Recent graduate Morgan Rone shares how she was able to cross the finish line and earn her master’s degree.

I was motivated to continue my education immediately upon receiving my Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems from Stevenson University in 2015. One of the most compelling reasons was to become the first in my family to obtain an advanced degree. Soon after my undergraduate commencement, I began thinking about the steps necessary to achieving my personal and professional goals. What do I want to do? What career opportunities are available? Am I prepared? Ultimately, I decided to return to Stevenson to pursue a master’s in Forensic Studies.

As a first generation college student, I was unsure of what to expect during my time as an undergraduate; because of this, I often worried about the expectations of a graduate student. Throughout my time in the master’s program, my abilities were tested and balancing school with my other priorities became a challenge. In order to ensure my success, I employed specific strategies and tactics that helped me overcome any obstacles:

Take Care of Yourself

Successful individuals know that mental and physical health are connected. I overcommitted and had trouble balancing my responsibilities; I soon became stressed and overtired, which not only affected my health, but my performance on assignments as well. The most important lesson I learned at Stevenson University was to slow down and take care. Despite how busy I was, I made sure I got at least six hours of sleep every night and even went to bed around the same time every day. Giving myself time to rest had a positive impact on my experience in the Forensic Studies program. Work does become the priority when you’re in graduate school; however, your studies must to be a very close second with your health being the most important.

Make School a Priority

When I began my first class in the Forensic Studies program, I was working three jobs. My time was split balancing work and school; soon, it became hard to keep up in the classroom. While I was working, I would easily forget the due dates of assignments, and if I wasn’t forgetting them I was completing homework at the last minute. I decided to quit two of those jobs so I could dedicate my time to my studies. I also bought a large calendar and wrote down all assignments and due dates so avoid the risk of missing anything. Once I made school a priority, I saw improvement in my understanding of the course material and in my grades.

Manage Distractions

It is not uncommon to become distracted or day dream while we are trying to complete assigned tasks. In order to stay on track, I minimized my distractions to the best of my ability. When doing homework, I would set a timer for an hour. After the hour was up, I would take a break. Cutting down on homework time and taking breaks was helpful as I became less likely to get distracted. Another way I managed my distractions was by eliminating technology. I am usually tempted to check my cell phone while doing homework; to stay focused, I would have someone hold onto my phone while I worked on assignments. Managing these distractions helped me in the long run.

Ask for Assistance

The faculty and staff in the School of Graduate and Professional Studies are eager to help. This eased my mind knowing I had their support and supervision to guide me throughout the program. If I had a question about any of my assignments, I asked the professor. In my experience at Stevenson, professors are readily available and willing to help no matter how big or small your issue is; it’s better to ask for assistance and get an answer than to guess and remain unsure.

Another great resource at Stevenson are the Student Success Coaches. These individuals serve as advisors throughout your time in the program. I checked in with my advisor every two weeks to let them know what was going on; they always had suggestions and helpful tips. For example, I was falling behind in the required Forensic Journal Research and Review course and was unsure of what to do. At the time, I was also dealing with personal concerns related to my health. I reached out to my Student Success Coach, Murry Baskerville who along with his fellow Coach Kim Moore worked with me to develop an academic plan. With their help and motivation, I committed to the plan and received an A in the course. My professor even recommended that I try to get my final paper published in the Forensic Journal. Had I never asked for assistance, I would not have achieved such success.

By implementing these very specific strategies, I earned my master’s degree in 2016 from Stevenson University. I hope my advice will help you and ensure your academic success!

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