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How hard is it to adapt to post-graduate studies after an academic pause of 16 years working in sort of relevant industry?

I graduated back in 1998 with B.Eng. in computer engineering, worked for 16 years in IT related jobs, and decided to go back to school this fall (2014).

Is it hard to be ready after such long academic pause? Any particular skills I should work on while waiting for the program to start?

  • One odd skill you may need to practice - fast, legible handwriting for exams. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 28 '17 at 10:56
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I graduated back in 1984 with a BSc in Computer Science. Went back for a MSc by research 25 years later, in 2009. Finished that in 2011, and now I'm doing my PhD.

Will you be doing an MSc by research? If you're the sort of person who likes learning things on your own, I'm sure you'll find it easy enough to adjust. Reading scientific papers is a skill that takes a while to learn. (Writing them, even more so!) You can use Google Scholar to search for papers in the are you're interested in. (Many articles will be behind paywalls, so you probably can't access them until you start, but many articles will be freely available.) Expect it to be tough going at first, so don't get discouraged. Also, I hope you like (or at least don't mind) writing, because in many fields an MSc thesis involves a lot of writing.

If you're doing an MSc by coursework, I don't have too much advice to offer.

Your experience in industry will help you a lot. You'll probably have more resiliency than your fellow students, due to your life experience. This will help you deal with stress. You'll probably find that teachers and students are asking for your real-world perspective, which is great for your self-confidence. Also, you probably have a very clear idea of why you're doing an MSc, which will help you stay focused.

  • Thanks for your encouraging words. a) I will be doing course based M.Sc. (I know it is embarrassing) b) I am a curious person and keep on learning. but of course, learning from light periodicals or from discover channel is nothing compared to academia. Thanks once again – A.Rashad Jun 8 '14 at 17:20
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    "You'll probably have more resiliency than your fellow students, due to your life experience." Well, I'd say that most importantly you'll probably actually be able to code, and be efficient at it. A lot of grad projects are helped immensely by the ability to code. – Reinstate Monica Jun 11 '14 at 0:13
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Former MSc by coursework student here but with a shorter gap between my BSc and MSc.

How hard is it to adapt to post-graduate studies after an academic pause[...]?

It's not easy but it's perfectly doable. It is more dependent on you as an individual and your approach to the particular course you choose to do than anything else.

Is it hard to be ready after such long academic pause?

Depends entirely on you and the course you choose. Did you do well back in school? That helps. Did you do well at University? That helps far more. Can you afford to do it (you'll likely be paying and not just in terms of money)? Are you doing something that you have always did poorly in and never learned to overcome (life will be hard)? Can you adapt to the academic style (reading, writing and interacting)?

(Life) experience helps but it's not a complete shortcut.

Any particular skills I should work on while waiting for the program to start?

Not really (perhaps know how to get along with younger people?). So long as you have the right approach you'll do fine - most Universities want to give you what you need to pass given that you're paying them money :-)

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