5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership

Leadership is clearly more than seniority, a title and power. It’s a multi-faceted topic that leaders themselves are interested in studying, including Teresa Goode, faculty member at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. Here, she shares tips on how she’s been able to apply a modern model of leadership to real people.

5 Practices of Exemplary LeadershipWhen scanning stories about Angelina Jolie over the last few months, a question occurred to me. How did she transform from a wild young starlet, known for wearing her husband’s blood in a vial around her neck and kissing her brother on the lips, into a world-renowned humanitarian, movie star, mother of six and spokesperson who bravely announced her mastectomy? As I pondered this, I realized that Jolie is actually what I call a “transformational leader” and clearly demonstrates one of the transformational leadership models that I teach here in the Masters of Science in Leadership program at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. The model is called the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

While I knew this leadership model, developed by James Kouses and Barry Posner and described in their work The Leadership Challenge, applied to organizational leaders, Jolie helped me understand how it can apply to people in all walks of life.

Let’s explore the five practices as they relate to all kinds of leaders:

Model the Way

Leaders who model the way, exhibit two key behaviors. They “Clarify their Values” and “Set an Example.” Their actions are aligned with their values. When Jolie, one of the sexiest women in the world, announced that she had a double mastectomy and wanted to use her experience as a teachable moment to help other women, it was a powerful example of modeling the way.

Inspire a Shared Vision

Kouzes and Posner identify “Envisioning the Way” and “Enlisting Others” as two ways leaders can inspire a shared vision. Bill and Melinda Gates immediately come to my mind. They’ve established for their foundation a clear vision focusing on five areas: Global Development, Global Health, U.S. programs, Global Policy and Advocacy. They’ve also convinced other wealthy people, such as warren Buffet, to donate part of their fortune to their foundation.

Challenge the Process

How many of you reading this blog have an iPhone, iPad or Apple computer? Or perhaps the devices you use are enabled by the technology Apple developed.  The transformation in technology wouldn’t be available if Steve Jobs had not “Searched for Opportunities” and “Experimented and Taken Risks”—two behaviors of exemplary leaders.

Enable Others to Act

Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African leader, exemplifies this. By “Fostering Collaboration” and “Strengthening Others,” he was able to successfully lead South Africa through the dismantling of apartheid while encouraging racial reconciliation.

Encourage the Heart

Leaders encourage the heart by “Recognizing the Contributions of Others” and by “Celebrating the Use of Values and Victories.” When thinking about his practice, I glanced at the Mighty Mouse trophy I won during one of my favorite jobs. I have long forgotten the accomplishment we celebrated, but I clearly remember the spirit of community and appreciation I felt when I won the award.

How about you? Can you think of a leader, friend, peer or family member who exhibits one or more of the practices of Exemplary Leadership?…

Survey Says: Analog-centric Academics and Popular Perceptions

We do hope you’re sitting down for this one, folks. A recent story in the Higher Education section of The Economist is blowing the lid off a secret that has been kept tight for centuries. Ready? The world of academia does not always enthusiastically rush to embrace change.

Now, listen—if your pulse is still racing, you might not want to read the story itself; we’re happy to provide a summary. The piece is called “Learned Luddites,” with the subhead, “Many professors are hostile to online education.” But before you lunge for the panic button, allow us to provide some context from the story itself.

A recent study of faculty attitudes to technology by the online publication Inside Higher Ed found much skepticism about MOOCs…

Survey Says: Analog-centric Academics and Popular PerceptionsThis will come as little surprise to anyone who’s been following the increasingly wide inroads that MOOCs and online education have been making into traditional curricula—or to anyone who has spent time in higher ed. The San Jose State and UMass Amherst stories in particular will be familiar to regular Aspire readers, as will our perspective on the benefits offered by online higher ed, such as web-based tools for instructors and integrated experiential learning.

In any case, it looks like the title of the Economist story is on the mark—so far. However, let’s pick up that sentence where we left off.

…but also that staff who have actually taught on them are far more positive about their quality.

Seems like the jury is still out. Here’s another excerpt:

Nishikant Sonwalkar, the editor of MOOCs Forum, says professors do not want to teach on courses they did not create. At the same time they are concerned about “academic marginalization.”

