It’s 6 a.m. and your alarm is buzzing in your ear. You can barely muster the energy to turn it off as you start mentally preparing for the long day ahead. You get ready for work and hurriedly grab a granola bar on your way out the door.
You spend the next eight or more hours at the office trying to complete everything your supervisor expects of you. By the time the workday is over, most of your coworkers are heading home to be with their families, but not you.
You’re headed to class. You won’t get home until much later that night, and tomorrow you will do the same thing all over again.
Going back to school as an adult while working full time can be challenging, especially if you have children and other responsibilities like a mortgage and bills to pay. But don’t get discouraged. With some time management skills and plenty of perseverance, you can be among the millions of busy adults who have achieved their educational goals.
Here is some advice to help you balance your busy schedule with going back to school.
Time Management is Key
You may already know that going to school while working full time is going to be tough, but you value your education enough to make some adjustments to your daily routine. One of the biggest adjustments will be in regards to how you spend your time.
There’s really no way around it: If you want to do well in school and get the most out of your college experience, then you’ll have to spend a good deal of time studying and doing homework. It’s that simple. Expect there to be late nights, possibly some all-nighters, rushed mealtimes and less than eight hours of sleep.
To help organize your time, write down a list of all the day-to-day responsibilities that you anticipate you’ll have once school starts, ranging from most important to least important. By writing everything down in order of importance, you may get a better feel for how much time you’ll have for school and homework.
For example, going to work and taking the kids to school are more important than attending happy hour with your coworkers or going to that yoga class twice a week. You want to make sure that you are spending your time wisely when it is spread in so many different directions.
Assess Your Goals
Going back to school takes time and money, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
You may be more likely to succeed if you have a strong desire to earn a degree or learn a new skill than if you were to do it out of boredom or peer pressure. School may also be much more enjoyable if you pursue something you’re genuinely interested in.
Determine what kind of degree you want, how long it will take, and the impact having that degree will have on your life. Assess your educational goals by making sure they are practical and will lead you to a desirable outcome.
Consider an Online College
As opposed to traditional learning in the classroom, online learning is achieved through a variety of virtual methods such as video conferencing, discussion boards, emailing and chat rooms.
It is important to make sure any institution you enroll in, whether on-campus or online, is accredited. If you choose a degree program without the proper accreditation, you’ll be selling yourself short on your plans for career advancement, because employers place a great deal of value on education received from quality, accredited programs.
Accreditation simply means that an educational program has met a series of stringent standards set forth by authoritative bodies. In the world of education, it is one of the best ways to gauge the quality of a degree program.
If an online education appeals to you, here are seven advantages of online learning, according to WorldWideLearn:
1. Schedule Flexibility
Students can access their courses from anywhere they have internet access. This means you can attend classes on your own time, from anywhere there is a computer and internet access.
2. Ease of Accessibility
Course materials are accessible to you whenever you need them. You can review lectures, discussions, explanations and comments, as well as share notes with your classmates to help facilitate community learning.
3. Range of Options
You may be able to choose from a wide breadth of degree programs. Some online colleges develop and offer degree programs that might not yet be available through nearby public or private institutions.
4. Control of Your Study Time
On-campus courses are typically scheduled in a more rigid format. One of the benefits of online education is that you may not have to sit for long periods of time, and lessons can be paused when needed.
5. Chance for Interaction
Online courses may be less intimidating than the physical classroom setting, which could help to increase your level of interaction. You will have longer to think about what you want to say and add your comments when you’re ready. In a traditional classroom, the conversation could have moved past the point where you would have been willing to comment.
6. Online Communications
Instructors may be more approachable in the online setting, and you may feel more comfortable talking openly with them through online chats, emails and newsgroup discussions rather than face-to-face. Online correspondence also cuts out having to wait for office hours that may not be convenient.
7. Time to Absorb Material
Positive results are reported for students enrolled in online classes, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education. Using over 1,000 empirical studies, the study found that time was the additive that helped students perform better. The report noted benefits in studies in which online learners spent more time on tasks than students in face-to-face conditions.
Get a Support System
Let your friends and family members know that you’re going back to school and might need some support. This could come in the form of a relative picking your kids up from soccer practice or asking your spouse to take over dinner duties for a while.
One person can only handle so much, so when you feel like you need some help, don’t feel bad asking for it. Your true friends and loved ones may be happy to help as long as they don’t feel taken advantage of, and you may be in a better position to focus on your education when some of the pressure is off.
Don’t stress out too much, and always keep your eyes on achieving your goals. The payoff for all your hard work may be tremendous. You’ll be thanking yourself for the sacrifices you made during this time of your life.
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