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Balancing Graduate School and Work Requires Flexibility

Graduating Year: 
2017-01-01 00:00:00

I’m a stubborn person, so it took me some time and flexibility to learn how to best manage my schedule when it comes to schoolwork, work, and the rest of life (errands, grocery shopping, housework, personal time, family, etc.) while getting my Master’s in Strategic Communication.

I work in Washington, DC at the Navy Yard and commute from Frederick, a small town in north western Maryland in a vanpool with nine others that live around me. Using my time effectively is essential, both on the ride to and from work, and throughout the day. The majority of the deadlines I face in school take place on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. That means preparing ahead of time what the week will look like (well, what I want it to look like). I oftentimes use my Monday morning ride into work to watch the weekly videos, start the weekly readings, look at the discussion posts, and check out what the weekly assignment will be.

What helps me to manage the work in the online MS in Strategic Communication is to break it up into chunks. Mondays and Tuesdays in the van to and from work, as well as during my lunch time and then after work consist of the readings and videos for the week. The discussion posts, usually due Wednesday or Thursday evening get worked on once I have read and watched the content needed to prepare for the discussion post. Replies to other classmates’ discussion posts are due by Thursday or Friday evenings. The weekly assignment(s) always due by Sunday at midnight consisted of several hours of my time on Saturday or Sunday. So, how do I make time for work, school, and a personal life? Time management.

Like I said before, I’m pretty stubborn, so getting back to Frederick by 5:30 pm, cooking myself dinner, showering, and being in bed before 9:00 pm to be up for work at 4:30 am the next morning requires some dedication and diligence. With the right amount of planning ahead, using time wisely, and sticking to a schedule, managing a school/work/ life balance is hard at times, but achievable.

As I have previously offered advice in my other blog postings, I will offer another piece of advice for AU graduate students: make sure you make time for yourself. Take time to get a massage, a facial, talk to a friend, to visit parents, etc. It is important you talk to others and make time for a social life as well. Being caught up on getting a 4.0 is not realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high, but still, work your hardest.

To learn more about American University's online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, request more information or call toll free at 855-725-7614.

  • About the Author

    Sarah Bursey

    Sarah earned her BA in Communication Studies with a concentration in Public Relations from Bridgewater College, Virginia (2010). While earning her undergraduate degree, Sarah wrote for the student newspaper, was the secretary for the Mass Communication Club, played on the women’s lacrosse team where she served as captain for two years and was a Deans list honoree. She has worked at JRC Integrated Systems, Inc. in Washington, DC. for three and half years as a Department of Defense (Navy) contractor where she is a Program Analyst, providing Project and Program Management support to the Technical Director and Vice Admiral of Strategic Systems Programs. Sarah writes and edits JRC’s internal company newsletter and press releases. She is from Westminster, Maryland originally and has lived in the DC/MD/VA area since returning from college. She is anticipated to graduate from AU with her MA in Strategic Communication in May of 2017 and looks forward to breaking into the PR and news media industry.