The piece goes on to note that UMass President Emeritus Jack Wilson compares online courses to textbooks; after all, most instructors use textbooks, but very few of them write their own. Which is a fair point, but on the other hand, one text does not an entire semester make: Textbooks and other resources are what instructors combine to create their own courses and curricula. (A fairer comparison might be to a recipe; different cooks may use the same tools and ingredients to make the same dish, yet can come up with vastly different results.)

In other news, while the Economist equivocates, a post at the Chronicle of Higher Education on a recent Gallup poll indicates—at first glance, anyway—that opinion isn’t so evenly divided.

In early October, Gallup asked two groups, each composed of more than 1,000 adults, whether they thought “online education is better” in a series of categories. In terms of “providing a wide range of options for curriculum” and “good value for the money,” online education got slightly better scores than traditional classroom-based education.

But online education scored much worse in four areas: delivering “instruction tailored to each individual,” providing “high-quality instruction from well-qualified instructors,” offering “rigorous testing and grading that can be trusted,” and—finally, worst of all—dispensing “a degree that will be viewed positively by employers.”

The story doesn’t stop there; traditional bricks-and-mortar colleges (from, as far as we can tell, the Ivy League to the local community college) also came out looking better than their digital counterparts:

Only a third of the respondents rated online programs as “excellent” or “good,” while 68 percent gave excellent or good ratings to four-year colleges and universities, and 64 percent gave such ratings to community colleges.

All of this would seem daunting to anyone invested in the future of online education, except for one thing—here’s an excerpt from the Gallup survey’s notes on methodology:

Results from the Oct. 3-6, 2013, Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both and cellphone mostly).

It looks pretty exhaustive, but what’s missing? Any indication of the participants’ familiarity with higher …

The key to thriving in higher ed today? Flexibility

To look at the data and read stories in the media, post-secondary education is in trouble. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, enrollments dipped at U.S. graduate schools for both the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years (the last two years for which there is data). Business and law degrees—those stalwarts of higher ed—have had decreases in applications in recent years. Even undergraduate institutions—which hadn’t seen enrollment dips in two decades—are feeling the pinch.

So what’s at play here? And is there anything we can do to change the trajectory of these trends?

Theories abound as to what’s causing the decrease in demand for post-secondary degrees: an improving economy means more people are working, so don’t have the time or need for an advanced degree; an increasingly practical populace demands (rightly so) a real return on their significant higher ed investment; the demands of the job market are not being met by today’s higher ed curricula or the students who complete them; and many others.

Data and anecdotal evidence can be found to support each of these arguments, but in my opinion each misses the mark slightly—or, more accurately, none tells the whole story.

Instead, I would argue that all of these theories can be taken in aggregate and boiled down to one thing: flexibility. Or, rather, the lack of it. For too long higher education has stamped out carbon copies of the same degrees and the same graduates, and has expected (and gotten) the same results. But the needs of our students, our economy and our society have changed, and yet higher ed is still stamping out the same old products.

And to me the key to our success has been our willingness to embrace the flexible. Here are just a few examples:Here at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies we have long tried to buck that trend, to great effect. For a decade we’ve enjoyed strong growth, increasing enrollments and satisfied (and employed) alumni.

The key to thriving in higher ed today? Flexibility

The common thread among all of these is our willingness and ability to try, because we know the value of a graduate degree in today’s workplace. As my colleague, Sean Gallagher, has pointed out, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, salary premiums for master’s degrees were more than 20 percent higher than bachelor’s degrees and those with master’s degrees are less likely to be unemployed; there will also be more openings by 2020 for jobs requiring a master’s degree than for any other type of degree.

If we listen to our students, they have an uncanny way of telling us what they want. Our strength as an organization stands on our ability to listen to the market and be nimble enough to craft creative strategies to serve students’ needs.

Our recent past should be a beacon for our emerging future; and the future can be very bright with the right mix of flexibility for our students. The alternative is to shrink and be diminished, as seems to be the way of traditional higher ed.…

Asking (and Answering) the Right Questions: How Doctorates Enhance Thought Leadership

As a student in CPS’ Doctor of Law and Policy (DLP) program, I’m learning about the ways in which a wide variety of public and related institutions formulate and execute policy. I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy and have devoted my career to regulatory compliance and risk management for the information technology industry. My classmates come from many other industries—everything from national defense to human services—but what brings us together in the DLP is the opportunity to learn systematic methods of policy inquiry and applying those methods to the most pressing questions in our respective fields.

