No matter how excited you are to accelerate your business education, there’s no denying it: whatever your program, it will throw you challenges.

photo of Jaden LeeFor Won Jae (Jaden) Lee entering the MAcc program was an exciting opportunity to pursue his goals – but it also meant making a major commitment to success, with challenging classes, rapid case-based learning, and introductions to a wide range of sub-disciplines.

As someone who’s excelled to date in an undeniably rigorous program, Jaden reflects back on his experience since entering Term 0 of the Master of Accounting in May of 2016, and helps to answer the question:
How do you go from surviving to thriving in a demanding program?

1. Take motivation from your interests and ambitions.

Having a clear idea of why you’re here (big-picture), will help you to prioritize your academics and stay focused. Jaden was first drawn to the idea of studying in Toronto in his undergrad, when he spent a term here on exchange.

“The experience made me want to come back to Canada,” he recalls. “I’ve always dreamed of living abroad, and interacting with lots of people with different backgrounds.”

“In searching for a profession that would help me make a living, I thought about what I’m really good at. I realized that I like numbers a lot!” Now he reminds himself of that aptitude for working with numbers as motivation – along with his goals of completing the Master of Accounting and working for a public accounting firm.

Playing to his strengths and having end goals in mind help Jaden stay interested in his work.

2. Embrace challenging environments

Chances are, if you’re a little northwest of your comfort zone, that’s a good thing. In fact, a challenging environment can be a positive and rewarding one. As an example, rather than feeling intimidated, Jaden welcomes the high standards set in his program, recognizing that rousing debates and healthy competition can help to accelerate your learning. “The MAcc class manages to be lively, competitive and friendly all at once,” he says. “It may sound contradictory, but it’s true!”

When your colleagues and professors challenge you, remember that they are bringing out the best in you, reminds Jaden. “Friendliness and competition can happen when fun, smart and responsible students come together in the same class.”

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

A certain degree of success comes from understanding the experience ahead of you and preparing accordingly. “Arrive prepared each and every day, since the heavy course load will hit you continuously,” advises Jaden.

But remember: the intensity shouldn’t be limited to the classroom.

“Be open to every possibility,” says Jaden. “You may encounter great opportunities in unexpected places while going through the MAcc program.” This could mean joining a club, seeking or becoming a mentor, or exploring a sub-field you never thought you’d be interested in.

“Last but not least, international students like me will always be better off by improving their proficiency in English!”

4. Plan your life a little – including downtime.

You may not always achieve perfect balance, but it’s important to have an understanding of how you can decompress.

“It’s helpful if you plan out your time ahead,” says Jaden. “Once you get behind, it’s really hard to keep up with the pace of the program.”

Jaden stays in top academic shape with a few simple tools, including a schedule, an “important dates” calendar, and the occasional episode of Modern Family.

“I also try to go to the gym at least once a week. It’s one of the best methods to blow off steam.”

Tell us: How do you handle the demands of your program?