conceptual.
4. Don’t obsess about your grades.
Everyone is here for slightly different reasons and has different goals. Some people are going to need a perfect 4.0 for their dream career, but others won’t, so don’t waste energy comparing yourself needlessly.
5. Bring all of your life experiences to the table.
You have a unique advantage as a graduate student – you’ve already been an undergraduate student. Make sure you take full advantage of the variety of unique opportunities to shine that this gives you. Expertise that you developed during your bachelor’s degree, during your jobs, or just in general can be applied if you are diligent about looking for opportunities to do so.