February 23, 2022

Conquering Grad School (or at Least Trying to) With These Grad School Tips

Utah Based Business Owner | Female-owned

Starting my MBA has me feeling like I’m slowly losing my mind… but in a good way?

Okay okay… I knew that when I started my MBA while working full-time and growing my business that I was in for it. But man, it has been a whirlwind! I’ve been able to learn some important things though and take away tips so that I can survive the rest of it and hopefully help some others who are embarking on grad school. Also I have a ton of studying I need to do today and blogging sounds more fun (I know.. weird) so here we are. Procrastinating like a boss. So, here are my top 5 Grad School Tips.

Smiling in front of the University of Utah MBA building

1. Invest in the right “supplies”

I love shopping. So getting to shop for products and supplies I wanted to use while in grad school was honestly really fun. The three most valuable things I invested in were my backpack, my laptop, and a planner. They are the necessities. Let me repeat…

They are the necessities.

Now before I get into the three that I bought, please know that they are pricey. I really wanted to invest in items that I knew would last me a really long time, if not the rest of my life (obviously a planner can’t last the rest of my life but you get the point). There are lots of other budget-friendly alternatives though! I’m just sharing what I bought, and why I’ve loved them and decided to invest in them. It has been completely worth it for me, but as always, do what feels best for you!

The first thing I bought was my laptop. I needed a laptop that could handle my schoolwork, working full-time as a financial controller, and the main electronic hub for my business. Since the extent of my tech savy-ness is excel and adobe products, I recruited my boyfriend’s help for this. After spending a few weeks looking, comparing, and customizing, I decided on a Lenovo ThinkPad E15 (linked below). It is sturdy, has tons of capabilities and is fast. All things I really needed going into this stage of my life and it has not let me down!

The second thing I bought was my backpack. I have habitually bought cheap backpacks that always break down in a year or so, and then I’m stuck with a closet full of broken backpacks that I don’t want to throw away for some reason because I hate being wasteful. So this time I knew I not only wanted a backpack that would get me through grad school and would stand up to every-day use, but one that could stand up to regular travel, professional use, and that would look good while I do it all. After talking to some of the other business professionals in my life, it seemed like a TUMI backpack was the way to go and they have so many options! I’m linking the one I decided on below because it is so cute, the perfect size to fit everything but not too bulky, and incredibly comfortable.

Walking with my TUMI backpack on campus

The third thing I got was a regular old planner. Yes, we’re done with the fancy investment items! But this has truly been equally as important. There’s no way I would be able to keep track of my homework, work meetings, photoshoots, weddings, deadlines….. (you get it) without this planner. Organization is key if you’re like me and feel like you’re forgetting something basically at every moment of the day and this has been a lifesaver.

2. Keep Your Life Balanced

About halfway through my first semester, I had a complete breakdown. I spent days feeling burnt out, depressed and was truly questioning how to keep doing it all. And not gonna lie, I’m halfway through my second semester and starting to feel like that again. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with it all and forget how important BALANCE is! One thing I’ve started telling myself is that done is better than perfect. Even with this blog post! I started it weeks ago and got stuck because I didn’t know how to perfectly finish it with the best 5 points in existence and perfect grammar and life-changing inspiration and, and, and…. But let’s be real. It’s not gonna happen! And it is better to have something written and try to share my perspective even if it’s not perfect.

There are so many things going on in your life when you’re a Grad Student and it is so important to remember that it’s not the only thing going on in your life. Your mental health is so important and it’s crucial to make time to do things that you love. For me keeping things balanced looks like planning “for-fun” photoshoots as I like to call them on weekends where I just get to be creative and have… well… fun. I also have started prioritizing exercise even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day. It’s better than nothing and is a chance for me to just set everything else aside. Whatever these things are for you, make sure you make time for them.

3. Experiment With Different Types of Note-Taking

Whatever you think you know about note-taking, it’s likely to change. I was a total pen and paper note-taker in undergrad but there’s no way that is working for me now. I have started using Evernote – a virtual notebook – to take notes now because I can easily access it on different devices since it’s web based. The most shocking thing though? I’ve started just listening in class and find myself not taking any notes at all! I found myself panicking when I first realized I was doing that, but then I reminded myself that slides from class are always posted online, and if I’m learning more and retaining it from listening then I should trust it!

Don’t be afraid to change things up from what you’re used to and see what works best. Different classes might also require different methods so try different things out and see what works best.

4. Rely on the Other People in Your Program

I don’t know that every program does this but in mine, we got assigned into teams before we even got to our first day of class. We knew that these other 5 people were going to be in all our classes for the next year or so until we get to our electives, and that every group project is going to be done together. Sure, it was a little intimidating at first, but they have been absolute life-savers for me. When I don’t understand something, there is without fail someone on my team who can help. And just being able to split up the workload a little bit has been so helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Even aside from my immediate team though, there are so many other people in the program who can help and even just relate to all the crazy life changes we’re going through! I remember having a girl’s dinner at the end of the semester with the other women in my cohort and we realized that we had ALL had the mid-semester breakdown. It we had just talked to each other and vented through it, I think it would’ve helped so much! So even though this is #4 on my list, I think it’s probably one of the most important ones to help you stay sane.

5. It’s Okay to Write-Off a Bad Day (Or a Bad Grade)

Alright, this is one of my favorites. And yes, as an accountant it has a little pun but you get the point! If you have a bad day, it is okay. That’s it. Just “It is okay.” No “but I should have…” or “what if I had…” or anything along those lines. Just “it’s okay” and then we move on. There is so much happening in life when you’re getting a graduate degree that if you choose to focus on the bad days, or the bad grades you’ll miss other important things and waste emotional capacity on things that don’t deserve all that time and effort. Honestly? This just applies to life regardless of school or work or family or anything. If you have a bad day, write it off and move on. They happen, but they shouldn’t prevent you from having a good day tomorrow.

Alright! There you have it.

Those are my five grad school tips and things I’ve learned since starting my MBA. What are yours? I’d love to hear!



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