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Angel McKissic: “How I Make It Work”

“How I Make It Work” is a new blog feature designed to highlight the diversity of student experiences while attending MSP.  From students fresh out of undergrad to professionals who are retraining for a new career, MSP welcomes students wherever they are in life.  Angel McKissic (PTMA) shares her experience below.

Angel McKissic
Angel McKissic

Name: Angel McKissic

Current Program: Part Time MA

Describe the (joys and) challenges in your life that make graduate school difficult to manage.

No doubt being a graduate student and a parent to two young children (2 girls, ages 19 months and 5) involves a combination of joys and challenges.

One of the major challenges is making time to complete homework and finding time to spend with my family. One of the great joys of this experience is constantly learning and gaining insights that contribute to my growth not only as a training clinician, but also as a partner and mother.

How do you make it work?

Some days I truly do not know I make it work. The other days, however, I ensure that I am employing effective organizational and planning strategies to map out my week.

One thing I do is to make sure not to schedule anything that could potentially conflict with my school schedule on those evenings. I make sure to carve out specific time for studying and homework. Also, if needed, I will schedule time outside of home and campus to study.

What are some tips or secrets you have for staying organized with a busy schedule?

For me, the only way I have been able to survive juggling competing responsibilities is to plan my time effectively. For those who have children, I would only start on school work once the children have gone to bed. This means that I am often up later than I would like to be, but I have quiet time and space to get work done. I also keep a paper copy of my schedule (an old school monthly planner).

If I am going to remember all of the things I have to do in a week, I must write it down. For some, this might mean using a Google calendar or one on their smart phone. Whatever the medium, I believe it is essential to keep track of school and home commitments (including assignment due dates) if one is to be successful.

How do you make time for yourself?

One way that I make time for myself is to keep a standing appointment. I commit to at least one day a month that is set aside for just me and my needs.

If I have a standing appointment somewhere (e.g. spa, nail salon, etc.) it nearly forces me to take the day, otherwise I might neglect doing so. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of you!

How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed?

Personally, the best way to avoid burnout is to practice self-care, whatever that looks like for you.

When I am feeling overwhelmed and do not have the availability to do something outside of the house, I might take a hot bath and read one of the many non-academic books I have piled up. It is amazing how this small and accessible act can give you the recharge you need to keep going.

What support have you received from MSP?

The biggest source of support I have received from MSP is from other students. I have made close connections with several students at MSP who are going through the same experience and serve as a support network for me when I need it. I am not sure we could make it through without the support of one another!

What advice would you give a prospective student who is worried he or she can’t make grad school work?

For anyone who is struggling with whether they will be able to manage the demands of school and family and/or work life, it is important to remember that the investment in your education is temporary.

If you have to sacrifice sleep or time with the family, remember that these sacrifices will be short lived. For parents, we find ways to make life work. Being a part-time student allows me to work and be present for my children during the day and complete school obligations during the evening, which minimizes many potential conflicts.

All things considered, I know that committing to the MA program at MSP was the best decision I could have made for myself and my family, and all the sacrifices will have been worth it.