I recently received an email from a prospective IMC student asking me whether I recommended taking classes year-round or taking a semester off. This was also a popular topic of discussion at the 2013 Integrate Conference, as every prospective or new student wants to know “how long will it really take me to get my IMC degree?” Of course there is no easy answer. How long you take to complete the program is a personal decision and what has worked for one student might not work for others.
As for me, when I first decided to enroll in the IMC program I was determined to take 1 class every semester, without a break, so I could finish up in just 2.5 years. This seemed to be very doable and the idea of finishing up as quickly as possibly appealed to me. Then I completed my first two semesters and reality set-in. Already juggling the roles of wife and mother along with a demanding marketing job, I realized that not taking a break was going to lead to burn-out very quickly. So, I took the summer semester off my first year. I struggled with the decision, knowing it would prolong my time in school. But being able to spend more time with my family for those three months, without worrying about homework assignments or discussion board posts was wonderful! I re-discovered what it was like to read a book for pleasure, and cuddle with my husband on the couch in the evenings without a laptop. Not only was it nice to have the break, but when the fall semester started that August I felt ready, even excited to begin school again.
After that first year I decided finishing the program with balance in my life was more important that finishing it as quickly as possible. So I made the decision to take off at least one semester every year and give myself, and my family, that break. Yes, this means it’s taking me 3.5 years, instead of 2.5 to finish, but as I like to say to people when they ask how long I’ve been in school “it’s a marathon, not a sprint!”
If you are a prospective IMC student, or even a current student struggling with the idea of taking a semester off, I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself what you think you can realistically handle. Don’t compare yourself to other students, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t able to stick with your original plans. In the end, it’s about crossing that finish line; and no awards are given for being the fastest in this marathon.