There is no denying that working full time while completing higher education is difficult. Even working part time while going to college can bring upon many stresses and an abundance of overwhelming feelings. When I was in my undergraduate program, I didn’t work full time or even part time for that matter. My life revolved heavily around my schooling and your “typical college lifestyle”. Fast forward to graduating undergrad and becoming somewhat of an adult. I had just started my career and decided I wanted to go back to college for a Master’s degree.
At that time, I didn’t have the luxury to stop my career dead in it’s tracks and go back to college as a full-time student. I had to learn to manage my current role in my career while taking on a course load which for the majority of us is rather challenging. I’ve spoken to many individuals who are either in this situation or are exploring the option; people of all ages and different lifestyles. Plain and simple, it’s not an easy feat but it can be done. If you can focus on the bigger picture and learn to manage your time, you can train yourself to achieve any goal you seek to obtain while working full time and going to college.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and time management while having to juggle a career and higher education. It was always important to me that if I enrolled in a program and was going to devote countless hours to a degree, I was going to do it right and I wasn’t going to let my work or education slip. Not saying that I didn’t lose my mind a few times however I’ve learned a few tips along the way.
Here’s what I found to be helpful and a few suggestions I’ve gathered over the years for how to balance working full time and college.
Enroll in a Program that Reflects a Future You Want
This may sound cliché but if you are enrolled in program that you feel invested in, it will make working full time and balancing school so much easier. If you are in a program that you are unsure of or you are looking at programs that you are uncertain of, do not enroll. Even if you are not working full time or working at all, this is very important. Many people set themselves up for failure because they end up studying something they hate. You can’t study something you hate and expect to be able to pile this on top of a job. It will never work. Take the time to reflect on what you want to do, where you want to be and a career that you can see yourself happy in.
Find a Program that Fits your Work Schedule
A lot of people assume you can’t work full time while going to college due to scheduling. There are a variety of college and university programs with different course structures, class times and set ups. The main point I want to make is that these programs are not going to find you. You need to do your due diligence in order to be able to achieve balance between your everyday life and a program that fits your schedule. There are thousands of programs, you just need to search.
Create a Weekly Schedule
The thought of managing work and a full course load can make your head spin. Imagine it’s a Monday morning, you have a pile of papers on your desk and your professor just slapped 8 assignments on you that are due on Sunday. You’ll want to scream, but it doesn’t get the work done. You have to strategically approach what’s in front of you. Whether you want to track your time in a planner, a word doc, a note pad, whatever may be; lay out your days. Assign times to complete your work and times to complete your school. Stick to your schedule and stay on task. If you complete an equal balance of work and school each day, your workload will begin to ease.
Leave Time for Yourself
This is probably the most important but challenging suggestion. You cannot lose sight of yourself and your life when trying to balance work and school. For your sanity, you need to leave time to do the things you enjoy doing. If you enjoy working out, make time to do that. You like to watch sports, watch a game on the weekend. If you have family dinner every Sunday, go to Sunday dinner. As much as your work and school schedule are important, so is your personal life. Add time for you into your schedule every week. There have been many times where I have failed to do this. I became a person I didn’t want to be. The human body wasn’t created to work 20 hours a day so remember to balance your personal life just as much as your work and studies.
Set Career and Educational Goals
During my time in my Master’s and while working full time, I found myself driven to do well if I would set achievable goals and track my performance. Whether those goals were getting straight A’s, completing a certificate at work or learning something new that I wasn’t comfortable with. If I had a goal and kept my goals visible, I wanted to reach them. Goals are important for everyone, especially in a setting where you have a lot on your plate to balance. When you achieve what you set out to, you feel a sense of accomplishment which makes your work worth all the while.
In The End
When it’s all said and done, your sacrifices will pay off. Stay focused and driven and you can achieve what you once thought was unachievable.
Feel free to share your comments or experience with balancing work and college. I would love to hear!