By Hector J. Ortiz Domenech MPA 2024

headshot of Hector Ortiz Domenech wearing a suitMy name is Hector J. Ortiz Domenech, I’m a second-year Master in Public Administration (MPA) student born and raised in Puerto Rico. Before arriving at the Harvard Kennedy School, I earned a BA and MA in Economics from the University of Puerto Rico. I’ve worn multiple hats, from teaching economics and mathematics to undergrads to providing analytics consultancy services for government and healthcare organizations.

At HKS, I’m focused on channeling my economic expertise into the realm of public policy, with the goal of revolutionizing data-driven decision-making after graduation.

Harvard is well known for its academic rigor, but I’ve found several strategies for managing my workload that you may find helpful as you consider pursuing a graduate degree at HKS.

Plan Your Path

Pre-Semester Strategy

Before each semester begins, create your ideal course schedule. Decide whether to broaden your horizons with new course subjects or deepen your expertise in familiar areas. This early decision-making can help you see how busy your semester will be, plan ahead for trips, successfully cross-register with other schools, and make time for the extracurriculars you want to pursue.

Balance Your Workload

Diverse Assignments

Avoid monotony in your coursework by choosing a balanced mix of classes. Some courses are more lecture-based while others focus more on  discussions. Make sure to review syllabi and check the assignments of the courses. Do they require weekly problem sets, presentations, case studies, or programming assignments? This diversity can prevent burnout and keep your studies engaging. No matter what kind of course it is, always prepare for cold calling!

Collaborate and Learn

Study Groups

Don’t tackle the workload alone; collaborate with peers in study groups. It may surprise you that one graduate student can’t go through 1,000 assigned reading pages per week; that’s why making your own study group and divvying up the workload can be mutually beneficial. This can enhance your learning experience and provide support through challenging material.

Prioritize Your Well-being


It’s essential to take care of yourself; burnout can quickly take over your body and mind. Schedule time for breaks, maintain a healthy diet, go to the movies, attend social gatherings, and stay active in your favorite hobbies. Your physical and mental health are crucial for your academic success and overall well-being. There are also many resources students can access through Harvard’s Center for Wellness and Health Promotion.

Engage with the Community

Campus Life

Make room in your schedule for campus events. Attending seminars, participating in activities, and attending career fairs are invaluable for learning and networking—they’re integral to the HKS experience. You’ll soon find out that Fridays in HKS are known for Quorum Calls, weekly social gatherings that bring together the community.

Acknowledge Your Progress

Celebrate Achievements

Take time to recognize your accomplishments, no matter how small. Celebrating these milestones can provide motivation and a sense of progress throughout your academic journey. Did your article get picked for a school policy journal? Did Harvard win the football game against Yale? Did you get a spot in a class you were bidding for? These may seem like small feats, but they all contribute to the bigger picture of your overall experience at HKS.

Look Ahead

Career Planning

Keep your future goals in sight. Dedicate time to consider your career path post-HKS. Make sure to take the time and schedule your appointment with the Office of Career Advancement (OCA) career coaches early on and attend their workshops. There are endless opportunities for internships, fellowships, and finding mentors in the Harvard network that can best guide you. Take advantage of those resources!

Remember, your time at HKS isn’t just about academic achievements—it’s about creating a fulfilling and balanced educational experience. With these strategies, you can enjoy your graduate school journey and diminish stressors.  Good luck!

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