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This post was written by Tina Nugent, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

When I was first notified that I would be a recipient of the ACE Scholarship for the fall 2016, I was beyond excited. I went back to school in January 2015 to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in hopes to move along to get a Master’s degree. Going back was scary and new. I had never taken an online class before. I do work remote and am very accustomed to working independently, but the first day of school is something entirely new! I was not sure of the systems, Blackboard and teacher expectations. I have picked up some tips along the way that have helped me succeed along the way and I’d like to share them. It’s what works for me and I encourage everyone to find what works for them.

Take the time to read through the Syllabus! Every teacher has different expectations and requirements. Some Professors require a DB post to be by a certain day of the week to receive maximum credit. This is such an easy way to earn the most points. Try to make that your deadline to receive the highest scores. Make note of how many reply posts are required for each class. This is another way you can achieve maximum points. If a Professor requires at least two replies to classmates, aim to complete those with substance. I can tell most Professors are looking for an interactive discussion and would rather two substantial posts rather than five replies with a couple of sentences.

I have taken anywhere from two to four classes a semester. Organization is key! At the start of each week, I make a running list in my notebook. I write down what is due each week for every class. I make note of how many replies are needed for each DB post. I also write down if I should be starting to spend time on group projects or reports. Even if a project is not due for a month; I make sure to spend some time on it each week. Sometimes that may just be 15 minutes, but I can tell you even just writing a rough outline helps. Anytime you can spend on homework is helpful. This list for each week helps me remember what needs to be completed. And I get satisfaction every time I get to cross something off for the week!

Don’t wait until the last minute! I know we have all been there. Myself included. Sometimes life is just busy and it happens. I work full time and have three children under the age of seven. I am fortunate to have a husband who will take the kids out on a Saturday morning so I can have time for homework. If I have a test to take over a weekend, he’ll take them out so I can have some quiet. Find what works for you! I work best when I have am not interrupted and can really focus on school work. If you have other responsibilities in life, which I am sure you all do, make the time for school work. Plan a night or some part of the weekend that is dedicated to school. If I know I have a busy weekend ahead, I try and get as much done as possible earlier in the week. Plan ahead!

I also encourage you to come to any CUNY SPS events that you can. I had never been to the actual school until I attended ACE Scholarship events. It was so nice to meet other students and share best practices. These are the only people who truly understand what you are going through and sometimes you just need to sit and talk about it. I can say how nice it has been to meet classmates and faculty in person. It’s been enlightening to share stories and experiences. Although this is an online learning environment, there are so many resources available to you to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Tina Nugent is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Lynne Alba, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Being a working mom is something I am really proud of. I have worked tremendously hard to maintain my career, while raising my family and being a student here at CUNY SPS. I speak to a lot of working moms who struggle to find work/life balance. I have been really fortunate to work for a company that supports this initiative. But even if I didn’t have that support from my brand there are things that I do that help me stay on track and organized.

My story goes…


I have four children. Four daughters to be exact and each one has a very different schedule and plan when they wake up. My 2 year old is up before everyone, but give her some Cheerios and she is busy for a while. This is when I check my email, make notes of important to do’s and prepare for the day.

By 6:00 am the house is in full swing. My 13 year old is off, and the rest of the crew is waking up as well. At 7:00 am, my 9 year old is up and getting ready for the day. She is quite assertive, and I appreciate it when I am trying to calendar the remaining of my day. From 7:00-8:00 am, I am printing resumes, reviewing applicants, scrolling LinkedIn and catching up on social media. As a recruiter social media is a large part of how I engage with candidates.

By 8:00 am, it is show time. Whether it’s summer or school time, the house is in motion. I may have to help with some clothes decisions, and they are pretty good with getting the rest together. This is when my mother arrives. She helps with breakfast and bus stop runs. She also keeps my youngest on days she doesn’t have nursery school.

When it comes to my career, I am a recruiter for a large retailer. Therefore, I schedule all my interviews in advance, and make time to write my notes in between. I work from home a couple days a week, so it is very helpful when I have some downtime for school. I typically print out my assignments off Blackboard and use the mobile app to stay up to date on deadlines.

I tackle the larger school projects in the evening, when I am not working. But will do smaller discussion board posts between appointments or on lunch.

Balancing family—work—life and school is just that a balancing act.

What is my typical schedule?  

I start at 6:00 am and end at 8:00 pm. I will answer email up until the last set of eyes closes. Supporting other time zones it is important to be accessible after 5:00 pm EST. So I will always try to keep myself available. However, there are times when I have to stop and be a mom as the day goes on. But planning and knowing what coming helps you be prepared.

How do I stay organized?

I do a monthly calendar in Word with everything that is happening. I am always marking down appointments for the girls, me, my husband and my mom. I need to know where we need to be and what time. It’s color coded, and I have it available for all to see. I hand write changes, and while it’s manual it is still my go too for what is happening. I also use Gmail to calendar everything, and invite my work email and school email to the event. This allows me to have all my events on all my calendars—as to not double book. It is not fun when you overbook or double book do to personal/work conflicts. Know where you and your family are at all times, and you can stay organized.

