Gimme a Break – From Grad School, That Is

I’m in the middle of my summer break from grad school (I’m getting my Masters in Nonprofit Administration at University of San Francisco) and it is glorious. I have time to jog, clean the house, and sleep – all things that eluded me when I was in school (OK, OK, I still cleaned the house, but I didn’t keep up with it the way I am now!). But more than allowing me to watch hours of Mad Men, this break has done a lot for me.

Here’s a few reasons why a break from grad school is so important.

  • It brings you back to your center. I have to admit that managing full time work and grad school made my inner equilibrium go haywire. There were moments when I found the balance again, but the majority of the time I was off. I was stressed out and finding it difficult to determine priorities. Having more than a week off from school has allowed me to explore a more balanced lifestyle. And while it doesn’t mean I will jump back into the program stress free, it does mean that I am renewed and ready to move forward. I remember what it’s like to be balanced again.
  • It allows you time to reflect. Having some time away from the program has caused me to think back on the past year and how the material will impact my professional life in the future. With such a practical program, it’s easy to see how it can be useful in the moment. What will be important is how it will be useful in the future. And without being immersed in learning new material, I can take a step back and evaluate the importance this program will have to my life.
  • It builds excitement to start again. While I don’t miss the stress of always having something to do, I do miss the learning aspect of my program. I have really enjoyed being an active participant in understanding the nonprofit sector today and how I can be a part of it and make change (or simply promote something that’s successful). Having this break has given me breathing room to understand grad school’s importance to my life again.

I want to emphasize the importance of having a REAL break, too. I had a break of a comparable size in December/January and yet it didn’t have this effect on me at all. I was running around, preparing for the holidays, and I even got sick for a long period of time. That did not count. I was so distracted with things that I didn’t feel relaxed at all. This break has been great because I’ve been able to really relax and do the things I love (yes, that includes watching Netflix). And it’s been more than wonderful for me. Now, check back with me in a month and remind me of this post!!


I’m Off to Grad School!

Exciting news! I have been accepted into the Masters in Nonprofit Administration program at University of San Francisco. I will be making the move from San Diego up to the Bay Area, where I grew up and where most of my family is. I have lived in San Diego for nine years and have made many great friendships down here, but it is time for me to be closer to my family and truly begin settling down.

There is a big debate about the necessity of grad school for nonprofit professionals right now. There are numerous experts explaining the reasons why nonprofit leaders don’t need graduate level degrees. Because the nonprofit sector is so experience based, instead of skill based as many other fields are (business, law, teaching, etc), people claim that through experience, networking, and confidence one can obtain her dream job.

The hard truth of the matter is that more and more nonprofit employers are hoping for advanced degrees when looking for their next leadership. Of the job postings I look at for leadership positions, almost all recommend a Masters to apply. Now, I completely understand the argument that it’s all about what you’ve done and who you know. Absolutely – that can work for many people. But I would not say that getting a Masters is a waste of time or money. If you get a Masters that is highly specialized for the nonprofit sector, and focuses on practical tips for the working world, I feel that it’s time and money well spent. And that’s exactly what I looked for in my ideal program… and found it in the USF program.

Everyone I spoke to in the nonprofit field recommended working 5-10 years before entering grad school… and I totally agree with that. That’s just long enough to catch the bug and know that you’ll be in this sector forever.