I still remember the joy that I felt on the day of my college graduation. A big smile was plastered on my face. Congratulatory greetings were all over. Yes, I was excited to open a new chapter of my life in the so-called ‘real world.’ However, after few years of plunging in the corporate world’s deepest territories, I felt that stagnation is about to kill me and so I hungered for an upgrade. I enrolled in a graduate school.
Truth be told, in today’s fast-paced and competitive world, an undergraduate degree is not even enough to let you land in your dream job. Perhaps some movies are just powerful enough to paint an idyllic visual of how degree holders find work in a corporate setting – holding a cup of Starbucks Coffee, wearing a well-iron branded corporate sleeves, driving a posh car and indulging in life’s finest shopping and leisure. Well, if you’re stuck with such iconic representation, it’s time for you to wake up, for real.
Given the circumstance of how hard to earn money nowadays, it is important to equip yourself with the right savings and skills. Yes, let us live the two essential “S” in our adult lives - “SAVINGS” and “SKILLS.” To fulfill this, I will share my TOP 10 TIPS on Surviving Graduate School!
- THINK BEFORE YOU ENROLL. Enrolling in a graduate school is a smart choice if it’s well thought. Whether you are eyeing for a promotion or you want to change a career, it is always best to identify your objectives first before you pick a program and enroll. With a sound decision and determined spirit, you may be able to save money because you don’t have to shift from one program to another as you progress in your academic sojourn. Believe me, getting into graduate school does not only end in your “parang like ko” feel. It’s takes more than guts to garner a degree and graduate.
- ASK AND YOU SHALL FIND. Advice from other graduate students is a big help. If you have friends who are currently enrolled in a graduate program, you can ask them about their program and the costs that are seeped within. At least, you may be enlightened if you’re really up for the academic challenge or you can plan how much do you need to support yourself. This is one of the practical ways to positively brainwash you wandering spirit.
- CHECK ON SCHOOLS. Just like how a brand leaves a mark in our head, the name of a school makes an impact as well. In the Philippines, the stereotyped academic excellence appeal revolves around UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST and UA&P. Yes, they are the POWER 5. However, in pursuing graduate school, the school is not the end of it all. Should you want to develop your skills in the field of performing arts, better check a performing arts school. Or should you want to take an MBA, perhaps you can check on some overseas scholarship and try. Bottom line, graduate school is not tied down with the name of the school. It is about specialization. As a first step, it is best to identify and evaluate schools that may fit the program you want to take or the skills you want to improve. In the end, you, the student, shall make excellence possible to happen.
- BUDGET BLUES. Whether you are single, married or with kids, graduate school entails a lot of cost. You may be lucky if you are in a scholarship, but in reality, most of graduate students shoulder their school expenses. While the payment of tuition fee may be a pain in the pockets, the pile of bills to settle from home are even bothersome. Given this scenario, planning your way to graduate school should be paired with budgeting. Admit it or not, depending on the degree you wish to take, there’s more to pay in putting yourself inside the classroom. At least, with the right decision making, you can control your finances.
- PRIORITIZE. Are you ready to discipline yourself in reading loads of books, preparing a report or submitting an extensive research? If you say yes, then you’re ready for graduate school. Bear in mind that graduate school is further studies. As expected, you will have to read, write, report and submit reports. Moreover, graduate school requirements may be taxing and costly if you are unorganized. To keep things on track – enable yourself to save money and time – read, write, submit and report what’s important and needed. But don’t let mediocrity pull you down. Bottom line, you should prioritize school requirements without compromising your personal integrity and your output's quality.
- JUGGLER’S MAGIC. Just like how a juggler balance three balls in one throw, a graduate student must also learn the art of juggling time. Whether you are into a relationship, you need family time on weekends, or you simply want to kill time by playing games in Facebook, it is best to manage your time properly. Given the unstoppable assignments, books to read, reports to prepare, and final exams to pass, graduate school wont’ be a breeze without organizing your personal, social, work and family schedule. Just imagine how much you can save if you don’t have to repeat a missed report because you got sick when you push yourself in consuming lots of time in social media or how much you can allot on a school project if you budget your daughter’s party rather than buying the dress you fancy in a nearby store.
- WEEKEND WEE HOURS. The best part of the week is Saturday and Sunday, yes, weekends. It is a perfect time to hang out with your friends, family and special someone. However, graduate school doesn’t give a damn on your lifestyle whims. To maximize your time and make it more worthwhile, use wee hours on weekends to “make love” with your school requirements. At least, not only you get a satisfaction on your work done, you get also to enjoy fun time with a worry-free mind. Isn’t it great to party by only thinking where are you going next or who will be your night in shining armor?
- CRAMMING. They say that cramming brings out the best in you. Pressure gives you a certain kick that squeezes your brains and lets you produce ideas in an instant. Well, cramming works differently among different individuals. However, in graduate school, to stay away from ending in a bottleneck, it is best to avoid cramming. Why? A simple paper in graduate school is an equivalent of an undergrad thesis. A report is equivalent to an undergrad symposium you despised when you were young. A research paper is equivalent to an undergrad thesis proposal, defense and presentation, all combined in one go. Given the scope and weight of graduate school requirements, should you wish to graduate on time or finish the degree, cramming should be avoided.
- PLAGIARISM IS A “MAJOR MAJOR” CRIME. As a graduate student, you are expected to show academic excellence and integrity. You don’t only have to be critical in what you write or submit, but you should also be original and credible. Given this, it is best to site your sources properly or simply compose assignments in your best authentic rendition. Take note that plagiarism is a crime. Not only you may be expelled from the program, but in the school as well. Worse, you can be banned/ black listed in other schools. Surely, this will give you more costs to pay in life.
- SCHOOL IS COOL. Graduate school requirements may be intimidating at first. By merely reading the brochure of a program or some short talk with a graduate school representative, you may feel nervous and anxious; it is pretty normal. However, once you enroll and introduce yourself in the class, enjoying graduate school is the only way to survive school without losing your sanity and wit. Bear in mind that school works differently from reality, as you have experienced it in the years of working your ass in the corporate jungle. Now that you’re in school, it is time to not only polish your skills or sharpen your minds. It’s also the time for you to expand your acquaintances, make friends. Who knows, the people you will meet in your graduate class may serve as your key in fulfilling your dream of having your own business or putting up a performing arts school. With further studies, the possibilities are endless.
I hope the above information will help you to unleash that spirit of getting back yourself in school, in particular, a graduate school. Right now, I'm still enjoying my degree in Development Communication at UP Open University (Online). There’s a certain fulfillment that I’m able to earn for my future – financially and competently. And now that I’m two semesters away from graduating (3 subjects), I promise to bring in my postgraduate degree to a place that I will grow more as a professional and as a person. Goodluck! =)