by Erin Pettus
1. Tap Your Support Network
Your support network is made up of the people who are in a position to help you get your degree. Your support network might include your family, friends, significant other, children, and your fellow students.
A group of students that enter a program together are called a cohort. Often, these students will follow a similar education track and complete the program around the same time. Your cohort might have a mixture of traditional and adult students, but it’s ok to seek out those who are balancing work and school, just like you.
Your family may be able to offer support at home by maybe taking on more domestic tasks, but your cohort at school can offer support in the form of resources and empathy as they’re going through the same experience that you are. Build your support network to include as many people as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it.
2. Manage Your Time Well
When you’re looking for balance, one of the biggest questions you’ll want to answer is how much time you can devote to what tasks. One of the most important aspects of time management is knowing yourself and scheduling time to study at your most efficient work hours. This might mean staying up later than normal or getting up early on the weekends to get in your study time. Time blocking is one technique that helps you to prioritize your to-do list, and honestly scheduling the time necessary for each task at the best time of the day.
If time blocking is just a little bit too much for you, consider creating a weekly and monthly schedule. A weekly schedule will focus on the details of how you spend your time and a monthly schedule will be more broad, letting you plan ahead for weeks that might be busier than others. We’ve also put together a list of study tips to help you use the time you have efficiently.
3. Talk to Your Boss
We understand that this might be intimidating, but the sooner you inform your boss that you’re going back to school, the more willing they will probably be to make accommodations. Letting your boss know that you’re going back to school will allow them to be more understanding of your elevated stress and work levels. You might even be surprised—many bosses want to help their employees go back to school, or may be in a position to offer a promotion once you’ve earned your degree.
You can also more easily balance school and work by taking time off during high stress times at school. As soon as you receive your class syllabus, look ahead to when midterms and finals will be. If you can take time off from work, try to schedule it around those high-stress time so your school stress won’t affect your performance at your job.
It might sound extreme, but you might also want to consider finding a flexible job when going back to school. A job with a flexible schedule, or one that’s part time, might make it easier to go back to school and manage your time.
4. Streamline Your Tasks
Streamlining your tasks will make it easier to get everything done. Consider this example: when you run errands would you prefer to get five items at 5 different stores or five items at one store? You’d pick one store, right? It would save you time and money spent on gas. Think of your work for school and your job like that.
If you have to do a project for school, can you make it about something at work so that you’re working on both at the same time? Maybe you can implement new skills that you learn at school while at work. Instead of keeping your work and school lives separate, let them integrate and make your time use more efficient. You might also consider doing homework on your lunch break or keep your school materials in your car so you can go directly from work to the library to study.
5. Optimize Your Tuition
There are many options for aid when paying for school. There are scholarships, grants, loans, and employer tuition assistance. For most students, loans should be the last option as they’re very expensive to pay back.
When applying and choosing your school, look for a school that gives you the most benefit for each dollar you will spend. We’re not recommending that you choose the cheapest school, nor are we saying the the most expensive schools are the best schools. What you want to look for is a school that will give you the biggest benefit for the money that you will spend.
6. Consider Online Classes
Online classes can make going back to school so much easier while working full-time. Most online courses give students the flexibility to work when they can, not have to show up at a certain time in a physical location (or commute!). Some online courses even offer self-paced classes, allowing students to start and stop when they need to. Be sure to look for online classes that will fit your learning style.
7. Love What You’re Studying
One of the easiest ways to find the time to balance work and school is to choose to study something that you love. If you love your classes, the homework, and your new area of study, then you’ll be more motivated to put in the necessary time and prioritize your school work over distractions. You might be surprised just how motivated you can be by doing something that you love.
We hope that these tips will help you to find balance in your life and be able to more easily manage going back to school while also working. This is one of our favorite topics to talk about so be sure to check back on our blog to see more great content just like this.