Graduate School Motto – “Be Over-Prepared”

Yes, I’m a list maker, a box checker, a prepper.  This grad school thing is a BFD.  I want to be as prepared as possible because I already feel behind.  I’ve never taken an online course with a timeline and real responsibilities.  The journalism dept. uses Macs and I’m running a six year-old Windows PC.  I can barely use the Adobe CS 5 I have now.   I’d buy new tech now and get started, but I need to wait for my student loan money.

I watched 2-3 of last year’s orientations online and traveled to the on-campus orientation designed for summer students (got my student ID while I was there-hello student discounts, goodbye long line on orientation day).

The orientations covered the nuts and bolts of online classes and graduate assistant expectations. I’m glad I watched the orientations from last year before participating in the orientations for this Fall.  This allowed me to think of questions beforehand and ask them without missing any big details.

The summer orientation day was more productive than I thought.  I arrived early, despite a car issue,  and scoped out buildings and the parking situation.  It was nice being able to drive to the university and navigate campus without the traffic that occurs when classes are in session.  I found the Starbucks and the Taco Bell and got my student ID.  I found the hotel on campus and checked the reservation policy.   My commute is long enough without adding snow and ice to the mix.  So, that’s my back up plan.

I had previously scheduled a meeting with my faculty adviser for the same day.  She gave me a tour of the building and some of the departmental resources available.  We talked a bit about where I was headed with my research and she suggested key people to meet.  She also added to my summer to-do list.  She suggested I learn WordPress and get an online portfolio.  My new portfolio website will be in WordPress. And, she gave me tips on how to save money on parking and books.

The orientation program itself felt like a 33 RPM on the 45 setting – very fast.  Essentially, it gave me a checklist of things to do:  check out the tech center, schedule a tour of the library, get started with career services (another post in itself) and to use the recreation and fitness facilities.  I’m not sure if I’m going to have access to the facilities (there’s a fee for that, but I may slide under due to only having one on-campus course and being a commuter).

I’ve registered for the Fall orientation and, thanks to attending the one for summer, already know which breakout sessions I’ll attend.  I need to review the online class video and hopefully find some BlackBoard tutorials so I know how to view and turn in any assignments.

I’m tempted to head up for another on-campus day (maybe take the kids) and get the library tour out of the way, see the art museum, and visit the tech center once I find out if I really need a Mac.  I’m still waiting on my GA assignment and would like to meet my new boss before classes begin.  So, I suspect I’ll go back up in late-July/early August and try to combine everything – maybe add in a visit at the career center and counseling center.

Still, part of me wants to just chill this summer because it’s going to be the last time, for a long time, that I have any “spare” time.   Once school starts, I’m going to have to schedule almost every hour of every day.  So, I think it’s time to make another list – of the things I want to do before school starts.

  • A few more snooze-bar cuddle times with my handsome husband
  • Some board games with the kids
  • Soaking up the sun and the zen in the hot tub (it came with the house)
  • Read for fun
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Catch a movie
  • Read the Sunday paper over coffee
  • Get the house in order as much as possible
  • Spend time with friends and family

I’ll keep working on learning Adobe CS/CC.  I ordered a few books on Macs from the library.  The website will get done.

I think the best thing I can do is to be prepared that I won’t be prepared for everything and to believe in myself.



My tray is in the upright position


Grateful, but uninspired and frustrated with my current work situation and continued turbulence, I started looking for other employment.  I work for a labor union that represents one employee group at one company.

Turns out, I’ve been grounded. I haven’t done enough to stay current.  My portfolio is low on the things employers want right now.  I can’t get a new job in my field or anything close to it that pays enough.  I’ve tried.

I decided to pull out my old research and revisit grad school.  The kids are growing up, my mom’s health won’t stay good forever, and the new husband’s job is going well (he’s more sure about this than I am)….  It’s not now or never, but it’s not the worst time either.

Oh – that one company that my one employee group works for? It declared bankruptcy earlier this year.  It was probably some sort of shell-game, but I wasn’t sure at the time.

It’s time to alter my flight path.

I considered several things but decided on a Master’s in Public Relations (my undergrad minor).  I was going to go part-time and online.  Well, there’s no financial aid for that. So, I applied for full-time enrollment knowing that I could go part-time if I had to.  My faculty adviser told me that graduate assistant applications were due soon.  I quickly pulled something together.  They liked what I had to say and offered me a position.

Flying high

The graduate assistantship allows me to complete my degree in less time, with a lower level of student loan debt, and contribute more in class while I explore the depth of courses and abundance of opportunities afforded to on-campus students.  At least that’s what I told them.  Honestly, it’s a way for me to get caught up, get more help if I need it, and, hopefully, soar above other candidates when I finally apply go back to work.


It also means that I have to work 20 hours (doing what is TBD) and drive four hours per day. (Think would sponsor me?)  The kids have extra-curricular activities. There’s meals to cook, a yard to keep up, and a house to clean (not to mention pay for).  Academics don’t scare me.  It’s being a good mom, a good wife, and homemaker that’s going to be the real challenge.

The parking break is off and we’re on the runway.

I am a little over a month away from my first day of school in over 20+ years.  I’m excited. I’m petrified.  I’m overwhelmed.   This is either the bravest or the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m ready for take off.