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Thread: Real Working Graduate Students

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Real Working Graduate Students

    This is more of a question of culture than of school. I have been working full time as a planner for about three years now, and I about to start my second semester as a Grad Student at a local university. Because I work full time and take full time classes, I often wonder how to best balance the whole student culture such as going to sports games, parties, campus events, and meeting up with friends for a few cold ones after class, with the “real world” work place where I am up early, work a typical 8-5 mostly with people at least 8 years older than I am. It does not help much that I live in an area a good distance from other students.

    If your in the same, how to you balance both so you can live life to the fullest, fully experience and be active in both cultures, while keeping your sanity?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    My exact situation the past few years. I finally graduated last year. I didn't find a good balance between work and taking in the extra school related functions... Would catch up with people time to time to go to a football games, yada yada... But I really didn't get the full experience, as far as hanging out, etc... I don't know what type of program you are in, it was a two year masters for me (which I managed to stretch to a 3+yrs!). So I experienced the college seen as an undergrad. As far as advantages, you'll be eligible sooner to take the AICP than most grads if that is of interest. If I could do everything over again, not considering money, time, etc... I would have graduated with my undergrad, worked in planning for two years, then work on a masters for two years (full-time), then go back into the planning profession. I think that would have given me a better view of things as I was going through the classes and let me take in the full experience.

  3. #3
    I dealt with a very similar problem when I decided to go back to grad school. When I finished my undergrad degree I went right into a full time job. It wasn't planning but it was something I enjoyed doing. After three years, I decided to go back to grad school, full time. I was also granted a teaching assistantship which took up an additional 10-15 hours every week. It was the most difficult time of my life. I slept maybe 4-5 hours per night and gave up 95 percent of my social live. I was only 25 so I thought I'd fit in good with the rest of the students, but I was the only one in the department working full time. While they were great and invited me to everything, I still had to decline most invitations and felt really out of the loop. I also felt like I was having to work soooo much harder to compete with the rest of the students in my classes who had forty more hours every week to get their assignments done.

    Unfortunately, however, I have no real answer for your question, because, after the first year of this, I quit my job and focused my second year of the program just on graduate school work. One small loan and my grad work stipend was enough to keep me afloat. My stress levels plummeted, my school work became more interesting, and I really got to know and hang out with some of the best people I almost never knew. I graduated with no regrets about that decision. This probably isn't an option for you given that you already have the position you want, but I thought I'd pass along my thoughts anyway. It really was the best decision for me at the time.

    Good luck with everything.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    I really didn't have a problem with working full-time and going to grad school. My boss was pretty lenient and understanding. I did have some stress issues when it came to writing my thesis. At the time, I was contractural worker so I didn't get time off. I did take a day off to prepare for my thesis defense. I guess, I didn't learn my lesson because I will be pursuing a Master's in Real Estate starting in Sept.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    If your in the same, how to you balance both so you can live life to the fullest, fully experience and be active in both cultures, while keeping your sanity?
    Mods, could we move this thread to the American Planning Association - Information Technology Division forum?










    Just kidding michaelskis. Hey, if you worked full-time during your undergrad, you should have no problem doing it again.
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator
    Mods, could we move this thread to the American Planning Association - Information Technology Division forum? Just kidding michaelskis. Hey, if you worked full-time during your undergrad, you should have no problem doing it again.
    Smart A$$
    I guess that is why I am so shocked at how things are do different now. I had a lot less stress, a lot more fun, and it took about the same amount of time.
    The big difference is when I was doing my undergrad, it was not a regular 8-5 and the location, and I was with other students most of the time. I worked at a ski hill, and I was there on some days, but mostly nights and weekends. Then there was also the shoe store, but that was in the mall and everyone I worked with in my store and most of the other stores were college students.

    No one from school is going to stop into my department unless they are trying to get an internship.

    After taking a year and a half off, from any school, the first semester was not too bad, and I did go to a few hockey games with other students, but that was about it. This year, I am going to try to meet more people, go to more events, and spend more time on or around campus when I am not working.

    I also think that my mind set has changed from I am a student with a job to I am an employee taking classes.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  7. #7
    Cyburbian the north omaha star's avatar
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    I stayed on campus my first year of grad school. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I hung out with a lot of upperclassmen who are very good friends of mine to this day. The apt. complex I lived in had a lot students there too. Sometimes I would catch rides, if I saw that they were going to class.
    I am recognizing that the voice inside my head
    is urging me to be myself but never follow someone else
    Because opinions are like voices we all have a different kind". --Q-Tip

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    If your in the same, how to you balance both so you can live life to the fullest, fully experience and be active in both cultures, while keeping your sanity?
    I am currently taking my last class on the long road to an MCP. I worked full-time as a planner/grant manager for the 2.5 years, taking two evening classes per semester and summer session. I chose to simply attend class, not partaking in any additional school activities or meaningful friendships. I show up for class, sit there for 3 hours, then go home to my wife. Most of my school work was completed on non-class evenings, leaving weekends free. That is how most are at my school, as it is a night program for professionals. If that is not what you want, then I would suggest taking day classes and just working part time. You will not have the time to work a full-time job, attend class, socialize at school and socialize outside of school.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Same Here

    I echo everything that jmello just said.....our situations were exactly alike......Having gotten married right after getting my undergraduate degree, I was more interested in spending time with my new bride than building friendships. I guess I did enough of that as an undergrad. I also attended a university for my MUP that was predominately a commuter school, so there wasn't really a whole lot of "campus feel" to it. I worked full-time, 2 night classes a semester, homework whenever I had the chance.

    It sounds to me like you are missing the easy going days of being an undergrad. I miss them too. Haning out with your friends, girlfriend, not worrying about bills, going to all kinds of campus events. As I've gotten older, I still miss that stuff but I look forward to different things....working on my house, spending time with my daughter. There's no easy answer since everyone has different priorities. If you really miss campus life that much and you can afford it, only work part time.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  10. #10
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    I am starting my new life in an Urban & Regional Planning program next month after a career of eight years in an unrelated industry. It took a while, but I finally realized that despite my growth and progress with the company, I would be a prisoner if I did not focus on what really interests me. I agonized for a good eleven minutes over whether to keep working and study at the same time, and came to the conclusion that each would be a distraction to the other.

    Walking away from a career, an income, and benefits is its own kind of scary, but I know that keeping my job in whole or in part would undermine my commitment to making this big change. I am campaigning for an assistantship that will enable some scholarly work in my area in addition to benefits like a partial tuition waiver, etc.

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