Back to School! (not the retail season)

The school experience. School related queries, discussions, and stories that aren't specific to a subject.

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gorcee
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Back to School! (not the retail season)

Postby gorcee » Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:29 pm UTC

This thread is about going back to school, but not just as a regular end-of-summer thing. Rather, it's meant to be for people that are going back to either finish a degree or commence studying for another degree after having spent some time doing traditionally non-school things out in the real world.

So, tips, advice, strategies, concerns, fears... they're all on the plate for discussion. What habits did you have to re-acquire? How did your non-school experience affect your perspective/planning/etc?

For my part, I did the back to school thing once, and I've posted here and there about it, but I'm going to be doing it again. I'm taking a class this fall as a non-degree student, gearing up for graduate studies next year. I'm taking a graduate level class that is cross-listed with an undergrad class. So I'm kind of weirded out at the concept of sitting in class with 39 other people that are like a full decade younger than me. It was weird enough when I finished by BS at 25. At least then the students were at least marginally in my generation.

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Ivor Zozz
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Re: Back to School! (not the retail season)

Postby Ivor Zozz » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:15 pm UTC

I finished my first degree at 24.5.

May try and go back for another one. I actually got myself registered in the system of a local school for this semester and everything, but I'm still not sure I'll go through with it; I have yet to sign up for any classes.

Parsifal
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Re: Back to School! (not the retail season)

Postby Parsifal » Sat Oct 01, 2011 1:05 pm UTC

I got my BS at 21 - I'm going back for my MS at 32.

Troubles I've had:
- Grad school is WAY harder than I expected. The ability to memorize isn't a great help, because in grad school you're tested on really applying the material, not whether you can recite some version of anything you heard in class or read in a book.
- Grad school is not like the real world. You can't bargain for enough time to complete a few tasks well, you have to do the best you can on a lot of tasks simultaneously.
- Do NOT skip class unless you are deathly ill (yes, I tried this). If you turn in an incomplete project, you may lose points. If you skip class to work on it, you will annoy the professor. If enough people skip class, the professor may assign extra work, irritating the people you depend on for group projects and notes.
- Do NOT miss deadlines (yes, I did this). It makes you look unreliable. It is better to turn in incomplete (or without) an explanation of what happened than to show such inattention to detail as to miss a 3-week deadline.
- Learn to rely on your classmates for suggestions and group work, because you'll be forced to do it anyway. Don't depend on them though - do enough work to complete the project yourself on time, if you have to. Otherwise, you'll be up a creek if your partner decides to drop the class 2 days before the project is due. Yes, that happened to me also.

Fears:
- Do I really want all the political games that come with working in academia?
- The pressure to publish?
- Do I even want to do research?
- How about that 50% pay cut - at least - versus contract coding? And isn't it fun to live on poverty-level student loans with rent and a car payment to make? That sure wasn't a problem as an undergrad...

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apricity
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Re: Back to School! (not the retail season)

Postby apricity » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:55 pm UTC

Parsifal wrote:- Do NOT miss deadlines (yes, I did this). It makes you look unreliable. It is better to turn in incomplete (or without) an explanation of what happened than to show such inattention to detail as to miss a 3-week deadline.
My program is very small, and the professors would much rather we miss the deadline and turn in good work, as long as we've talked to them first. I've gone to them a few times now to say I might miss deadlines, and they asked me why (it was because of a big meeting at my job) and then gave me permission to take as long as I needed. Just knowing I had that extra time made me much less stressed, and I actually have ended up completing every assignment on time after all. Grad professors know that you have a real-world life to deal with, especially if you are older and have been out of school for a while. I recommend talking to the people in the year above you to find out if you have professors that use that knowledge in allowing extensions and so on.
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