How to Survive Grad School Online

In December 2019, Michelle Hunt strode into the Cajundome clad in a black cap and gown, smiling and waving as her family cheered from their seats. Within the hour, Michelle was holding her Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.Michelle Hunt, student enrollment specialist and MBA

That night, Michelle became the first person in her family to earn a graduate degree. She says while the coursework was all her own effort, the whole family worked to get her across the commencement stage.

“It was a family effort from my husband to my kids, my parents, relatives. After graduation, we had dinner and I said, ‘A part of this degree belongs to everyone in the room because everyone helped me,’” she says.

Michelle completed her degree while working full time as a UL Lafayette online student enrollment specialist. Her role enables her to work with potential students to identify the best online degree program for their goals.

Having completed her master’s degree online, Michelle has some insight into what it takes to be successful as an online student.

She recently shared some of what she learned in the course of earning her degree.

Include your people

Michelle says preparing to earn her degree meant getting everyone on board. She and her husband brought together their blended family before she started her courses to set expectations.

“At any given time we have five kids in our household; I’m ‘mom’ to some and ‘Shell’ to others. We said this is what we’re going to need from everybody: you’re going to do your own laundry, we’re going to have chores,” she says.

Michelle Hunt celebrates her graduation with her family.“I think it was exciting for my kids to watch me walk because everything I was doing, they were a part of that. It was the tangible outcome of what we were all working towards.”

Establish a schedule

From appointment and afterschool activities to meals to coursework, everyone in the Hunt household knew the kitchen whiteboard held the family game plan.

Michelle says she managed her course calendar with her family calendar so she could balance being available to her children with being accountable for her studies.

“When I was getting assignments, I needed to see what was going on that week because that would tell me when I was going to do what. If the kids have something important on Wednesday and Thursday, I knew I was going to complete my assignment Monday,” she says. “It was very integrated into my life.”

Know your learning style

Everyone has a distinct learning style — some learn better by listening, others by reading, others by doing. Knowing your learning style can improve your effectiveness in grad school.

Michelle describes herself as a “pen-and-paper gal.” Because MBA online uses online open educational resources and textbooks, she says she made adjustments for her learning style.

“If there were materials I felt I needed because I wanted to write on them or highlight, I would go to the public library and I’d print them,” she says.

Set realistic goals

Graduate students are typically juggling a lot of responsibilities, putting them at risk of burnout.

Michelle says she nearly found herself there at the end of her first semester and learned she needed to set more realistic goals.

“Don’t undermine your abilities, but you have to pace yourself,” she says. “Be realistic about how many courses you can take and what you can achieve at home and in your coursework.”

Michelle says she also had to be realistic about the time she needed to commit to her coursework.

“I had to have mini-come-to-Jesus conversations with myself,” she says. “If other people were going to be helping me, I had to do my part. I had to tell myself: ‘If you say you’re going to study when the kids go to bed, you’re going to study. Turn off Netflix, open the laptop, and do it.’”

Get your timing right

Michelle says those considering a graduate degree have to answer two questions: whether they want to enroll in grad school and whether it’s the right time.

She says she knew she wanted to earn a master’s degree before she completed her bachelor’s degree in 2012, but it wasn’t the right time.

“It became a back-burner thing once I started having kids and other responsibilities. When I saw UL Lafayette had an online program, I thought this would be perfect for me – working, wife, mom times five. So I said if I’m going to do it, this is the right time to do it and this is the right way to do it — online.”

If you’re interested in earning your degree through one of UL Lafayette’s online undergraduate or graduate programs, contact our Enrollment Support Team. Michelle or another member of our team will be happy to talk through your options and answer questions regarding application and enrollment. Email to request information.

About this Author
Hope has worked with online students for more than five years, telling their stories and sharing tips for succeeding as an online student.

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