Why is this important? Take the recent string of “glitches” that have impacted electronic trading. In late August, an IT system failure stopped the $50 billion a day NASDAQ  stock exchange for three hours. Is that a glitch? When a Goldman Sachs programming error causes a $100 million mistake in a matter of seconds, is that a glitch?  A glitch is a temporary, unforeseeable failure in a piece of equipment that is quickly remedied. However, in the case of the IT failures in global trading systems, it’s not just a piece of equipment or IT that fails, it’s markets that fail; that’s not a glitch, that’s a systemic risk.

Expectations for Education: 2013

These failures have been occurring now for almost two decades. The 1987 Black Monday crash was blamed in part on computerized program trading, which has evolved to high frequency trading (HFT), in which no human is involved. The 2010 Flash Crash, a 1000 point drop in the Dow in a matter of seconds, was blamed totally on HFT. Goldman Sachs got off easy in August since under exchange rules, 80 percent of its erroneous options trades were cancelled. Last year, Knight Capital was not so lucky. It took losses on almost all of its erroneous trades, over $450 million worth– four times Knight’s annual profit. Ironically, Knight was rescued from its bad trading positions by Goldman.

In the wake of such events, several regulatory fixes have been proposed for HFT failures, but as you can imagine, formulating solutions to this complex problem is far from simple. Traders are being replaced by IT systems, and hence the risk of market failures from poor IT governance is growing. Hiring a new CIO probably won’t fix this governance problem. Ensuring that effective governance exists is a board level responsibility, and unless the corporate directors and senior executives are executing effectively their roles in IT governance and risk oversight, no matter the regulatory fixes, the problems will continue.

This is not an abstract problem. When a major exchange shuts down, billions of dollars in trades halt. If that were to happen on a day when a volatile event occurs, such as the Fed deciding to raise interest rates, panic could set in when trading resumed. This type of panic has real consequences across the entire economy.

This is why I chose the DLP. I’m surrounded by smart, curious people who may not know anything about IT security issues and high frequency trading, but they are dealing with similarly important and complex issues in their own fields, so bring their unique expertise and perspective to class. In this way, I hope, our collective wisdom will help answer the important policy questions—regardless of the industries we individually work in.

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Expectations for Education: 2013

As the conversation continues about tailoring academic curricula to meet private sector needs, a recent data set provides further food for thought.

A national survey conducted by Northeastern University polled a sample of 1,000 people, along with more than 260 hiring decision-makers from small businesses to global corporations. The results indicate an ongoing preference for educational breadth, as opposed to specialization:

[N]early two-​​thirds of Americans (65 percent) and almost three-​​quarters of hiring decision-​​makers (73 percent) believe that being well-​​rounded with a range of knowledge is more important than possessing industry-​​specific skills.

So, does that mean the debate swings toward the “well-rounded” side and away from the “industry-specific” proponents? Not quite.

Expectations for Education: 2013Americans see a shared responsibility when it comes to preparing recent graduates for success. They believe the number one reason for employers struggling to find qualified job candidates is that companies do not invest enough in training new hires. However, hiring decision-​​makers say that colleges and universities are not in tune with industry needs and not preparing graduates accordingly. In fact, 55 percent of business leaders surveyed say their firms have trained recent college graduates on skills they should have learned at an academic institution.

This article summarizes the survey’s findings and includes some quick-hit data points of note; for more information, take a look at the survey’s main page. There’s also this sharp infographic—or you can just go right to the numbers.…

Catfishing your way to a master’s degree?

As we move education into a realm that makes greater use of online learning and we ponder how we award traditional course credit for courses taken in the MOOC model, an important consideration is our ability to verify that the person receiving the credit truly is the person doing the work.

An obvious advantage that the traditional face-to-face education model has over online environments is that it’s relatively easy to gauge a student’s understanding and confirm that the person sitting in class, participating in a discussion or taking a test is actually who they say they are. The online environment presents some unique challenges in this regard: Anyone who saw the news earlier this year about Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s non-existent girlfriend is familiar with the concept of “catfishing” and the difficulty in validating that the person on the other end of a discussion board is who they claim to be. If such impersonation occurs in social settings where the stakes might be considered relatively low, is it unreasonable to assume that such impersonations will occur in an environment where the rewards are potentially much greater? We’re talking about awarding educational credentials that can lead to greater employment opportunities and/or higher salaries—big payoffs.

Catfishing your way to a master’s degree?