Organization is a family affair. My 13 year old has a white board in her room. I put her calendar on there for her so she knows what is happening.

My 9 year old the same white board, to keep track of her Girl Scout activities and sports. Showing my older girls responsibility for being organized is very important. I am over organized, and I want my girls to be as well.

Finally, I carry a notebook with me and a pen. I write notes as things happen throughout the day, and sometimes it can happen when I am not in front of my computer to document it.

As a recruiter, my operations binder is my lifeline. I have all my important documents, passwords and job files. I put all resumes of candidates in process in my binder, and carry it with me everywhere. You never know when you will need to access their information quickly. I also print all notes that I send to business partners, and a copy of interview schedules as well.

As a student I have the same binder. I have my assignments, calendar of events, and updated course information at the tips of my fingers. I also update all my deadlines and due dates on the calendars as well. Sometimes various courses have different deadlines.

Staying organized is the key to it all. If you don’t organize yourself and your family for what is coming, it’s hard to be prepared. Good Luck!

Lynne Alba is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

This post was written by Jerome Basma, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I’m finally here: my last semester in a four-year journey at CUNY SPS. In fact, it’s my last week of my last semester, in my last class at the school. The capstone class (in this case, Strategic Management) is almost done: my team members and I have recently input the last of the data required for the closing quarter of the business simulation, Marketplace; and we’ve handed in our final case study about Delta Airlines’ response to the threat posed by low-cost carriers in the aftermath of 9/11. Next week, I and the class will take the final, and then goodbye. Great stuff, and now it’s practically over. I will definitely miss it.

I wonder what I will do with myself now that there are no classes to take, no readings, no team projects, no case studies, no exams, no discussion board assignments. If it sounds like I’m already experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, it’s because I am. As I said, I will miss all of this, and the great community that CUNY SPS has been for me the last few years. For sure, there are new challenges to be faced: updating my LinkedIn profile with that infuriatingly blank “education” field (I’m in my fifties, so it’s particularly galling), parlaying my enhanced skills learned from professors and classmates into a better position at my current employment, looking and perhaps finding that job that not only pays the bills but fills that little bit of hollowness in the soul. That last one is the one, isn’t it? It’s the one we all have to go for, even if we don’t achieve it, even if we only just get close and almost make it. Don’t give up, be sensible by all means, but don’t surrender.

These thoughts crowd my head as I step off the curb to cross to the other side. The way ahead will interesting, I will have to make it interesting: what does it mean to have prepared, spent, and sacrificed so much if it keeps you in the same place you started from? Is that even possible? I’m thinking ahead to the new preparations I will soon undertake, and as I strategize my next moves I also think back on the four years spent at CUNY SPS. What would I tell a new mentee just starting out at CUNY SPS? What would I tell my sons as they start out in higher education? What would I tell a friend? The thing that comes to mind is this: don’t just show up. To me showing up is doing the minimum to get the diploma and moving on. If you do that, you’ll end up with a marginally useful piece of paper, and not much else. What you can do instead is to use your classes, use your time in school to breathe some life into your dreams and get them a little closer to becoming a reality.

This can be done by using CUNY SPS and its network of faculty, students, and staff to the fullest extent. Don’t believe that getting the diploma, graduating, magically changes everything: one day you’re a student, and the next you’re a graduate, and then the world changes. Perhaps on some minor level this is true, but it doesn’t last. As you take each class, you should think about how you can apply what you are learning to your present situation: be it your current job, or the job you eventually want to get. You should access your professor and the other students in your class as resources of knowledge, and the possible start of network that you can draw upon for years to come. With that in mind, consider your classmates, who might help you through their experiences or professional background—think also about how you might benefit them in the same way in return. Also consider your professor, who might have a wealth of information about a particular subject you’re interested in. If you feel you need advice in how to proceed in your studies, or how to position yourself to get a certain type of job he or she is familiar with, ask to meet with them. They may or may not say yes. If they can’t meet in person, ask them for a phone call or teleconference. You’ll find that many of them are very helpful and willing to accommodate you in some form.

Also, don’t pass up on the opportunity to stay in touch with faculty and students who share your common interests. One easy and well accepted way to do this is through LinkedIn. Ask them to be in your network, so that at some point in the future you might easily reconnect and communicate with them—remind them you were in their class. Additionally, keep in mind that they may be able to introduce you to people they know on their networks.

Another way you can get more out of your education is to give some of your time back to the school. Show up at the gatherings. Given that many of the programs at CUNY SPS are online, this is very valuable. You’ll meet some of the staff, faculty, and students face to face, and they in turn will get to know you better. Volunteer to help out, or join the student council. Remember that the more of yourself you put into a situation, the more you’ll get back, sometimes in ways you can’t conceive of in the moment. So enough of my sermonizing, and I do apologize if I’ve gone a little long on this. It’s just that I can’t stress enough the importance of doing more than just showing up. Let’s get on with it. I wish you all the best.

Jerome Basma is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). He will graduate from the B.S. in Business degree program on May 31, 2017.