It's been an incredible year, one that has truly opened my eyes to all the possibilities that come along with a graduate degree. It also has been a year unlike anything I expected, with a majority of time spent on my culminating assignment: my portfolio defense. With a couple weeks until I walk across the stage to receive my master’s degree, I decided now would be a great time to share some things I wish I had known while completing my portfolio defense.
- Take advantage of your ability to stay up late. You’re young, young enough to stay up late and still function in the morning. Use your time wisely and don’t be afraid to stay up past your bedtime to make sure your work is perfect.
- Have snacks, lots of snacks. Somehow your body now actually needs food every time you sit down to do work… pack snacks to keep you focused.
- Stay realistic. Traveling for spring break went from a cruise to the Bahamas to a carpool to the library. This is to be expected. Consider it an investment to afford future vacations when you land that good paying job after graduation.
- Be friendly to everyone on campus - the faculty, the staff, campus security… you never know who will show up on your defense panel. Networking and getting to genuinely know the people around you will make an ordinary defense a memorable one.
- Don’t worry if you still don’t know what you want to do when you “grow up,” but be proactive in gaining new experiences and asking for new opportunities to expose yourself to different ways of thinking. Just because you pass your defense doesn’t mean you should stop being a student for life.
- Remember: Social media will fill your “breaks” from working on your defense…and will make you wonder how all these people have so much free time…which will make you get back to work…which is probably for the best.
- Put in an honest effort to stay in touch with friends; they’re no longer right down the hall, across the street, or hanging in the booth at your favorite bar. It’s not bad to schedule time to catch up. In fact, that’s probably the only way you’ll be able to stay in touch.
- Realize that you will, at times, be jealous of those who get to just take “normal courses.” The grass is always greener on the other side.
- Know you are never too old to have someone check your work. Sometimes you just need someone to knock some sense into you. Ask someone to be a mentor, because late nights can result in AWOL punctuation, triple-spaced lines, or grammar catastrophes. A mentor should be someone you respect and someone who shares similar qualities with you. And find someone younger than you to start mentoring!
- Don't forget: Your professors want you to pass, but most of all they want you to be prepared to take on the imminent responsibilities that come after graduation. This is the driving force behind their over analyzing and in-depth questions.
All in all... graduation is worth the stress of a portfolio defense. This "stress" is a choice; being prepared and knowing what to expect is half the battle. When you get to the other side, I’ll be there, to laugh and reminisce about how stressful we thought our portfolio defense was.