Returning to school after many years to change your career or qualify for a promotion? It’s natural to feel a little bit uneasy in a classroom after so many years in the workforce. But remember, you’re not alone. According to 2007 National Center for Education Statistics findings, about 40 percent of students at a given college are adult learners. If they can do it, so can you.
Of course, your life now may be a little bit different from when you last juggled courses, homework and a part-time job. Maybe you’re working full time, raising children, or running a household. Here are some suggestions to earn your degree without sacrificing your career, life, or sanity.
Be realistic: Is adding a full course load to your full-time job really feasible? Is taking two or three courses a semester an option? It will take you longer to earn your degree, but what you lose in speed, you’ll make up for in full nights of sleep and time with your children.
Make a schedule: Have a study time that works best for you and treat it like an appointment. Whether it’s the hour you have to yourself before you head to work, or evenings when the kids are in bed, make sure the time you’re penciling in for coursework is time when you can actually focus on it.
Make the most of your time: Toting the kids to soccer practice? Bring a textbook. Hitting the gym? Tape your professor’s lectures and listen during your spinning class. Taking advantage of windows of time to study now will save you from an all-night cram session later.
Make priorities: Balancing college and life requires some sacrifices, but you don’t want to look back and feel as though you missed seeing your kids grow up or weren’t there when your friends needed you most. Set boundaries about things that are important to you. If you choose to bring a book to those soccer practices, you might want to enforce a “no studying at games,” policy, so you don’t miss what’s important.
Ask for help: If you have a support system, use it. Could a family member or spouse take the kids to the park so you can write that paper? Could a friend quiz you the night before your final exam? Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Take time out: Multitasking is great, but if you never stop, you’ll burn out. Take breaks whenever you can. Whether it’s an evening out with friends or just a long hot bath, get out of school and work modes and recharge.
Going back to school is manageable if you approach it wisely. And when spending another lunch hour with a textbook gets you down, thinking about the promotion or that new career will remind you why you’re putting in all that effort.