Deciding to continue your education while you’re working is a tough choice. Most of us have enough to deal with at work, without the added stress of homework, revision, and exams. But returning to school can be an effective way to help you achieve your goals.
There are a lot of different things that can motivate people to go back to school while they’re working: the possibility of moving up in their career, switching industries, expanding their opportunities, or just pursuing their passion. Whatever your motivation, here are some important tips to make juggling work and school more manageable.
When planning to start a course while you’re still working, the first thing you need to do is look at the entire journey ahead of you, from registration to graduation (assuming all goes well). Your school will most likely have a calendar for the year, with all the key dates you need to know: reading weeks, holidays, exam dates, etc. Look at this and start building your work life around it as much as possible. Involve your boss, and make sure they know when your exams are as far in advance as possible. The sooner you start this, the easier it will be. Put it off and you’ll eventually realise that you’re due to attend an important meeting at the exact same time as your statistics exam. Planning ahead will help prevent any major conflicts between school and work, and avoid any additional, unnecessary stress around exam times.
Maximise Free Time
No matter how busy we may be, we all have more free time than we realise. The problem is that this free time is scattered randomly throughout our day, and we waste most of it engrossed in our phones. Not only can learning to use these little pockets of time effectively reduce the stress, it can also be used as a way to get tasks done during the day, thus freeing up some time for yourself in the evenings.
The commute is one of the most popular study times for working students. Depending on how and how far you travel to work, your commute there and back can help you squeeze in hours of extra work, without sacrificing any real free time. And no matter how you make your commute, there are ways to turn it into study time: trains are perfect for laptops, but podcasts may be better suited to walkers and drivers.
Apart from the extra workload, one of the most off putting aspects of returning to school is the impact it will have on your social life. Studying and working at the same time will use up a lot of your time, energy, and spare cash. Unfortunately, this is an inescapable reality of going back to school. While you can’t avoid these things, there are ways to be more strategic with your time so that your social life doesn’t have to take too much of a hit.
The best approach to this is to incorporate social events into your work/life calendar. Set aside some time each week to meet friends and family, and stick to it with the same fervour that you would your study schedule. Meet a different friend for lunch every Wednesday, get involved in a study group, or work few extra hours on Monday so you can have Saturday night (and Sunday morning) off.
While it is important to set aside time for friends and family, it is also imperative that you set aside some time for yourself. This is especially true if you are juggling work and study, but taking a taking some time off is a good idea at any point in your career.
When you decide to go back to school, you can be overwhelmed by all the additional work and planning that you have to do. This makes it easy to forget why you’re there: to move forward in your career. Whether that career is related to your line of work, or you’re planning a complete overhaul of your professional life, one thing is certain: you will want connections once you graduate.
If you’re planning on taking a new career path after graduating, this is especially important. Having a network of relevant contacts will make establishing yourself far easier than starting off alone, especially a few years down the line. If you’re sticking with the same line of work as before, you might already have a long list of industry contacts, but it never hurts to know more. Especially since your new classmates will soon be the latest additions to that industry.
Taking the leap and deciding to commit to both work and study can be intimidating. Whether you’re hoping to move up in your career, or across to another sector, going back to school can help you achieve your goals. It may sound hard, but with the proper plan and schedule in place, you can pull it off and even make going back to school more exciting a prospect than you remember.