Reflection of Fall Semester

My first semester of the SMF program has come to an end. And looking back on the past semester, it's clear graduate school in an online setting was a unique experience.  Now that I've completed my first semester, I'm taking time today to reflect and summarize 3 key takeaways.  My hope is that it can be useful to you as you embark on your grad school journey.

1. Participate in class discussions

One thing that is very different from undergrad studies is that courses at the graduate level require a lot of participation in classroom discussions. Most classes will have participation points comprising more than 20% of the course grade. For one class it was 35%, and I did not realize the difference until after the final grade was posted when I got an A- because of the lack of participation in the course. So be prepared to participate! Strong test and homework scores are not enough for you to succeed in graduate-level classes.

2. Project Management

I always think I am good at time management until the final week when multiple projects requiring collaborations happened. Since different group projects have different team members working on them, project management skills became very important. If I were able to do it all over again, I would set expectations with all my teams upfront to make sure everyone understood our mutual goals and milestones.  This way we could work together to complete everything well before the actual deadline and avoid rushing at the very end.

3. Plan some breaks during the day

Working in front of a laptop all day has increased my eye burn and made my back sore. During this COVID situation, I strongly suggest everyone take care of themselves, including in the learning environment. I realized a substantial difference the last few weeks of the semester when I set an alarm clock to remind myself to stand up for a coffee break; the short breaks during the day helped to relieve much of my stress and physical pains!

Reflecting on the past semester has helped me gain some insights to better prepare for the next semester. I am confident that I will do better next semester by focusing on these three lessons, and so will you!

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