Having a strong education is becoming increasingly more valuable, and many adults are choosing to return to school. Whether you want to change careers, earn a promotion or fulfill a personal achievement, getting an education can certainly help you accomplish your goal.
More education is a good thing, but if you're working full-time or part-time, going to school is not always an easy choice. Getting an education online, however, is a great option. More colleges than ever before are offering the opportunity to earn degrees entirely online.
Still, many working students struggle with finding the time to study and complete assignments. Online learning lacks the structure of traditional college instruction, and it becomes the ultimate game of time management and self-discipline.
While it’s easy to get discouraged, don’t give up on your education. Here are six tips that will help you balance work and school successfully:
Assess Your Reasons
People have many reasons for returning to school. If you feel like you're stuck in a dead-end job or have lost interest in your current career, earning a degree in a different field could be the key to making the change. But there are questions you should ask yourself before you decide pursuing a new degree is the answer.
Consider college tuition costs, time spent studying, and other factors. Is your new degree going to be worth the cost and effort? Does your desire to change careers or be promoted really require additional schooling?
Once you decide that online learning is really what you need to achieve your goals, it’ll be easier to develop a plan.
Develop a Time Management Plan
Working and attending school online requires devotion, and neither can be sacrificed. Making a schedule that you can adhere to is the best way to carve out time for school. It might be difficult to work all day and then concentrate on homework in the evenings. Instead of sleeping in on your days off, you could plan to get up earlier to concentrate on your studies.
Keep a schedule for assignment due dates and study times. Trying to manage your time without a tangible schedule will add unnecessary stress. You’ll also experience clearer thinking and better long-term focus by writing things down. These are two essentials to being a successful distance learning student.
Go Easy on Yourself
Online college is designed to work around your schedule. While it may be possible, managing a full-time student schedule with a work schedule isn't always a good idea. Work with an admissions advisor who can suggest the best course of action.
Many adult-oriented college programs have created alternative scheduling for online learners, allowing students to take fewer classes at once, without delaying graduation.
Ask for Help
Talk with your employer and loved ones to let them know you’re back in school and will need their support. Remember that no one can do everything alone, and don't be afraid to ask for and accept help.
Work out arrangements with your family — maybe your spouse or older children can cook dinner on nights you need to study or take exams. If you regularly work extra hours, communicate with your employer to negotiate fewer hours or an alternate schedule.
And don’t assume that your online instructor understands you are working full-time or have family obligations. Make sure you continuously communicate with your instructor ahead of time if you anticipate problems or late assignments. Most instructors are understanding and willing to work with you, if you communicate with them openly in advance.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Distance learning doesn't mean that you can't get to know your fellow classmates. As an adult who is looking to change careers, be promoted, start a business or advance yourself, networking is essential.
These days, networking is just as important as having a solid resume. Take the time to get to know your classmates, because you never know how valuable your new connections could be to your future. Many colleges encourage their new students to get to know other admitted students on social networks.
Plan for Trouble
Amidst all your planning, problems and challenges are guaranteed to appear. You can make unexpected issues less of a problem if you plan ahead for possibilities. Of course, you won't be able to foresee every possible problem, but planning ahead will mean less stress for you.
For instance, computers are known for their unpredictable behavior. Having an alternate power supply for your laptop would come in handy if yours suddenly experiences problems. Small, unexpected issues can easily lead to larger problems if you don't have a backup plan.
Going back to school might be your key to a more successful future, but it will take focus and planning. Remember to schedule, eliminate unnecessary stresses, and communicate effectively. Your investment will be great, but the reward will be even greater!