I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I work a full-time job and am a full-time graduate student for the last year and a half. If you’ve been a college student at any level, you’re probably thinking “oh hell no,” and trust me after undergrad I vowed to never do it again.
Short story time. During my last year of undergrad, my financial aid changed drastically and I didn’t have enough money to finish the year. I was made aware of this about halfway through the first quarter, which didn’t leave much time to adjust. After exhausting all options, I ended up dropping all the classes I didn’t need to graduate and was lucky enough to get an engineering co-op at a nearby pharmaceutical manufacturing company. The only class I had left to graduate was physics 2. Bruh.
Let me explain my schedule at the time. I worked as a packaging engineer co-op Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3:30 pm, then physics 2 class and lab 3 days a week from 4 to 6 pm. Did I mention this was winter quarter in Rochester (upstate), NY? Somehow I made it through that grueling semester, passed physics 2 and graduated. There is a lot of stress and little sleep already associated with college, but add a full-time job to that and it’s enough to drive you crazy. After that experience, I vowed that I would never work full-time and take classes again.
Fast forward to August 2015 when I started my first semester at Johns Hopkins University and what was I doing? You guessed it, working a full-time job with the federal government. Life is funny that way. I should mention that I didn’t end up in this scenario again for lack of trying. I got accepted to regular full-time graduate programs initially but because funding didn’t come through I deferred my enrollment. What can I say, I didn’t want to incur any more student loan debt.
Since I was working full-time, I decided to transfer my enrollment from the regular day program to the Engineers for Professionals program. This program is designed for people who work a full-time job and generally offer courses in the evening. The Materials Science and Engineering EP program requires completing 10 courses to in no more than 5 years.
Why Finish in 1.5 Years?
Throughout my time in grad school, I got so many questions about the pace I set for myself, which was without a doubt quick. Most semesters I was taking two classes, and one semester I even took 3…while still working a full-time job. My federal position is not to exceed 2 years and lucky for me I started school the same month I started this job. What this meant for me is that I needed to do whatever I had to do to finish school by or before I finished this job. I needed to be able to leverage a new degree to get my next position, otherwise, what was the point? Another thing I considered was that my agency was willing to pay for some of my courses. The more classes I took there meant fewer loans for me to take out and I’m trying to break up with Sallie. A lot of people didn’t understand my “rush” and encouraged me to slow down, but it was a good lesson in everyone not understanding your vision. I knew why I was moving quickly and that was all that was important.
How I Did It
From start to finish it took me 5 semesters to complete the program, beginning in August 2015 and finishing May 2017. I graduate tomorrow morning, May 22, and it still doesn’t seem real. To be honest it still feels like I just started.
Structures & Properties of Materials
Engineering Materials: Properties and Selection
Introduction to Project Management
Regulation of Medical Devices
Intro to Electronic Packaging
Intro to Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology and the Environment: Applications and Implications
Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Materials
Environmental Policy Needs in Developing Countries
So many lessons to unpack from grad school, but I’ll tackle that in another post. For now (and the rest of 2017), we celebrate!
All photos in this post were taken by DMV photographer, @in11views, check her out!