Some organizations, including Northeastern, are investigating methods to validate student identity, including remote proctoring services (for example, using the student’s video camera to record the student taking the exam) and other technology-based systems. In addition, we have tools that help to identify plagiarism such as the TurnItIn system, which we use here at the Northeastern College of Professional Studies (CPS).

All of these potential solutions rely on a human being (the professor) to validate the results and determine if further investigation is necessary. It’s also up to the professor to ensure that students are not unnecessarily investigated and penalized. Just how useful these solutions will be in an environment that relies on peer feedback mechanisms for assessment of student learning (where students grade each other against an instructor-defined rubric) is very much open to question. Some might argue that peers are more likely to identify questionable activities and be able to verify student identities without the need for technological oversight. But identity hoaxes may be hard to detect and are often accompanied by documentary “proof” (assignment work) that is difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

Much work remains to be done before we can feel comfortable that the person receiving a credential after taking online courses is actually the person who deserves it. We certainly have technology that can form the basis for identity validation, like facial recognition, and we can use audio and video recording tools to capture student-testing environments. A larger question to ponder is whether the cost of a widespread implementation of technologies like these, along with the required human validation of the results, may dwarf the cost and detract from the many benefits that accompany the MOOC model.

Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend sent shockwaves through the NFL. What impact might fake students have on higher education? Only time will tell.

Observations on Online Experiential Learning

The following are excerpts from a paper I’ve been writing with my colleague Anne Hammer at the Northeastern College of Professional Studies (CPS).

Experiential education is a holistic philosophy with carefully chosen experiences supported by reflection, critical analysis and syntheses. In more simplistic terms, experiences are structured to require the learner to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for the results. This is done through active inquiry, investigation, experimentation, problem solving, assuming responsibility, demonstrating creativity, constructing meaning and integrating previously developed knowledge.

Many colleges, including Northeastern University, offer co-ops and experience in the real world, meaning students get real jobs where they apply what they’re learning in school directly to the workplace.

In some situations, like those of post-traditional graduate students who already have jobs, families and other time-consuming commitments, this kind of workplace immersion is challenging to organize and may be unfeasible. Given that challenge, we’ve been looking at ways students can gain that invaluable online experiential learning (OEL) experience while they’re taking a fully online course.

(For details, see our post on CPS’ new online experiential learning pilot project, which is pushing the concept forward.)

An optimal experiential learning environment is one in which students are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, politically, spiritually and physically in an uncertain environment—one where decision-making and risk-taking result in success or failure, which then provide opportunities for reflection. My initiative in fixing copy machines is legend around these parts—borne of experiential learning!

Learning usually involves interaction: between learners, learner and educator, and learner and environment. It challenges the learner to explore issues of values, relationship, diversity, inclusion and community. The educator’s primary roles include selecting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, facilitating the learning process, guiding reflection and providing the necessary information. Concrete learning plus abstract thinking is key: If I can fix the copy machine, then the coffee maker exploding is unlikely to faze me.

The following diagram represents the development of successful experiential experiences. It looks a little dry and academic, but when printed out it makes a lovely drinks coaster.


As we consider the transition of courses and curricula from the face-to-face traditional campus to hybrid and online markets, we have to consider how well “experiential” can become online experiential learning  and what we need to bring about to make it a focused concept.

In order to review the effectiveness of OEL, we reviewed the literature, interviewed colleagues at schools with reputations for “experiential” and developed a tool to critically assess current online courses. As we put together recommendations for Northeastern’s foray into OEL, we focused on the design and delivery components of OEL.

Experiential Matrix

In an attempt to quantify a course’s “Experiential Value” (EV), rating we developed a set of questions assessed by independent advisors using a 1-5 Likert scale. While our review illustrated inherent strengths of the model as currently implemented, it also indicated areas where we can improve.

The assessment criteria were:

1) Are the materials appropriate/suited to the context of the course?
2) Is the main task and its outcomes aligned with stated course objectives?

3) Does the student play an active, rather than a passive part in the task or problem?

4) Does the activity involve a cognitive dimension?
5) Does the activity involve interpersonal and other non-cognitive skills?

6) Does the student interact with other students (applied experiential)?
7) Does the student interact with client(s) or other outside entities?

8) What is the degree of authenticity? (real-world or real-world-like interaction)
9) Is there a propensity for adversity, glitches or other real-world-like unexpected events?

