The Post College Professional sat down with new grad student and working professional, Kevin Sundeen. After 10 years into his career, all arrows pointed to a graduate degree at George Mason University School of Business. Read about how he decided on the right program, how he balances his new school schedule with everyday life, and what he didn't expect from his grad school journey!
When did you start to consider graduate school and how did you decide on an MBA?
I started thinking about it a few years ago, when I saw more senior colleagues in positions I wanted to be in, and what was the common denominator? They all had graduate degrees. I came from a liberal arts undergrad background, and while I have no regrets pursuing that path, at this point in my career, I was looking for a confidence and knowledge boost that a graduate degree would bring. I figured that an MBA would give me a broader toolbox of skills and make me more versatile as I progress through my career. My younger sister is also in grad school getting her MBA, so I had to keep up with her too.
How did you decide on a part-time program versus a full-time or online program?
At this point in my career, I've built some momentum and enjoy my job, so I didn't want to give that up! It also helped that my employer is able to provide a generous education benefit, so that made the decision much easier. I considered an online MBA, but decided that I would benefit more from regular face-to-face interaction with my classmates and professors. I also wanted to maximize the networking potential of a part-time program by meeting and learning from my classmates in person.
What does your new schedule look like since adding graduate school?
I have definitely felt the change in my schedule. I spend every Monday night from 7:30 pm to 10 pm in class, after a long day at work. I try to use my commute time on the train to read and study as much as possible. As far as my social life, I plan ahead with my wife to carve out my study time and hangout time over the weekends; communication and scheduling are really important! I think I've found a good balance with my time and I'm still able to live a relatively normal social life.
What are some things you didn’t expect?
Truthfully, I was worried that I would be buried in homework all the time, and I was stressed out about getting in back-to-school mode after 10 years away! However, I have found that the adjustment to student life hasn't been as challenging as I thought.
While the homework isn't always easy, the amount I get is manageable. All of my classmates are also working professionals, so professors are accommodating to the fact that we all have lives outside of the classroom. While sometimes we might struggle with assignments (like the summer math preparation course), at least we struggle together, so there is a sense of camaraderie I was also not necessarily expecting from my classmates. Everyone is there to support each other and the professors are rooting for you to do well. It's a far cry from the cutthroat atmosphere I feared!
One other thing was that I didn’t really understand was how tired I would be after a a full day of work and full night of class! But luckily it's nothing coffee can’t fix.
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.
If you are questioning the financial piece of it, check all of the resources available to you. Ask your employer what benefits they can offer, and look online for scholarships. Definitely connect with your manager and explain how you will be applying your new skills to your current role, and don't be afraid to use your colleagues as mentors. I am only two months in my program and I am already applying what I am learning to my job. It can feel scary at first, but now that I'm here I can say it's been a fun experience so far!