Since making the transition from the “real world” back to graduate school, I’ve often been asked the same unassuming question, “How’s school going?” So far, my reply has always been, “It’s going good, but I feel like I can never get ahead.” Although I’m only enrolled in 9 credit hours, it seems like I’m always behind in my classwork. Just when I barely beat the deadline on one assignment, I have to start working on another one to get it turned in on time. I have realized that I am not the only one who feels this way as many of the students that I have met throughout my first semester of classes are employed full time and often struggle with finding time to complete assignments. For my fellow graduate students and I, it often seems that keeping our heads above the water is the best we can do.
As should be expected, graduate students are required to think and preform at a higher level. Since we are attempting to complete the highest levels of educational achievement, it is sometimes assumed that we need very little guidance along the way. Many of the directions I have received on class assignments are short and vague. This has led to me spending an immense amount of time figuring out what to do, rather than actually spending time completing the task at hand.
Last week I found myself in a slight panic. I had come to the realization that the semester is already half way over! My heart started racing as I realized I had completed very little on my thesis, in fact, I had barely determined my research interest. I had been so caught up in my day to day routine of completing assignments that I had completely forgotten about working toward my long-term graduate school goals. I felt as if someone should have warned me about the rate at which time would fly by, but the real cause of my concern was that I once again felt lost and longing for direction.
After regaining my composure, I made my way to class later that day with many thoughts on my mind. I arrived to class early and found myself speaking with a classmate, who is currently pursuing his PhD, about my concerns. He assured me that everything was going to be alright and that these feelings of uncertainty were common in graduate school. I thanked him for his advice. Just then, I overheard a classmate describe to another member of our class his method for balancing his school work and personal life. He attributed his success to a very simple concept: time management. I then realized that there must be a simple solution to my concerns and it was up to me to ensure that I was on the right path to success. The rest of the week flew by and before I knew it, a new school week had begun.
I attend a program offered by the Texas A&M Money Education Center entitled “Money Mondays” every chance I can. These programs are offered by the university in order to educate students on financial matters such as buying a home or saving for retirement. While listening to a presentation on personal investments, I heard a concept that really resonated with me. The program presenter stated that when it comes to making the correct long term investments “Self-discipline is the most important factor to success”.
I walked with a lot more determination on my way to class after the presentation was over. I had realized that the key to my success in graduate school was also about self-discipline. After all, attending graduate school is a huge investment of time and money but the rewards far outweigh the risk in the long run. I realized that there will be plenty of struggles on the way to completing my degree, but it is important to keep my head up and remain focused on the end goal of graduation. The first step to graduate school success is to lay out a clear path to follow. After that, it is necessary to use self-discipline in order to continue on the successful path to graduation.
Matthew Pfeifer | Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications
Howdy! My name is Matt Pfeifer
and I am pursuing a Master of Science in agricultural leadership, education, and communications; I hope that by furthering my understanding of leadership and workforce training I can improve the lives of people in rural America.