Balancing Your Studies And Your Life
Being an adult student is like being a multitasking superhero. You may need to balance cramming for an exam, caring for a family, working part-time and, of course, sleep all in a single day. No one claims that this is easy to do. However, there are some steps that you can take to prevent yourself from going entirely crazy trying to do it all. If you think about your goals and commitments, map out your schedule and select the right kind of program before you start your studies, you will set yourself up to succeed.
Since you’re about to embark on an exciting but challenging adventure, we would like to share with you the strategies that adult students have used before to successfully balance all of their responsibilities.
Work Your Schedule
Before you start your studies, you should take a hard look at your schedule and expectations. Consider the time that you need to spend with your family, work and other commitments that you have. This will help you figure out how much time you can dedicate to your studies and how quickly you can finish a program.
You may find that it will be better for you to study part-time, that you only have enough time to work part-time instead of full-time or that you need some extra help with childcare. It helps to map out a typical week for you, scheduling in your classes, work, study time and family and personal time.
Consider the schedule of your classes. Would it be better to attend a program part-time even though it may take longer to get your degree? Would daytime, weekend or evening classes fit you best? Do you need the very flexible hours of a distance-learning program?
It helps to review your options and select the right kind of program that can accommodate the other important things in your life. You may not get your degree as quickly as you would like, but this may help you succeed academically and balance life outside of your studies.
Get Your Family On Board
If you have a family, then you know that it sometimes takes an official treaty among all members to keep the peace. Because you will be adding the extra layer of your studies to the mix, you’ll want to work with your family beforehand to set expectations. Have a family sit-down in which you explain why you are pursuing your education, how this will help your family in the long run and how this will impact them. Here are some things to discuss with your family:
Financial impact of your education and how the family budget may be affected by tuition bills. It will help for your family to understand why your education is worth the investment and which expenses may be cut.
Household chores and responsibilities. Will family members need to take more responsibility around the house? Organize who will do which chores.
Time that you can spend with your family. This may mean that you need additional help with childcare or that you will need to carve out time to spend with your family.
Study time. You may need to set ground rules for being left alone while you study. You may have to establish hours of the day when you cannot be disturbed unless it’s an emergency or dedicate a specific room in your house as your place of study.
Benefits of your studies. Explain to your family why it is important for you to resume your studies and what your goals are for your education. Describe how your goals will help strengthen your family in the long-term.
Timeline. Share your timeline for getting your degree or finishing your program. Let your family know how long you will be in school and when you expect to finish. It helps to have your family cheering you on to the finish.
After having this discussion with your family, you may be surprised at the lengths to which they go to make your studies easier. They will understand why you want to further your education and provide the support that you need to succeed.
Become A Bookworm
A common recurring nightmare for many new adult students is sitting down to take an exam and suddenly realizing that you haven’t studied. Perspiring and with racing heart you find yourself lost among the test questions, desperate and hopeless. It’s no surprise that many adult students fear returning to school, cracking open the textbooks and taking midterms for the first time in many years.
The good news though is that for most adult students the fear is unfounded. You will learn to pick up where you left off, relearning your study skills. Many adult students find that they do better than traditional students because they are more focused on their goal of attaining a degree, have real-world experience to help them in their studies and have fewer distractions from the social side of college life.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you will instantly become a super student. You can take steps to help make the transition from real world to academic easier:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The truth is that for every question that you ask, there are five other students who want to ask the same question. The difference is that you have the confidence to ask questions. An important part of the educational process is the back and forth that happens between professor and students. You can learn as much from classroom discussions as you can from lectures.
Take advantage of office hours. If you have questions that you don’t want to ask in front of the whole class, you want to discuss a topic in greater detail or you need help with a paper, drop by your professor’s office hours. They will be more than happy to give you the personal attention that you need.
Get an extra boost if you need it. Besides your professor, the next best person to help you learn is a student who has successfully completed a class before you. You can easily find tutors for almost any subject at your school. At some schools, tutoring is provided at no or low-cost to adult students.
Take advantage of teamwork. You may learn well on your own, but you may learn even better in a study group. Form one to work on assignments together and to study for exams.
Know when your peak study times are. If you are a night owl, don’t try to study when you first wake up. It’s important that you figure out when your best times to study are and then stick to those times.
Set aside a time and place to study. With all that goes on in your life, it’s important to dedicate enough time and the right place to study to set yourself up to succeed.
Take Advantage Of What Your School Offers
One of the reasons why tuition is so expensive is because it provides more to you than a seat in a lecture hall. All colleges and universities offer additional services, whether they are social, academic or cultural. To make the most of your education, make use of as many of these as possible. Here are some to consider:
Academic assistance. Most schools offer extra help for students through tutoring. Even if your school does not have a formal tutoring office, you can arrange for tutoring help on your own by posting notices in the department in which you need help. You may also find additional resources like lectures on tape at your school.
Lectures and debates. Colleges and universities are home to some of the most stimulating lectures and debates. You may be able to listen to prominent politicians, historians, artists and more through your school.
Career services office. Almost every school has a career services office. This is where you will find job listings and where recruiters will visit to interview students on campus. You may also be able to get help with resume writing and interview practice. Visit your career services office to find out what resources it offers.
Alumni office. Following the old saying that it’s not what you know but who you know, visit your school’s alumni office. This office usually keeps a database of alumni and their employment history. You may find someone at the company or in the field that you desire to work in, and it helps to introduce yourself as a student at their alma mater.
Adult student center. Some schools have lounges or centers for adult students. Here you can learn about the services for adult students as well as socialize with other students who are similar to you.
Clubs and organizations. Schools typically offer dozens of campus organizations, which means that you will most likely find one that appeals to your interests. If you have the time, get involved in one to pursue your interests as well as meet more students.
Recreation. Colleges and universities often have facilities that top the best health clubs, and as a student you should take advantage of them.
Museums. As a student, you may get free or reduced admission to your school’s museums.
Arts. Colleges and universities are the host of some of the most economical entertainment to be found. Enjoy campus theatre, music and dance.
Childcare. Your school may provide economical options for childcare. At some schools, students who wish to go into early childhood education provide services at cut-rate prices.
Medical care. Because you are a student, you may want to take advantage of your school’s medical insurance.
You are not alone. As you face the numerous challenges of going back to school, know that thousands of adults have gone before you and have successfully balanced school, work and family life. That doesn’t mean that it was easy. Of course, that can be said of almost anything worthwhile in life.
Look at where you are now and where you’d like to be, and see how your education will help you get there. We think that if you keep your end goal in mind, you will find the motivation to open that textbook, negotiate the demands of student and family life and obtain the degree that you seek.