Eight weeks in any graduate studies program goes by quick. At the outset of the Master’s in Health Administration program, I did not know what to expect. However, now that I am about three-fourths of the way through it, I have been able to manage my time to ensure for adequate reading, reflecting, writing, and collaboration time. The challenge is balancing all of my other personal commitments (e.g. work, home life, fun) and still staying on top of my school requirements.
Here are several suggestions that have helped me achieve success.
Create a Checklist
First, as soon as the course becomes available for review online, read the syllabus, compare the due dates to your other commitments, and create a plan. This can be as simple as a checklist, adding target dates on a personal calendar, or some other method that works for you.
For me, “calendar-izing” works best. It’s how I manage my career commitments (e.g. blocking off certain times to complete projects) and I’ve found it helps with my graduate studies as well.
Also, know that there will likely need to be a bit more flexibility as sometimes the unexpected happens. Even though I have improved my time management skills over time, I have also found myself reading college material in unexpected places and writing papers at midnight in order to meet deadlines.
The Earlier the Better
One of the personal commitments that I made to myself early on was to not procrastinate. I would encourage any new student to take the same approach. Just because a discussion board topic is due on Thursday, does not mean you need to wait until Thursday to complete it. Set goals and accomplish them—the earlier the better, because you never know what obstacle or surprise may come in the future.
I found that keeping my computer files organized by class – whether it be the online articles, papers I have written, or syllabus due dates – is an effective way to refer back to important aspects of the class.
Sometimes final papers and exams require you to review almost all of the materials (not just the textbook). By having everything organized, it makes this review that much easier.
Lastly, make sure you are methodical. All of the professors publish their requirements for the class. Some classes have more reading and less writing; others have less reading and more writing; and others have a lot of both. Regardless of the expectations, it is important to be methodical, read (and re-read) directions, and stay the course. Do not expect that you will understand the materials after a single reading. Leave time to re-read.
Depending on your professional experience, you will find some courses are just a review of what you already know; however, there is always more to learn. Take advantage of that. Do not just read discussion posts, but also learn from the experiences of others. Education is not just about reading a chapter or article and then writing a paper. Rather, it is about interacting with classmates, offering your expertise to the group, and optimizing what you learn. The classes will go by quickly. Try your hardest to not fall behind.
Make a plan, do not procrastinate, stay organized, and be methodical—and you will be successful.