Back to School: What I’ve Learned About Myself After Starting a Graduate Program

Integrated marketing communications graduate student, Megan Neher, shares what it’s been like going back to school during the “next phase” of life.

Megan Neher

Since starting the integrated marketing communications graduate program at the KU Edwards Campus in 2018, I’ve learned a few things about myself. Especially myself as a college student.

I decided to go back to grad school last year to diversify, and hopefully discover the new challenge of teaching college classes someday.

What I didn’t think about was how much time had passed since I was in an actual college classroom. And how a lot has changed in two+ decades. Gone are the days of perms, big bangs, sorority life, studying until 2 a.m. and $1 beers in Aggieville.

My life is a little different this time around. Full time job. Husband. Two teenagers in high school. An elderly mom. Along with the many other responsibilities of family, social, charity, etc.

My life is a little different this time around. Full time job. Husband. Two teenagers in high school. An elderly mom. Along with the many other responsibilities of family, social, charity, etc.

If you’re wondering what it’s like back on a college campus these days – don’t ask me because I’m only there one night a week, and I’m attending the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park. But I can give you a few of my revelations. So far, I’m surviving okay, but there have been a few little issues …

First, I consider myself pretty tech savvy. I would rather die than be the middle-aged, soccer mom who raises her hand with a dummy tech question. I found out I was missing messages to my new email until I finally admitted I needed help. I wondered what everyone was talking about during class!

Thank you classmates: Erin Carlson and Nicole Papageorgiou for helping out.

Speaking of online … the first time I took an online timed test and had to stare at the clock at the top of the page ticking down the seconds, I was sweating bullets the entire 40 minutes. I didn’t think I needed to study “too much” because it was open book plus we could look up the answers with our computers – duh! I was so wrong. It was SO HARD and THAT CLOCK! How could I get anything done with those seconds ticking right in my face?

I only made that mistake one time. See! This old dog can learn new tricks. Now I just have to get used to the different ways different professors do their tests.

Now, how do I study again? My brain, urg! I don’t know if my brain is tired, full or worn out, but I’m not sure I’m able to retain any more information. I’ve even had to go to my high school kids for tips on studying, and boy, was that a mistake. I tried to save money in my first class and just read the textbook online. I found I wasn’t retaining any of the information. This old-school mama needs to have the actual paper in her hands and to use a highlighter to get the information to stick. Even then I’m not sure it’s actually sticking.

Study tips my high school kids shared: make flashcards and/or use an online app called Quizlet that quizzes you. No thank you! Taking handwritten notes works best for retention. Thank you, Mr. France, senior year English Shawnee Mission Northwest! Still true almost 40 years later.

K-State Wildcat at heart. I probably won’t make the mistake of wearing my KSU purple to campus again. I did it one time without thinking and definitely got some teasing. I’m slowly coming around to being a Jayhawk.

At this point, I’m almost halfway there. Graduation is set for 2020 – the same year and month my son, Zachary, graduates from high school! I even told him we could have co-grad parties. I know he’s thrilled.

This article originally appeared on Megan Neher’s Public Relations blog, Beyond the Pickle.

Learn more about the Master’s Degree in integrated marketing communications program.

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