10) Does the experience require abstraction or reflection on the experience: successes and failures?
11) Is there a discussion or other activity involving stimulating questions pertaining to the experience?

12) Is the student encouraged to apply abstractions or non-cognitive skills learned to novel problems?
13) Is the student encouraged to apply new cognitive skills based on the main task to novel problems?

Our analysis proved that online education does have intrinsic advantages on the experiential front given the nature and format of class discussions, including a multitude of varying life experiences and reflections. Now’s not

Bridging the gap: students talk about connecting online learning to real-world workplaces

Last month, Northeastern University College of Professional Studies launched an innovative pilot class called Online Experiential Learning for Working Professionals. The class—a first of its kind—gives working graduate students who are pursuing their degrees online to directly translate what they learn in class to the workplace. How? By giving them the chance to craft and complete a relevant project that addresses an identified business need for their current employer.

As CPS dean John LaBrie said in his recent blog post on online experiential learning:

The romantic notion that adults come back to higher education for personal enrichment and self-directed intellectual pursuits does not hold water. …the vast majority are in it for a better life, which almost always translates to enhanced career outcomes.

The majority of online students at CPS are employed. This new pilot is designed to equip these students to further their education and grow their skills while attending classes online and putting their knowledge into practice—on the job. (For an overview of the concept behind the class, check out this recent post by Ellen Stoddard, who is coordinating the pilot program.)

Bridging the gap: students talk about connecting online learning to real-world workplaces

So what do the students think of the concept? Below are comments from some who are taking part in the pilot on why they chose this unique class.

[My] project could help leadership identify critical business issues which will aid in the process of making the decisions necessary to remain a stable and viable company in the future.

Another student sees the benefits of online participation:

Being exclusively an online student, I regularly seek to find the connections between my work toward my Nonprofit Management degree and my personal and professional life. …Participating in this experiential learning program [gives] me the opportunity to both enhance my learning and bring added resources to [my role].

“Real-world experience” means just that—and the student group represents a lot of parts of the world: Geographically, the students hail from down the street in Boston down to North Carolina and Florida, and as far away as Dubai.

The diversity of the group reflects the broad potential for the pilot’s applications. One student is working on his project at a name-brand plant in Ohio; another is employed full-time at a New England law firm. Two of the participants intend to apply their newly developed skills to nonprofit work.

As Dean LaBrie puts it, “…incorporating experiential learning into online and hybrid learning programs is not only a crucial step toward these goals—it’s an inevitable one.” This pilot is an example of taking that step; we’ll continue to share results as the pilot progresses over the next several months.

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Is there really such a thing as a nontraditional student?

Every so often, a really bad name for something is contrived and somehow becomes acceptable. That is, until years later, when its legitimacy is eventually questioned and, ultimately, changed. In the breakfast cereal world, for example, Golden Crisp suffered from the ultra-sweet name of Super Sugar Crisp for nearly 20 years before parents began to question whether giving “super sugar” to their children was the best idea. The cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. provide another good example. From 1963 to 1997, the region’s professional basketball team was named the Bullets until the team’s ownership advocated for a less violent name.

I’d like to add another example from the higher education realm to this list: the phrase “nontraditional student”—a long-used naming convention to describe a category of students attending postsecondary education who are not like the “normal” college students. But unlike Super Sugar Crisp and the Washington Bullets, the name may be more than a just poor choice: it’s more of a complete misnomer.

“Nontraditional student” is commonly used to describe an enormous category of undergraduate college students who are unlike the “traditional” students who enroll in college full-time immediately after completing a high school education, are dependent on parents for financial support and don’t work full time. The term is widely used in the press—the Washington Post even used “nontrads” in a recent article—as well as by universities and even by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics in its reporting and research initiatives. In short, the name is a widely acceptable and an officially codified way to describe a group of students. It’s also a name that needs to be changed.

There are two main reasons why it needs to be exiled to the Island of Bad Names. First, the name is not even remotely accurate. Super Sugar Crisp may have been really sugary and Mister Salty Pretzel Twists (another terribly named product) may have been really salty. And MOOCs (another horrible name that’s sprung from the higher education world) may be online, massive and open. But “nontraditional students” are not actually nontraditional.  On the contrary, they are the established norm in higher education. The Department of Education has reported that 73 percent of undergraduate college students fall into the nontraditional category, and the Council of Graduate Schools has documented the continued rise in the numbers of nontraditional graduate students. Second, and perhaps more important, is that the phrase nontraditional is a terrible way to describe someone. Who, really, wants to be labeled as nontraditional? Is this a label that anyone would embrace?

