A Survival Kit for Balancing Grad School and Full-time Work

By Cesar Hernandez

There is a tweet by James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits that resonates with me as I reflect on my making a career change from strength and conditioning to computer science. It reads:

1) Decide what you want to achieve.

2) Try different ways of achieving it until you find one that works for you.

3) Do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t.

4) Don’t stop doing it until it stops working.

5) Repeat. It is both this simple and this hard.

With no prior background in computer science, Northeastern’s Khoury College Align program was tailored for students like me to come away with a master’s degree. I understood the challenges I would face but did not know the degree of difficulty that lay ahead. Here’s how I managed the competing priorities of my job and graduate program.

Embrace the difficulties

  • Find your focus and streamline your thoughts by jotting down all ideas that may be cluttering your headspace
  • Hit the reset button and feel in control of your day through five minutes of meditation
  • Balance your studies with fifteen minutes of exercise everyday

Control what you can control

  • Set priorities and boundaries so that free time and school time are separate
  • Meal prep for the week so that you are not stressed about being hungry
  • Compartmentalize a to-do list in your phone

March 2, 2022


  • Keep your stress in check by talking it out with classmates who have shared experiences
  • Reach out to alumni holding positions that interest you
  • Change your perspective by learning the journeys of your peers

Cesar Hernandez is Program Assistant for Entrepreneurship and Career Strategy in the Alumni Relations Office.