Now that it’s been about a month since I finished (!) grad school, I figured it would be beneficial to sit down and reflect on the experience.
If you’re new or just popping in—I enrolled in Georgetown’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications program in January 2015. It’s a 30-credit program that I was able to complete in six semesters by taking classes all three semesters each year—spring, summer, and fall.
(For those of you curious, I’ve shared details about how to apply and what to expect from my program in this post.)
The program culminates with a Capstone project, which is equivalent to a thesis. Essentially, you work with a real client to develop a comprehensive communications plan they can put in action to tackle a communications-related challenge they are facing. I worked with local boutique Salt & Sundry and made strategic recommendations to improve their online presence to increase brand awareness and connect with customers, even when they aren’t in the physical store.
The last semester when I was working on my Capstone was definitely the most stressful part of the program for me. I felt like I should always be working on building the plan, so it really hung over my head. I spent many nights and weekends working on different pieces of the project, and don’t think I truly realized how much time it was taking until it was over and I suddenly found myself with more hours than I know how to fill. Needless to say, it’s nice to wake up on a Saturday and not have to think about or do homework!
But, I wanted to focus this post on more than just sharing the relief I have that I am now a Master, so here are the top three takeaways I learned from the grad school experience—that I hope can be applied no matter where in life you are.
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO.
Let’s call a spade a spade—working and going to grad school is really hard. But, the end result is so worth it, and in the grand scheme of life, a) many people are facing more difficult challenges, and b) two years isn’t that long. I kept reminding myself of these two facts when the going got tough and made sure to keep my blinders on to the end goal—finishing school as quickly as possible and learning as much as I could while I was there.
Half the battle of grad school, I think, is adjusting to your new work/life balance*. About six weeks into the first semester, I had gotten over the nerves of returning to school, figured out when I was going to do my homework and how I was going to manage both work deadlines and school deadlines, and got used to not hitting the happy hour scene every night or skipping the gym on the nights I had class. Once I had let go of how my life looked before grad school, it was a lot easier to enjoy the process of earning my degree.
So moving forward, whenever I am faced with a new challenge that is seemingly insurmountable or causing me nervousness, I want to remind myself that you really can do anything you set your mind to and that your life will adjust to a new normal. I want to lean in to whatever comes my way, just like I did with grad school, as opposed to counting myself before trying something new.
*BALANCE DOESN’T MEAN DOING IT ALL,
ALL THE TIME.
When people talk about work/life balance, I think a lot of the time they are working under the assumption that to have balance, you have to give every aspect of your life the same amount of attention. But y’all, I’m here to tell you—there just aren’t that many hours in the day. Through the process of grad school, I had to let some areas of my life go for a bit to create a balance that worked for me.
To make sure I still had time to do the things I loved—and get enough sleep—I didn’t work out as much, I didn’t start new TV shows on Netflix, I had to skip out on blogging and networking events I would have loved to attend, and I missed several company dinners and nights on the town. Now that school is over, all of those things are added back into the balance equation, but by temporarily cutting them out, I was able to rebalance my life in a way that worked for me.
So repeat after me: balance doesn’t mean doing it all, all the time. (If this topic interests you—I’ve written about work/life balance before in this post.)
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE
OF YOUR HOME TEAM.
I could not have gotten through grad school without the help of my coworkers, family, and friends—my home team.
To get to class on time, I had to leave work an hour and a half early. My coworkers were so great and avoided scheduling late afternoon meetings on the days I had class and covered for me when I was gone. They let me use our work projects as case studies and found ways for me to apply what I was learning at school to real life challenges we were facing.
My family and friends were unfailingly supportive and understanding when I couldn’t spend as much time with them as I had in the past or had to bail on plans for group meetings, class, or homework deadlines. They also asked about school often, and took a genuine interest in what I was working on.
So find yourself a home team, and lean on them when you need to.
And with that, I’m signing off on grad school posts—hopefully forever ;]! Thanks for taking this wild ride with me.