Finding the Balance and Earning an MBA: A #CougaMBAssador’s Journey

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WSU Online MBA students smile at graduation

Going back to school is a major decision.

Unlike continuing your education straight out of high school, there are a wide array of factors to consider as an adult; balancing your work schedule, maintaining some semblance of normalcy with your family, associated costs, and still finding the much-needed downtime to destress.

But you don’t need me to tell you that.

If you are on the fence about working on your graduate’s degree, you have already made the decision that education is always going to be a valuable asset in your career and future. The question now is, how will you balance it all?

When I decided to go back to school, I was working overtime as a Project Manager on a large program, married to a professional musician with two exceedingly demanding fur-babies, freelance writing for a number of periodicals, and working on my first novel. At times, finding a way to effectively juggle everything was tough.

The key is finding a topic that interests and drives you and a program that aligns with your goals.

I knew that in-person courses were not feasible for me with my multitude of other responsibilities, so I began searching online for highly ranked business programs that had a fast-paced schedule. I knew that I could handle a lot of stress for a fixed amount of time, especially when the end result was an accomplishment of this magnitude.

I’ve always been fascinated by business, so an MBA was a no-brainer for me. The tricky aspect was deciding which discipline to choose. I was torn between International Business and Marketing.

Marketing is an art, as well as science, and the element of creative psychology was something I have always wondered and wanted to learn more about. Eventually, my passion for international travel and my future career goals of traveling and consulting with organizations in different regions motivated me to select International Business as my focus. That is, until I started my first course in the program.

The first elective course that I took was International Marketing, which could be applied toward either major…or both.

The courses are demanding and challenging, requiring focus and effort each week on assignments and exams, but you power through them with the confidence. In the end, you are laying solid groundwork for a lifetime of knowledge to apply to your career, or entrepreneurial aspirations.

The professors are equal parts rigorous and helpful, and the Capstone Project will force you to use all the skills you learn over the 22-month program in order to demonstrate your competency and expertise in a multi-medium format.

The key for me was efficiency and equilibrium. The flexibility of the courses allows for a sense of freedom if you remain organized and ahead of the work. Working ahead where possible, makes it easier to not fall behind or feel overwhelmed. In some courses, I was able to complete a weeks’ worth of work ahead of time, or could complete quizzes via hotel rooms, and could still travel to Vancouver to watch my husband perform without worrying about missing out on life or falling behind in my studies.

Setting a schedule with your family and friends helps so there are minimal interruptions during homework time and boundaries set on when it is time to relax and buckle down. Having these boundaries manages everyone’s expectations, and the accelerated yet completely attainable schedule of the program makes WSU’s program a great choice for working and family-focused students.

Self-care is also vital for success. At the risk of sounding like a fitness influencer, maintaining a solid sleep schedule, eating right/remaining hydrated, and (at least for me) exercising. Exercise is crucial for remaining sane when undergoing such a huge workload and fighting off stress.

When I nonchalantly mentioned to my husband and family that I was tacking two additional courses on to the end of my MBA program to complete the Marketing Certificate, I was met with some chuckles, eye-rolling, and comments that I “never knew when to quit,” but, they were not wrong. I consider myself the eternal student, and if you are reading this, you probably do as well.

By #CougaMBAssador Cathryn Curry Hasz