How to Survive and Thrive in Grad School

How to Survive and Thrive in Grad School

People decide to go to graduate school for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you’re looking for a pay increase at your job or you’re looking for a new career entirely. You might be just graduating undergrad and still interested in learning. Whatever the reason may be, Columbia College Chicago has a lot of amazing and nontraditional programs to choose from for creative minds. As a current graduate student currently pursuing my second semester, I wanted to get into the mind of a classmate. Meet Sheba Mokua, a current graduate student pursuing her degree in Strategic Communications.

  1. Why did you choose the Strategic Communications program?

I chose this program because it combined all my passions. I always wanted to do advertising and marketing but didn’t want to focus on one or the other individually and through many nights of searching for programs I stumbled upon Columbia College and the strategic communications program.

  1. Why did you decide to pursue getting a master’s degree in general?

I did my undergrad in Kenya and my program was Electronic Media and Film. While working on a project for a nonprofit, I was able to work with the marketing and management team. I was inspired to start my own nonprofit but quickly realized my skills were limited. I also decided to do my master’s because job opportunities were limited in Kenya especially when the pandemic started so I had plenty of time to research and see where the next phase of my life would be and whether or not I could get better opportunities elsewhere.

  1. In your opinion, what sets Columbia College Chicago apart from other universities?

I am an artist and a creative therefore Columbia being a creative arts school is what sets it apart for creative students. Unlike mixed program schools, Columbia focuses primarily on the creative side of things and it reflects on the classes and activities available.

  1. What do you wish you would have known before starting grad school?

Grad school so far has been a lot of what I expected, but I wish I knew how hard it would be to make new college friends in your mid-20s especially when most classes are online and most people have busy lives outside of school.

  1. Can you describe your favorite class so far?

I wouldn’t necessarily call it my favorite, but based on how the class went, students, I met and things we learned, I liked the Strategic Planning class taught by Beth Ryan. She had a very interesting and different approach to teaching the class which was practical and very hands-on. She mixed mid-century literature and modern-day events to connect and teach and it was very fun to learn.

The class also included practical learning where we got to work with real-life professionals for our final projects and we had an opportunity to create work as we would have in the real working world which was good for building our portfolios.

  1. How has it been pursuing your masters during a pandemic?

I started my program in fall 2021 when things were working towards being normal again, but not all the way which meant that some classes were still online, and during the in-person classes, we had to wear masks. The challenge with this is that it’s hard to get to know other people when you see them through a screen or can’t see their faces and as someone with social anxiety, meeting new people and making friends has been the hardest part.

  1. What are your career goals after graduation?

I am hoping to start a creative arts nonprofit back in Kenya, but before that, I am looking to gain working experience here. I’d love to work for an advertising agency specifically working with brands such as Red Bull, HBO, or Spotify.

  1. What tips do you have for students to thrive and survive in grad school?

If possible apply for scholarships and grants to help pay for school especially for international students. That way you won’t have to worry about paying for tuition.

Try not to take on too much workload. Remember you’re still young and if you are in your 20s in grad school, you can still be in a professional program and enjoy it at the same time.

Network and socialize with not only classmates but teachers because you never know who you’ll find that could help you in your career path.