My Top-Ten List for Succeeding in Grad School
It is mid-April, which means, among other things, that the end of this spring semester is quickly drawing to a close. This also means that my time blogging for the MAC Program, the privilege that it has been, is also drawing to a close.
We were tossing around some ideas as to what this post would be about, and although I really wanted to talk about either partnership taxation or interest swaps or the importance of internal controls during an audit, I was overruled and told to write a Top Ten list for those of you entering grad school. (I’m just kidding; it was my idea.)
I should be very clear, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have not always practiced my own Top Ten, much to my dismay. But hopefully you can learn from my mistakes!
So, without further ado, the following is a very important list of things to consider as you transition from your undergraduate institution (wherever that is) to your graduate institution (whether here or elsewhere).
10. Get a Dan Allen Deck parking pass. (This could really be much higher than 10, but I misjudged how hard it would be to rank order these. But that’s beside the point. I cannot communicate to you how nice it is to have a pass in the deck which is literally across the street from Nelson Hall. Do whatever it takes to get one. Just do.)
9. Get roommates who respect your priorities. While this is probably a little more difficult to do than purchasing a parking pass, it is quite important. If you have roommates that don’t really take anything seriously, they are most likely not going to take your need for sleep seriously, which will haunt your dreams. If you ever have any.
8. Get your priorities right. The preceding recommendation is actually assuming that you have good priorities to begin with. I think that’s a good assumption for most of you, but just so you know, if school doesn’t take a pretty high priority in your life, it’s going to be very difficult to do well. Very difficult indeed.
7. Don’t treat Fridays like days off. Here at the NC State MAC Program, we don’t have Friday classes. This means you will have a choice each and every Friday. 1) Be productive. Or 2) Don’t be productive. I recommend the first option, but a productive Friday means different things for different people. Probably means getting up before noon and spending more than an hour on actual work; doesn’t need to mean you’re doing homework at 9pm. It’s about professional judgment here, folks. (More on professional judgment later.)
6. Make a plan to get regular exercise. Your brain will be tested, and because your brain does not have unlimited springs of energy that flow to it in every moment of need, I recommend giving it a break and giving your heart some work to do instead. And what’s more, fitting into that suit of yours during recruiting is probably a good thing.
5. Get a suit for recruiting. This probably is more applicable to the guys, but don’t wait around to get your suit. Furthermore, spend 5 bucks and buy some shoe polish, and then spend 10 minutes and polish your shoes. And you might need to spend 30 seconds watching a Youtube video about polishing shoes since I know most of you have never done that activity before. The point is, recruiting matters, and you need to look and act your best.
4. Read the Technician (NC State newspaper), and do the sudoku and crossword puzzles within. I’ve got no supporting data for this, but I just think it helps.
3. Understand that grad school is harder, and that the decisions you’ll have to make with your time ought to be correspondingly harder. I know this one isn’t that fun to hear, but I think you should hear it anyway. Take ownership of a master’s degree in accounting. Don’t view it as a check the box pursuit that won’t matter down the road. See No. 8. Be willing to delay gratification.
2. Go ahead and start preparing your mind to be okay with the following answer: “It depends.” There is this hilarious and at times unnerving irony that exists in the accounting world. It involves the fact that most of us got into accounting because we liked knowing that a right answer existed and that we could find it. But then we realize that a bit of a bait and switch has taken place and that “right answers” in the accounting profession are often a misnomer. What must happen instead is that we consider our limited information, use professional judgment, consult peers and superiors, use some more professional judgment and then, in the absence of a right answer, we choose the best answer. This is difficult, but it’s such a worthwhile pursuit.
And lastly, but most importantly….
1. People are, and always will be, more important than numbers. I cannot begin to stress to you how important this is. It will keep you from making grades more important than relationships; it will tone how you practice ethics in this profession and in the classroom; it will give you purpose that you might fail to see in the debits and credits; and it is such a joyful reality to live within. I even have this really helpful equation that might not help you pass the CPA Exam (see Elizabeth’s post), but I think it’s important all the same: Humans > numbers.
So that’s it! My Top Ten. Thanks for reading, and please leave some comments if you wish!