How have we gone for so long thinking that it is a good idea to label a category of our students as non-traditionalists? There are few others in society that seem to widely embrace this adjective. Google “nontraditional” and you’ll find that eight of the first 10 search results all reference “nontraditional students.”  You know what this tells me? No other industry sector besides ours thinks it’s a good idea to label something (worse yet, someone) as nontraditional. In using this term, we are unintentionally marginalizing the population of individuals we seek to recognize.

It’s time that higher education stop using the term altogether. If students are at the center of what we do and we want to make our students—regardless of their age, enrollment status or financial standing—feel like a welcomed part of our institutions, then let’s agree to use more flattering ways to describe them. Let’s put our minds together and think about how students we seek to enroll, retain and graduate would like to be identified. If we want to encourage students of all types to enroll in our programs, let’s show them that we value them by giving them a proper name. I’ve got a few ideas that have nothing to do with breakfast cereal or professional sports teams, and I’ll share those in a future post.

If you have a suggestion, please share it here. In the meantime, I’ll continue to find ways to provide educational access for nontraditional students at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies while watching old highlights of the Washington Bullets and eating a bowl of Super Sugar Crisp cereal.…

5 Tips for Grad School Success

In just under two months, I’ll be receiving a master’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication, with a concentration in social media, from the Northeastern University College of Professional Studies (CPS). Based on my experiences and a desire to help others get the most out of their education, I’ve put together these five short tips for how you can get the most out of your graduate school experience.

1. Don’t go back just to go back.

Times are tough. Unemployment is still at frightening levels; the constant demand for new (read: digital) skills is rapidly increasing; and the cost of everything is skyrocketing—including an education. It’s so tempting to get that next degree in an attempt to escape the perils of today’s economy and job market. But education should never be an “out.” Think of any current or past success you’ve enjoyed and ask yourself, “Am I ready to commit to this at the same level?”

Then you should begin to look at programs. When you do, take the time to do your homework and don’t settle for a program that isn’t the perfect fit. I spent a year researching before deciding on CPS.

 2. Trust your instincts.

This is probably the most significant lesson I learned. After seriously committing to CPS and my program, I had that positive gut feeling at each key moment—the application process, the acceptance letter, the first day of classes—that I had found what I was looking for. I knew it was right.

In my classwork, I took a few outside-the-box approaches that ultimately paid off. It often felt frightening to hand in some of my projects representing this kind of alternative thinking, but I feel that if B-level work is status quo—following instructions and simply meeting requirements—A-level work means making bold moves. It pays to push the proverbial envelope; to ask “Why” (or “Why not?”) —and to make it a habit.

3. Networking is everything.

For undergrads, forming relationships with professors outside of the classroom can be rare. But don’t let that set a precedent: In grad school, strong relationships should be the rule, not the exception. You’ll study under thought leaders in your field who will open doors for you, if you show your merit—not because it’s their job to do this, but because they are professionals who understand the importance of building the future of their industries.

The same goes for your classmates. Once you graduate, you could be working alongside some of the greatest minds in your field. And before that time, any of those people could be in your classroom; whether they’re in the back of the room, wearing a hoodie and jeans, or at the head of the class in Dockers and a polo shirt. Make friends, build connections and be ready and willing to learn from your peers.

4. Think of sacrifice as a necessity.

Graduate school is going to require time and money, and these things are of even higher value to you now than they were as an undergrad. But don’t think of the cost in dollars and hours. Think of it as time away from friends and family, the vacation you can’t take, the car you can’t buy. Even if your job will pay for school, working a full-time job while going to school—even part-time—is effectively holding down two full-time jobs. And if you’re not working, that probably means you’ll take on a lot of loans that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Come to terms with it. This is a commitment with costs that cannot be measured at face value, but the same can be said for the rewards.

5. Enjoy yourself.

Graduate school was responsible for what felt like the longest stretch of my life, even compared to attending undergrad for five years at two schools, with three majors. But it wasn’t the time, the cost or the balancing act between school, work and a personal life that made it feel this way: It was the fact that I never stopped learning.

Books and articles and theories and discussions will always be around, but graduate school is a time when you can—and should!—fully immerse yourself in them. The grad school environment fosters …