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Finances & Money

Fall 2007 Semester is Over! A bittersweet ending…

Yes, this semester is finally over. I took 6 credits (2 courses) in addition to working full time, and I have to say it was painful. I was still able to have time in the evenings, but mostly because I began to just ignore classwork, friends, my wife and maybe a bit of hygiene. But now I get about 6 weeks off until I start it all over again with 2 classes in the spring semester.

One thing I learned: Don’t take classes on back-to-back nights. I need some time between class nights to absorb what I learned the last night and maybe do some of the homework reading and assignments. In the spring, I’ll have Monday and Thursday night classes, and in the summer I’ll only have one class.

A classmate asked why I’m pushing so hard to get through the program. I don’t really know why; I just want to be done. I don’t want to prolong the pain any longer than needed, simple as that. If I’m going to stress over homework and grades every semester, then why not compress the program into a shorter period?

So, here’s a review of my classes:

Tuesday Class:

My Tuesday class was engineering-focused (it’s really the essence of the whole program) and I enjoyed the instructors and the course material, although I had to drive 20 miles away for the class. It’s very pertinent to my current job and my career path for the next few years, so I really got a good bit out of it. I got A’s on everything except one homework (B+), and I think our team got an A on the final presentation.

The final presentation was a team effort that was basically our coursework for the last half of the semester. We had a team of 5 and each had to present during the final class. We also had to turn in a final report. I presented on project risk, but then the coordinator for our team asked me 20 minutes before the presentation to start it all off and present the first 10 slides. I did so, even though I didn’t create those slides.

One word of advice when presenting: KNOW YOUR MATERIAL AND SLIDES! A member of another team totally froze and it was apparent that he didn’t know what he was presenting. We all feel bad for him and the whole class was professional about his collapse, but it shows that you need to practice, practice, practice. I’m pretty good about ad-libbing during presentations (I used to be deadly afraid of presenting), but I still need to practice to ensure I don’t get off-track (I’m very good at that) and waste time.

Final Grade: Unless we totally failed the final presentation, I’m pretty sure I got an A. I don’t know if our college gives +/- grades though. If so, then I probably got an A-, but I only need a C or higher to get reimbursed.

Wednesday Class:

Even though this class was right up the road, I still dreaded it because of the topic: Project Management. I know that a PM role is in my future, but right now I like being a technical lead/coordinator. I don’t like playing political games, pushing paper and playing with numbers, which is basically the project manager’s life. I got a wealth of information out of the class because it exposed me to project management principles that I either forgot since my undergrad or just haven’t seen at the workplace. The instructors were very knowledgeable and well-spoken, and my classmates were all great, but I just don’t want to be a project manager.

Our final exam had a written (80%) and verbal (20%) component. The written was True/False, Fill-in-blank, and Multiple Choice, and I was the first one done (took about 10 minutes I think). Overall, the whole class took about 40 minutes to finish this portion. The instructors graded them as they were turned in.

The verbal part was rather fun. We randomly picked a question from a pile, got 5-10 minutes to jot down notes and then present our answer. When we finished, our classmates could add to our answer and the professor can award them bonus points (up to the 20 total points they could earn on the verbal part). My question was “How does conflict in a project affect it in both good and bad ways?”. Since I really can see the good and bad in conflict, I aced this question.

We were sent out of the room for 10 minutes then called back in to get our final exam grade. I figured I would get in the low 90s. Unfortunately, I got an 87 (a B). Sure, I still got an A in the course, but this is the bittersweet ending part. I answered two of the questions right and should have gotten 4 points higher and ended with an A on the exam. The wording of the question was ambiguous and the instructor admitted it, but wouldn’t award me those points in class. He might come around and give me the points privately, but I’m peeved that I answered the questions right, but because he didn’t make his intent known better on the question, I was deducted those points.

Final Grade: I believe I got an A in this class (without doing the math). I only had 1 grade under a 90 (an 85 on the last homework), and that one score only counts as 2.5% of my total grade. The final is 30% of my grade, but overall, I should be fine.

Summary

I should have an A in both courses, so I’m not worried about reimbursements at work. I already got the money back in July, but I just have to submit the official grades by Jan 31st to complete the semester. I’m registered for next semester, but I’m waiting until January to pay since I can’t get reimbursed until the new year anyway. I have a 0% purchase offer on a Discover Business Card for 12 months, so I won’t get hit with interest if the next reimbursement takes too long.

I’m going to enjoy the next few weeks off from school by sleeping in until 6am (woohoo!) and trying to finish Super Mario Galaxy (up to about 98 stars now). Oh, and maybe I’ll start showering again 😉

About the author

Clever Dude

11 Comments

  • I worked full time while getting both of my degrees as well. I flew my master’s program as quickly as possible – the day I turned in my final project I felt so relieved.

    The day after that – I was kinda sad. I had spent so much time identifying myself as a student that once that wasn’t part of my day-to-day life I really missed it. The fact that I was bummed to be done really caught me off guard – I didn’t see that coming as I was plowing through my classes at top speed.

    Enjoy the process – it can be painful, but you can’t beat the networking opportunities.

  • Many of my friends are struggling to get their masters late in life as well. I feel fortunate to have went straight from college into grad school and would recommend this path for most people. It’s hard to balance school, work, and family, especially when you’re married.

    Thankfully I’m not…yet (dodged that bullet) 🙂
    -Raymond

  • Raymond, I do also wish I went for my masters before getting married (and since that first employer fully reimbursed all school costs), but don’t disregard the value of real world experience you gain after your undergrad. I didn’t know the path I wanted to pursue after my undergrad, and it wasn’t until I got enough experience that I knew where my weaknesses and interests lay.

    Also, at least in my masters program, having real world experience is very useful when doing homework, tests and just generally understanding the concepts. It might be different if moving from an engineering undergrad to a similar engineering masters degree, but I’m in the business world.

  • Congrats on getting through and on earning grades at your best potential (instead of slacking and still getting the C)! 🙂 Sounds like they’ll be useful even if you won’t always like using it.

    P.S. Kinda jerkish of the prof. I’m helping Micah grade finals and he’s nice about giving the benefit of the doubt. At least to good students.

  • Being in the exact same program as you, and having done the two-class-per-semester thing in the past, and instead deciding to switch to one-class-per-semester this semester and from now on, I can say without a doubt that it was the best decision I ever made. With half the work, I don’t worry about making time to get the homework done, so there’s no pain. I won’t go as far as recommending you try one class per semester yourself, but I will suggest that the pain of two classes a semester is about 50 times worse than that of just one. Plus if you spread out your classes more, your employer would end up reimbursing more of it, right? Oh, and your wife and friends miss you.

    So yeah, not recommending you switch to one class per semester… just pointing out that it makes much better financial, medical, and social sense. 🙂

  • Nick: I’d really have to spread it out to get much more out of my employer, like push it into 2010 instead of finishing the summer of 2009. That’s 2 additional semesters that I could NOT be doing work. However, there’s always the chance of finding a different employer before then who has a better reimbursement policy 🙂

    Plonkee: This is only one PM course out of 9 systems engineering courses. Not being a programmer or true engineer myself (more on the business and management side), my career path is steadily heading towards running projects. Granted, I can choose my own career path, but eventually that’s where my employer, and other employers, always seem to see me going towards.

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