The Post College Professional

What Does the First Semester of Graduate School Look Like for a Working Professional?

Posted by Kevin Sundeen on Jan 31, 2020

Tags: Grad school consideration

The last time we spoke to part-time MBA student Kevin Sundeen, he was preparing for his first week at George Mason University School of Business. Now the full time working professional and graduate student, shares how he could have prepared differently and what has been the most challenging during his first semester.

Kevin_Sundeen 2-2Now that you are half way through your first year of graduate school, is there anything you would have done differently to prepare?

In hindsight, I would have set up a dedicated study space for myself at home earlier. I wish I thought to set up my own study space at the beginning when I was preparing my application and doing the summer refresher course before starting the program. Now that I have my own desk instead of studying at the kitchen table, it’s much easier to focus on homework, reducing the time it takes to get it all done!

Is the work load what you expected?

During my back-to-school adjustment period, the workload was about what I expected: 4-6 hours/week of homework per class, in addition to about 3 hours of class time. It took me about three months to settle into a routine, which made my out-of-class time much more efficient, so I would say I don’t spend as much time now. I also commute by subway and use that time for assigned reading when possible, freeing up the all-important weekend time!

What’s been the most challenging part?

The most challenging part for me has been how relentless the work is. It depends on your course schedule, but it can be four months of using whatever free time you have to do homework. Week-in and week-out—no matter if you are sick, or busy at work, or have other things going on, that make it tough to sit down and concentrate. Communication with and support from my family has been huge. So when I finally got to take a break for the holidays, I tried to spend extra time with them as a way to say thank you.

Have you had any group work? Would you say work projects have prepared you for it?

Being working professionals absolutely helped my group nail our group assignments. For starters, since we all have full-time jobs in addition to school, everyone is very focused on doing the work efficiently. We made liberal use of online collaboration tools instead of meeting in-person to save time for everyone. Additionally, since we all have plenty of experience in the working world, we were able to bring to the table not only our work experiences, but also the collaboration skills we have developed in various projects over our careers.

Any advice to people considering a graduate degree?

If you want to go back to school, but are waiting for the perfect time, I have some bad news: there is no perfect time when the stars align and the road is clear before you. So, take the first step now. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be applying what you learn and advancing in your career. Now that I've started school and realized it isn't as scary or difficult as I thought it would be, and that it's even fun, I wish I had started sooner.

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