Many students look to online degree programs as a means of obtaining their undergraduate and graduate degrees while working full-time or close to it. Online learning is great for individuals who don’t have the option of taking a hiatus from work while obtaining their degree, but even with the added convenience, obtaining an online degree while working can sometimes feel like a balancing act. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette offers the following tips to help students achieve a healthy work-school balance.
1. Get organized.
Create a personal calendar that incorporates important dates and deadlines from work, school and other personal obligations. Be sure to include deadlines on important projects and assignments from your course syllabus, and check your university's academic calendar for significant dates such as exam weeks and holidays. You should also document upcoming work engagements, such as staff meetings or work-related travel.
2. Schedule time off in advance.
Now that you’ve got a schedule of work and school obligations charted out for the semester, you may need to decide if you’ll benefit by scheduling time off of work during peak study times such as midterms or finals week when your school schedule tends to get a bit hectic. Your employer will appreciate the advance notice, and you’ll enjoy peace of mind in knowing that you can fully concentrate on your academic objectives during those peak times.
3. Adjust your mindset.
Working and going to school is not a walk in the park. It takes dedication and sacrifice to be successful. If you prepare yourself for sacrifice and know going into the semester that your nights and weekends may be spent studying instead of engaging in leisure activities, you will have an easier time when it comes to making those personal sacrifices. Remember to keep an eye on the finish line. Your short-term sacrifices will pay off in the long run by providing you with a degree that allows more professional and financial freedom.
4. Blend work and school.
Whenever possible, combine your learning objectives with your work product. For example, a class project you complete could double as a work proposal and vice-versa. Incorporate real-life scenarios from your professional work experience into your coursework and apply what you are learning in class to improve processes in your workplace. It could get you that coveted A you’re working hard for as well as a promotion all at the same time.
5. Become a master of mobile.
How much time have you spent waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant, sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, or passing time in your car waiting for your child’s soccer practice to end? Chances are, more time than you would like. Get accustomed to studying and working from your phone, tablet or laptop, so that you can work from anywhere at anytime. By going mobile, you can increase your productivity. You’ll be able to return emails quickly and timely, and you won’t have a mountain of them in your inbox to sift through for when you sit at your desk. Spending ten minutes here and there on reading assignments and other coursework can really add up to some serious study time.
6. Be open with your employer.
Communicate openly with your employer about taking online classes. You’ll probably find that your honesty will be met with appreciation, support and encouragement from your employer and co-workers. If you are taking online classes to advance the ranks in your current organization, your employer may even offer to provide tuition reimbursement to support your professional development.
7. Discuss expectations with family.
If you are going to school, working full-time, and running a household, chances are you’ll be busy more often than not. You can help lessen the load by delegating some of your responsibilities to other family members. You may need to require your children to help out around the house with chores more than before, or ask your spouse to take charge of making sure bills are paid each month. Create a shared calendar that charts out each family member’s schedule and responsibilities so that everyone remains in the loop. Setting clear expectations for family responsibilities will save some time and headache for the whole family.
8. Set realistic goals.
If you are working full-time, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You may need to schedule one or two classes per semester, instead of a full-time student course load. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to burn-out, poor performance and can eventually cause you to drop out of your degree program. Remember, slow and steady win the race. Setting your own, realistic pace will ensure you get to the finish line.
9. Utilize student services.
Off-campus students can often forget about the great services offered by their university. A reputable degree program will offer student resources such as online tutoring, 24/7 technical support and online library services. When you’re looking to land that new job or internship, your university's career services department should be able to help you update your résumé without ever having to step on campus.
10. Put work first.
For individuals supporting themselves and a family, a good job with a steady paycheck is a must. Having a stable job will allow you to support yourself, your family and may get you through school debt-free. Putting work first can ensure job stability and alleviate financial stress. Plus, if you get organized and follow all of the steps above, you will have no problem excelling in both work and school at the same time.