Keys to a Successful First Year as an MHA Student

Going back to school after working in the professional industry is going to take commitment, time and strong will. The majority of students who go into Masters of Health Administration programs are working professionals that are looking for leverage to advance in their careers.

That means it could have been two, three or even ten years since you’ve stepped into a classroom! Here’s a “Back to School” guide that shares the top secrets to a successful first year as an MHA student.

  1. Be prepared to make yourself stand out.
    • For the most part, everyone who returns for a higher level of education will be competitive and motivated. As soon as you step on campus, you’ll be just another MHA student looking for a way to get ahead. Set yourself apart from your peers by getting to know your professors and classmates. Network with members inside and outside of your program, so that you have second or third year friends to go to for help, questions and guidance. If you’re lucky, you might even find a mentor!

  2. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
    • This is a mistake that too many first year graduate students make. You might be tempted to join as many clubs, events and social networks as possible. Reality check – this isn’t undergrad, and you’re not here to party! You are here to learn, and chances are that excessive socializing will hinder your studies. Pick and choose some events that will provide value to your career and your professional worth.

  3. Ask If You Have Questions.
    • There are people who have answers. For MHA programs, there are counseling services that assist MHA students with their applications, orientation, Academic Warm Ups, Course evaluations, class scheduling, student tracking, scholarships, graduation clearance and commencement. Whenever you have questions concerning your MHA degree, utilize these resources.

  4. Find a Mentor.
    • This was briefly mentioned before, but we cannot stress enough just how valuable a mentor can be to any MHA student’s success! Preparing for a career in healthcare administration goes beyond the classroom, and this is where a mentor’s guidance, experience and wisdom can guide you. If you’re attending a good healthcare administration program, chances are that they will have a Mentor Program (like this one at the University of Minnesota), which will connect you with a professional or alumni who will help you find a summer residency, assist you in your coursework and even help you secure an internship or employment in the future.

  5. Secure Scholarships for your Second Year.
    • First year scholarships, obviously, are based on previous grades, diagnostic test scores, interview ratings and special recognition awards from health care institutions. Second year scholarships, however, are awarded based on a combination of academic performance and demonstrated leadership potential. That means earning good grades and showing your leadership skills throughout your freshman year can pay for your second year of schooling! Build up your leadership resume and apply to as many scholarships as possible.

  6. Earn Valuable Knowledge, Not Just Grades
    • While earning top scores can assist in earning scholarships, always remember that you are there to learn. You are there to pick up habits from successful professionals, to observe best healthcare management practices, to learn innovations in the healthcare field that you can introduce to your staff back at work, to identify new trends that will establish you as a innovative/creative leader in the industry and to learn how to become Hospital Executive material. Never lose sight of that goal.

Keep these tips in mind as you enter your first year as a Masters of Health Administration student, and never lose sight of why you are in the MHA program in the first place – to learn.