Graduate Insanity: Work/School/Life Balance

Originally posted on February 16th, 2011 by Emily McMillen, MBA Accounting 2012

Graduate school is a very stressful experience. Be it going for your MD, JD, or MBA there is a fine line between sanity and insanity. The balance between work, school, and a social life is a hard one to find. The majority of us have sacrificed the latter in order to maintain grades, but how much is that helping us in the long run? It is the connections we make and the relationships we maintain in and out of school that help us succeed in the future. It is also the thing that keeps us from wanting to burn our class notes, textbooks, or the library itself for the real dramatic types out there.

The major issue is how do we maintain the balance? Well here are five tips to help even out the scale.

1. Assigned reading – While discussing this topic with a friend of mine, she gave me one tidbit from a professor of hers. You do not have to do ALL of the assigned reading. What a revelation! I have been spending way too much time reading tons of different articles on exactly the same thing. In many cases the multitude of readings assigned is just the same information spelled out in multiple ways. If you realize the redundancy of the assigned readings then stop. If you got it the first time around then there is no need to go for take 2, or 3, or 20.

2. Graduate Social Groups – These types of organized events may not be available at every school, but at Baruch we have such a group. Baruch Graduate Social makes it a point every few weeks or so to organize an event to get people together to schmooze and relax after a tough week of classes. Once in a while they also hold joint events with other schools in the area. You’ll make a few new friends and contacts and are bound to see familiar faces. Who knows, perhaps one of your fellow classmates is working at that company you’ve always wanted to join. We are our own network. Peer referrals go a long way in this world my friend, so get out there and make it happen.

3. Stop Procrastinating – This is a big one that even I have trouble breaking. However, one of the big things I’ve noticed is that when I procrastinate I’m not socializing. I fall into the trap of watching tv shows on Hulu or Netflix and spend hours watching every episode of a random tv show instead of getting work done. Halfway through the season 5 of Scrubs? Guilty as charged. However, once your work is done you can go without guilt and spend time with people, but by procrastinating work you are also procrastinating life. Facebook will be there when you get back, get your work done and go call that cutie from statistics.

4. Study Buddy – Having a buddy to help keep you on track is a great way to minimize the time you need to spend hitting the books. Your buddy doesn’t even need to be in the same classes or even in the same school. Setting up a time where both of you will do school work is a great way to keep yourself in check. Set a time limit, keep each other on task, and reward yourself with some ice cream or a beverage when you’re done.

5. Study Buddy w/ Benefits – Along the same lines as the previous example but the reward after your study session is a little less G-rated. Yes, with everything else in your life trying to maintain a relationship is not an easy thing to do, let alone meet someone. However, if you can handle something like this I say go for it. Let’s face it, the many perks include less stress, more focus, better sleep, and A LOT more satisfaction. So go add a little spring in your step, the boost in your mood may help to boost your GPA.

The social aspect of graduate school is one that should not be ignored. You can slave away at your desk at work, slave over your books at night, and take breaks to watch another episode of Lost, but you lose out on an important part of the grad-school experience. Maybe you’ll end up with a near 4.0 GPA and look great on paper, but that is nothing without a social network under your belt. Take my word for it. Study effectively, and study effectively WITH other people. Now get your butt out of the library and meet some other awesome future MBAs, MAs, JDs, or MDs. They’ll be happy to meet you.


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