Graduate School

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Master’s in Public Administration graduation. George Mason. May 2015.

Whether you’re towards the end of your undergraduate degree or a few years into your first job, the possibility of graduate school may have come up in your future plans. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to go to law school or graduate school. I studied for both the LSAT and GRE and researched grad programs that would match what my career goals were.

Many people will tell you that getting your master’s degree right after undergrad is not the right time. There is no such thing as the “right time.” You should decide when you are financially prepared and ready to dive back into school work.

A friend, DG, told me “I didn’t feel burned out at the end of undergrad, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. Why put it off? I’m not tied down by a mortgage, kids, etc. 20s is when you have the most time to be able to invest in yourself.” Here is some advice for applying, surviving, and job searching during grad school:

Getting Into Grad School

What type of degree do you want? In undergrad, I studied Government & International Politics and Conflict Analysis & Resolution but I wanted a master’s degree in a different subject. I researched what types of graduate degrees people had in the field of work I wanted to be in. Check out LinkedIn, look at company profiles, and network with people in your desired job field to see what type of advanced degrees they have. I talked to a lot of my undergrad professors about what master’s and PhD programs they went into.

When choosing a degree, know your options. I asked a friend, OF, what he wish he knew before grad school and he said, “I went to grad school without any plans or ideas of what I wanted to do after so I ended up getting a general MBA instead of a concentration.” OF mentioned that he wish they did more research on concentrations.

-What college(s) do you want to apply to? When considering a grad school you need to look at: -Types of degrees offered -Financial aid/grants/scholarships -Part time v full time programs -Online class offerings -Structure of the class scheduling -Internships -Availability of paid teaching assistant/research assistant jobs -Ability to keep your full time job while attending grad school I chose my college because of the availability of internships in the Washington DC area while paying in state tuition in Virginia. Only a few colleges in Virginia had my master’s degree program so that helped narrow down my search. My master’s program had 100 students in my cohort, so class sizes were small and the professors knew everyone’s name.

Some programs allow you to have a full time job while others do not, a fellow MPA classmate, Michael, mentioned “I wish I knew to apply to full time jobs and that doing both a full time job and grad school is totally doable.” Having a job when you go to school in a more costly area helps so ask your program director if this is possible.

Surviving

What is the workload? In undergrad I took 15-18 (full time) credit hours a semester and in grad school I took nine (full time). I thought nine credits would be half the work but I was in for a reality check. Grad school was 3-4x the work even though I only went to class three times a week. My first week of grad school I had to read over 200 pages before class started and had a paper due the first day of one of my classes. I had to learn how to readjust my study habits, stick to a stricter schedule, and prioritize my time. In undergrad I usually crammed for tests, wrote papers the morning before they were due, and pulled off a lot of As. This was not the case in grad school…an A was much, much harder to get because the professors expect a lot more out of you.

My friend MC gave some advice and she said, “The importance of time management is to make sure you take enough time for yourself so you don’t burn out so early on, especially if you’re also working full time.” Don’t forget to balance life, work, and school. In the long run this will help you develop critical life skills when you start your career.

Job Search

-What type of job do you want after going to grad school? Grad school programs offer plenty of job fairs throughout the academic year. If you are in a two year program, start searching for jobs during your first semester. If time allows, get an internship or part time job in the field of work you are interested in. USAJOBS is a wonderful website for finding internships, called Pathways, for college students and offer you a job once you graduate.

Talk to your career advisers at your school and network…network…network! The majority of my classmates in grad school were working full time jobs in nonprofits, county government, and federal agencies. Make connections because you never know when a job opening might arise at the perfect time!

If you have any questions regarding grad school, drop me a line 🙂

-KC

New Friends in Adulthood

Making new friends when I was growing up was routine for me. I lived in neighborhoods composed of military families that were constantly moving in and out. The person that was your best friend for a couple of years would move and you eventually found another best friend. During the days of dial up Internet, there was no forms of communication like social media or Skype. We also didn’t have phones with free calls or texting and had to share a land line phone with everyone living in your house. It was nearly impossible to maintain these friendships.
Over the years I’ve rekindled and made many new friendships thanks to social media. My best friends from home, Gabrielle, and I went through our yearbooks and found our former classmates through Facebook. It was exiting to see where everyone moved to, went to college, and what their adult lives were like. Social media made everything so convenient.
I’ve stayed in touch with friends from elementary school, former teachers, distant family members in other countries, and even made friends through my makeup Instagram blog. Little did I know staying in touch would be one of my biggest strengths when I left home.
One of my biggest fears after college was maintaining friendships and meeting new people. It was easy as a kid because it was a way of life. As I made my way through high school and college I finally had a close knit group of friends in one place. Once I made my first big move, I had to put in more effort into communication and finding time to balance my responsibilities.

After graduating and getting my first job, I was worried about making new friends. Are people in their 20s and 30s still open to meeting new people? Was it possible to be close to someone you’ve only known in your adult life? Thankfully all of this is true.

I’ve made some of the most meaningful friendships as a result of being more open to others and putting a lot of effort into staying in touch.

Let’s start with my friend Krista. We lived in the same building in college our freshman year in 2009 but our friendship bloomed in the summer of 2016 when she wrote about her boyfriend’s deployment in her blog. That same summer, my Mom left for her year long deployment as well. We started talking about our similar situations, wrote letters and cards back and forth, and next thing you know she becomes one of my closest friends! She’s my go-to person for any and all types of life advice. When I need a nonjudgmental and supportive ear, she’s always there for me. People say “I understand what you’re going through”  but she really understands. From my awkward dates to my quirky diets I follow for health reasons, I have a friend who can give me a clear perspective and opinion on things. Krista will send me voice notes and texts even when she’s super busy just to cheer me up. She’s very empowering and shows strength through optimism (you will feel really inspired when you read her blog )I am forever thankful to know such a caring, thoughtful, and constantly positive friend.
Next is my friend Christina. We met through a mutual friend from my college and instantly clicked. Our friend kept saying “You two have to meet each other” for months on end. After spending my summer in Georgia, I moved back to Richmond for a few short period of time. In that couple of months I spent in Richmond, we instantly became friends. It felt like I reconnected with a friend from my past because we opened up about personal stuff so quickly which usually does not happen to me. She’s one of the people I talk to everyday. She’s open minded, reassuring, and reminds me that I am loved by my friends and family. We always joke that despite being an ESTJ and INFP, dating the complete opposite types of guys, and coming from different upbringings that opposites really make perfect friends. She’s one of the few people I would drive hours to see, meet for lunch, change my mind and actually stay, panic and go look for an outfit, and go out that night with. I do nothing on a whim and she helped me get past that. I am thankful to have someone who doesn’t judge me even when I’m in denial of my life choices and to help me out of my comfort zone.
Lastly, my friends I met at Fort Lee. I met some of the most hard working and dedicated group of people. We all came from so many different walks of life yet I made some of the closest friendships. I know if I go out of my way for one of them, they would do the same for me. They’ve seen me at my highest and lowest points of my life and I am thankful they are still there for me.
Through these friendships I learned that the number of years you know someone doesn’t strengthen your bond, it’s those valuable contributions to your friendship that makes it strong. Don’t feel bad for being closer to someone you met in your 20s compared to someone you met as a child. We change as we grow up and new friendships will not replace the old ones.
-KC