Balancing Act

09 January 2013

{My sad excuse for a work desk-- I'm still looking for ways to make it look enticing to work on}

I'll be heading back to school in a  few days and while I was considering reviewing my notes to refresh my memory of lessons that I've probably forgotten about already... I thought of writing down some tips that I could supply for those who wish to work on getting their Master's Degree while maintaining a full time job.

It was a few days before my birthday last year that I found out I was accepted in a Master's Degree Program in my Alma Mater. It wasn't easy to get in even though I'm an alumna. I had to get numerous requirements, pass an exam and a nerve-wracking interview. I was beyond thrilled when I received the E-mail that I had gotten in the program!

But a few weeks in my first semester in school, I was ready to go AWOL. Graduate school will require much patience and hard work and it will be a lot harder than in undergrad. Here are just some tips I've made for those who have plans to balance work and school.

I'm in a hurry! I'll take as much units as I can! I'm not getting any younger!
Not the best mindset to have on your first semester as a graduate student. In universities in the Philippines, 6 units is more than sufficient. 12 is overkill. Give yourself some time to adjust to the added workload that school will definitely bring. 

Plot your classes wisely.
I made this mistake in my first term where I only had six units (2 classes) which were separated by a day. My classes were from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm and the transit took an hour and a half to go to school from work, and 2 hours at least to get home. So you can just imagine how incredibly tired I was for that semester.

Also, one thing to consider when picking a university: its distance from your office or your house.

Time Management.
Even as a student way back in elementary I have been hearing about this-- and I did try to manage my time well. Well this term will be most applicable to you once you are in grad school. AND IT WON'T BE EASY to manage your time. 

While I was still adjusting to work load in the office and the added load from school, I would read just about anywhere in the office because there were too many readings piling up and I was strapped for time. Luckily for me, I was able to deal with all that and pass my first semester with pretty good grades!

Get acquainted with the Library.
If you did not do this when you were an undergrad, now is the time. Especially if you are studying in a university where resources for your papers will only be available at campus (MY DILEMMA)

{some books from my first semester in grad school}

Calm down.
You will get pretty overwhelmed with school work especially if you take a graduate school program (LIKE MINE) that will require a lot of reading materials-- sometimes you will also be required to read a whole book in a span of a week. I tried to do this-- which infuriated me and those around me. I was stressing my self too much and it resulted in me being crabby and those around me getting affected.

The trick is to SKIM, BROWSE, SKIM, BROWSE. Find the stuff that interest you and which you might think will come in handy in class lectures and read up on that bit. YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE READING MATERIALS... Which brings me to my next point...

Make your voice heard.
I take pride in graduating from a university that believes that education need not be one way wherein classes will entail a professor going on and on and on about topics at hand. Opinion of students are valued and sharing of ideas encouraged which makes classes interactive and far more effective. 

Well graduate school is kind of like that-- but on overdrive. Graduate school will not be about professors discussing things. GRADUATE SCHOOL CLASSES ARE SEMINAR-TYPE. Which means you throw ideas around in class while the professor facilitates. Which is why it's important to read so you can contribute to a meaningful session.

Take good notes.
This is a very good advice that I got from one of my professors: Once you start preparing for your comprehensive exams you cannot expect yourself to go through each and every reading material assigned to you in the past few years. All you have are your notes which SHOULD contain vital information raised in your classes and not just doodles.

Write you shall.
There will be a lot of paperwork, which will require you to devote a significant portion of your free time to going through dusty old books and journals. One site that I found particularly helpful especially those who will be studying social sciences is THIS. Most universities in the Philippines provide free access to this wonderful resource bank to their students. LOVE IIIIIT.

You were smart enough to get into grad school, you are smart enough to make a simple paper. 
Do not plagiarize. 'nuff said.

Follow your passion.
For some people their choice of a course or program in undergraduate studies was pretty much influenced or maybe even forced on them by their parents. Others find it pretty hard to say no to their parents since they are paying for the college tuition. 

With graduate school however, you have the liberty to choose whatever program you want to get into since a) you could be paying for your own tuition or b) you've secured a scholarship. The program you choose will be something that will lead you closer to your career goals so choose wisely.

Besides, you're already working and you've probably proven to your parents that you are a responsible adult that won't go clowning around now this late in life. Working while studying to get your Master's Degree actually shows that you have an idea as to what your long term goals are career-wise and maybe (hopefully) your parents will support you on that.

Choose according to your passion. Shifting to another program will be time-consuming and will be a hassle since you will be gathering requirements AGAIN. 

Take a breather.
This is a good advice that I got from my boyfriend. He was a full-time MA student and he told me that stuff still got pretty hectic even though his schedule was not so hectic as mine now. He said that you should choose a day in a week where you will not be bothered by academics. For him it was Saturdays-- that's when he and I would meet up and eat wherever, watch movies and stuff.

Allow yourself to be lazy and to go out with friends. Don't let your graduate school load keep you from having fun with friends, and of course your family. Graduate school does not always mean social suicide. You just have to manage your time wisely ;)

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