Wow, where do I begin. Let me first say I’m not your typical grad student. I spent 25+ years as an anchor reporter in four different states, raised a daughter, taught Sunday School and served on various community boards before chucking it all to return to graduate school. It was exciting and scary all at the same time.
In a matter of two weeks in late April/early May 2016, I sent inquiry emails about grad schools, exchanged emails with my future grad advisor here at Ball State, wrote a 1000-word purpose statement, received acceptance into the program, interviewed and was offered a grad assistantship. I’m a woman of faith, and I believe it was truly God’s plan! Unlike my undergrad years of procrastination, attending campus organization meetings and well, doing the bar crawl (did I say that aloud?), I keep a pretty mundane and structured graduate schedule. Here it is!
Grad Assistantship days – Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays
My day starts around 6:30 a.m. as I sleepily listen/watch local news and play Candy Crush. (don’t hate—lol) Shortly thereafter, I’m getting out of bed to make my breakfast and lunch to take to work. Yes, eating out is expensive on a grad school budget. Making and cooking your own meals is THE best way to save money! I have two chihuahuas. So once the meals are prepared, backpack packed and I’m dressed, I take them for a walk before getting on the Muncie city bus to campus. It’s free, sort of—we pay for it in our semester fee.
I have to be at work at 9 a.m. I work at Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA). This office helps Ball State researchers and students find and apply for grant money. In my assistantship, I’m the editor of Research magazine. I write about how researchers use grant dollars. I’ve learned there are a lot of amazing people who do extraordinary research here on campus. Fortunately, since we have about a half dozen grad students in the office, I’m able to set my own hours. I work, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, two seven-hour days and one six-hour day. If I’m not working on the magazine, I’m working on course assignments: watching lecture videos, reading chapters, doing homework.
Classroom days – Tuesday, Thursday
I have a Methods class that meets on campus Tuesday and Thursday this semester from 5-6:15 p.m. Tuesday is one of my days to sleep in, but typically after walking the girls, (Gabby and Giovanna) I come to campus to work in the library to do more course work/reading and preparing for Tuesday night’s class. I have a study carrel in the library. It’s like your own private office, with a coat rack, desk, chair and computers. Why don’t I just stay at home until class begins? Well, my four-legged daughters are spoiled and like to cuddle and be held or lavished with attention. If you have a pet, you know exactly what I’m talking about and it’s hard to read that 30-50 page chapter/journal article when you’re constantly being interrupted. So, I come to campus, again packing breakfast and/or lunch.
That brings me to the rest of the week – Friday, Saturday and Sunday
So Friday, I typically take off, go to the grocery store, clean the apartment and of course walk the girls. There are weeks I have an abundance of work and schedule Friday, on my calendar, that this day, 10-4, at the library, is dedicated to such-and-such class. Saturday, I try to get to the library by 9 and repeat the process. Sunday, the library doesn’t open until 10, so this is another day I get to sleep in before… you guessed it… heading to the library. I find I do my best class work, during the day and try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Saturday night I typically make a dinner that can be repeated during the work week. Sunday night I make a different dinner that can be swapped out for the other.
At the beginning of each semester I put due dates in my Google calendar with alarms that give me heads up, one day, three days, one week and if it’s a paper, two weeks notice.
I’ve subscribed to every campus email (Yes, I actually erase after I read). That’s how I knew as a student I could attend the symphony for free. I also met the author/journalist and the subject of “The True American, Murder and Mercy in Texas.” And there are some awesome free Friday movie nights at Prius Hall (although I’m usually too tired to attend-lol.)
When I’m not worried about the next paper or assignment, I’m worried about paying for grad school and missing my 24-year-old married daughter who lives in Alabama. On some nights, that’s what keeps me up, but I’m usually too tired to do too much worrying due to all of the intellectual stimulation. 😀
I have no regrets about this decision. It can be mind-numbing and overwhelming at times, but I know it’s totally worth it! If I can do it at my age, anyone can!