Can you believe we are already a month into the start of this semester? Time sure flies by when you are having fun in grad school doesn’t it? Well, with the start of the new semester, we asked Lauren Marriott, second year Master’s student, to give some advice that she wish she had known coming into the program and starting off the year. Thank you, Lauren, for sharing this post with HEASPA!
In anticipation of the start of the 2014-2015 school year, as I prepared to welcome the new master’s and doctoral candidates to the Program in Higher Education Leadership, I asked my fellow classmates to reflect upon their transition into graduate study. I wanted to know: What do you wish you had known when you started the program? The responses were varied, with everything from how to network and pursue professional development opportunities, to how to manage living on a “ramen every night budget” having returned to a college student lifestyle.
Here are the top 5 pieces of advice we in PHEL had for our new classmates:
- This experience is what you make of it.
The CUSPA program especially is designed for a great deal of flexibility and customization in your education. While we do have a set of core courses, we also have many opportunities to specialize our studies and experiences through the internships, research appointments or the in-or-outside of department electives we choose. Someone interested in comparative education can intern for the international office and take coursework in comparative higher education. Someone else might be focused on a career in academia and so chooses to TA for a course-or-two and to work alongside a professor on research or independent study. Others choose to focus on counseling and education psychology, or leadership and management or fundraising. This program allows for the student to have a lot of control over what this experience looks like for them and what they hope to get out of it.
- Grad School is less about the grades and more about the people.
In undergrad., we were dedicated to getting an A by simply doing everything the professor required to make the grade. We may have even chosen our electives around an “easy A”. In graduate school, we recognize that our time on campus, surrounded by these peers, professors, and mentors, is limited and precious and that we need to make the most of it. In class, that means writing final research papers about practice areas we can see ourselves working in after graduation, and using our passions and experiences to dictate what courses we choose or experiences we seek. We study hard, but we also prioritize networking, since these classmates are also our future professional colleagues. Anyone we meet inside and outside of the classroom may be the key to the next professional opportunity. Beyond the networking through, our personal relationships and friendships are just as important. The fun we have at concerts, movie nights, and happy hours are what keep us happy, balanced and feeling supported as we relieve the stress that goes with juggling school, work, and life.
- Stay organized and focused.
As graduate students, we have a lot on our plate. Many of us are balancing a full-time course load with a part-time graduate assistantship on top of all of outside commitments we have including making time for ourselves and having a little fun. Others are carrying out full-time roles on campus while attending a class or two at night. It can be a lot to manage with not a lot of time left to get assignments done. You are not alone if you are feeling stressed. We all do at some point in this journey, but by staying organized and focused on our end-goals, we find a way to prioritize and get our work done.
- Get involved and make your mark.
We have a unique opportunity to leave a legacy through our involvement. We can start new campus initiatives, leave efficiencies and processes at our internships and volunteer our time on campus and in the Austin community. As graduate students, we can effect change through the graduate student assembly, HEASPA, and the multitude of organizations that we choose to be a part of. A lot of us can look back with a feeling of accomplishment knowing that we made UT-Austin a better place.
You’re in Austin now! Take some time to explore all that UT and Austin have to offer. The time here will fly by and this place has so much to offer in terms of culture, entertainment and fantastic food.