Many of you are entering the LMAS program directly from undergrad, but it’s important to know that grad school is different — it’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak, and requires a new approach. So here are ten nuggets from my own experience (some of which I wish someone had told me!) to get you started-off right:
1. You want to be here, you chose to be here, so act like it. Grad school is where you learn how to be a professional. This is the foundation for your career, so take it seriously.
2. Do ALL of the assigned work, and do your best. Don’t cut corners. It’s important that you actually learn the material, and learn it well, because you will need it when you get out into the real world (and take the CPA).
3. If you don’t get it, ask your professor. Don’t be afraid to talk with your professors — they want to help you. Plus, they’re all great people (I know because I’ve met them) and will be an invaluable resource now and in the future.
4. Make friends. Join a study group and student organization(s), go to all the department social events, talk with the people in your classes. This is called “networking,” something you will have to do in your career, if you want to maximize your success. Learn how to do it now, and it will be easier later.
5. Take care of yourself. The workload in grad school is typically double or even triple that in undergrad, so you will be studying long hours. That’s a good thing, but be sure to keep yourself balanced. Now is the time to break the undergrad, “party as much as possible” mentality. If you try to maintain that lifestyle, you will fail, big time. Instead, focus on being healthy — get in shape, be mindful of your eating habits, and get enough sleep. Basically, give your brain what it needs for optimal performance.
6. Subscribe to a professional journal. You should start acquainting yourself with the accounting world — what are accountants talking about these days? What are the issues you may be expected to know about? This is “dinner party” conversation material. Ok, you may not go to many dinner parties, but you get the idea — learn the topics you need to know to have a good conversation with (and impress) a future employer or a potential contact.
7. Think long term and prepare accordingly. What’s next? The CPA. How will you study for the CPA? First, read my insanely helpful post about studying for the CPA; then start the skeletons of your outlines. As you cover the material in your classes, fill in the outlines accordingly. This will not only make studying for the CPA easier, it will also make studying for your exams easier because you will have one more opportunity to go through and master the material. Plus, it will reveal to you where you need more information or what you’re not quite clear on, and you will have the perfect opportunity to talk it over with your professor while the material is still fresh in your mind.
8. Start building a professional wardrobe. Ok, I know this sounds weird, but have you noticed just how expensive nice, professional attire is? If you start now, you can buy things bit by bit — a suit here, a dress shirt there, maybe some nice shoes…. You get the idea. When you start your internship or enter your first real position, you will still be a poor grad student who eats ramen noodles every night — not exactly in the position to spend big bucks on a wardrobe. To avoid that, start now and build it gradually. (And if you’re not sure where to go or what to buy, I wrote a post on that, too.)
9. Use ALL of the resources available to you. There are a lot of people here to help you. I’m in the LPDC every week, M-Th, 9am-3pm, and can help you with pretty much anything — writing, presentations, interview prep, ettiquette (no, really, as a former Southern belle, I have the manual memorized). I can also help you devise a study plan or personal schedule (I love structure). We can brainstorm ideas for your assignments or we can just sit and chat, too. Seriously, come on in and say hello. Jen, Jeff, and Barry are also here to help, so don’t hesitate to contact them, too.
10. And last, but not least…SMILE! Attitude is everything. In school as in the workplace, people who have positive attitudes are more successful and more respected by their supervisors and peers than those who act indifferently, or worse, like they don’t even want to be there in the first place.