Even though it still feels like summer outside, the long lines at Starbucks, empty shelves at Target, and packed parking lots mean school at The Ohio State University is officially back in session. However, while I may be new to the Fisher College of Business and the Specialized Master of Business-Finance (SMF) program, I am not new to life as a graduate student at OSU. This past May I graduated with an MS in Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. I decided to come back to Ohio State and pursue a second Master’s degree, not because I never want to work, but because I knew that the practical skills and experience using programs like Excel, Bloomberg, and Capital IQ that I will gain from the SMF program, when coupled with my background in applied economics, will be immensely helpful for me during the competitive job search process. One of the benefits of having been through a graduate program already, besides not having to stand in line to get a new BuckID and already generally knowing my way around campus (though I still get lost sometimes), is that I have learned a few things that should make this upcoming year a little bit easier, so I thought I would share some of these lessons with you.
1. Be organized– between classes, team meetings, career management events, social outings, and all of the little things that will inevitably come up every day, you are probably going to be busier than you have ever been before. As such, it is essential to be organized. Write down all of your meetings and deadlines in a planner and check your email often for any changes in locations or times. For class, print out lecture slides ahead of time so you can focus on the professor instead of frantically trying to write down every word, and try to get your backpack together the night before so you do not accidentally leave your homework on the kitchen counter!
2. Manage your time– every new school year I say I am going to keep up with the reading and get that term paper done way ahead of time, but, regardless of my good intentions, within a few weeks the work begins to pile up, and so does the stress. Luckily (or unluckily), the SMF program, with its seven-week terms, is going to be so fast-paced that I will not have time to procrastinate. I just try to remember that other students have survived this program so the workload is doable, but the marathon TV-watching sessions may have to wait until next summer. My weakness: 30 Rock reruns on Netflix. One episode just flows right into the next!
3. Find balance– being in graduate school, especially in a program as intense as the SMF, it would be easy to spend all day every day reading text books and editing your resume, but it is important, for your health and your sanity, to do something you enjoy every day. It is going to be a long year and you do not want to burn out before fall semester is even over. For me, my stress relief comes from going to the gym or running outside if the weather is nice. Kickboxing is particularly therapeutic. The RPAC has a great group fitness schedule with classes pretty much all day, even on the weekends.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff– from my experience, graduate school, more so than undergrad, is about the bigger picture. And while getting good grades is definitely still important, it is less important to memorize a hundred definitions and get the exact right answer on every test question than it is to really understand the material you are learning, to understand the logic and assumptions that went into getting to that right answer. It is also more important now to take advantage of the learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Talk to your classmates and professors, do a practice interview in the career management office, and stay in touch with what is going on in the world. Your classes will teach you the technical skills that you need to succeed, but these extra lessons could be essential to landing that dream job and being successful in the long-term.