Four years can feel like a long time, especially when you make major life changes. If you are getting your undergraduate degree and also decide to get married, you’ve developed a major time crunch and stress factor for yourself. If you’re already married with kids and you want to go back to school to complete a degree, your available time may be one of your first considerations, but you also need to consider money and other stress factors. But, many people have managed to obtain a degree while juggling obtaining a degree while working and raising a family (or while single). We’ve provided 20 tips on how you, too, can give meet the challenges you might face if you decide to conduct a juggling act, too. Although the categories are separated into family, work, and school, the links lead to stories that cover all the topics.
- Explore your options: Before you sign up for classes, talk with your significant other about work options, budgeting, and available financial and other resources. Make sure that going to school and having a family and a job at the same time is a viable solution for you. You may want to cut back on work hours or your partner might be able to work from home to help with chores.
- Prioritize: Your child will only be a baby once, but your house or yard can forever be a mess. It’s fine to forgo dusting and cleaning if you need to take time to be with your kids. Take a family walk, fix meals, or take time to watch a movie together. Plan activities depending upon whether or not you need quality talk time or just time to relax together.
- Plan a schedule and stick to it. If you sit with your family or your boss and let them know what you want to do, the idea of a schedule might make them feel more at ease about the fact you’re going to increase your workload.
- If you are a single parent: Enlist support from family and friends for childcare. If you don’t live near family, ask the college if they have resources available for childcare.
- Keep your family first: You’ll find a lot of good tips on this page for helping to balance life, work, family, and even school. Through it all, think about whether or not your choice to go to school is good for your family. If it will be great in the long run, ask for their help.
- Don’t underestimate the difficulty: Depending upon the degree you want, you may be facing hours of extra work. Even if you take online classes (see below), an accredited school that offers online courses will expect as much from its students as from those who attend classes on a campus. If you have time on your hands now, then you might want to try for a degree. With that said…
- Try to take online courses: Even high schools can see the advantage of online courses, as it helps students to double up on majors. For the college student, the advantages are broader because you can save time, gas, and — in the case of children — some babysitting costs. Taking classes that honor flexible time and late hours can benefit many students.
- Colleges may help: Colleges could improve students’ access to colleges could improve students’ access to them by developing partnerships with public agencies and community-based organizations by developing partnerships with public agencies and community-based organizations. Check to see if your college has programs for working students with families.
- Day or night student: Learn more about whether you can work better at night or in the morning. Then, decide whether or not you want to go to school in the night or in the morning. Your energy level can determine whether or not you can keep a job or pass a class.
- Consult with advisors: Go to this link about potential grad school students to learn about a lot of reasons you might return to school or not, and questions to ask to learn more about your options. Sometimes second (or third) opinions outside the home can bring new insights.
- Lighten your load: You may realize after a while that your job isn’t worth the stress. But, before you quit your job, talk with your boss, your spouse or significant other, and an advisor about how quitting your job might impact your school loans, mortgage or rent payments, etc.
- Maintain a relaxed and positive outlook: Your job may already be stressful; adding a school schedule, an illness in the family, or other stress factors might make the job seem worse. Be sure to rest and try to reduce the effects of any working conditions.
- Learn if a work-study program is available: If your boss or company doesn’t allow for taking time to upgrade your degree, then learn whether or not you can exchange your current job for a work-study program at your college.
- Embrace your strengths and acknowledge your shortcomings: You can be perfect in everything you do, but you can maintain a positive attitude and nurture your strengths.
- Remember causes of stress and try to avoid them: Although you cannot control a death in the family, illness, or company layoffs, you can change how you react to those difficulties. You also can avoid many stress-related issues. Take a look at this article to learn how you might cope if anything upsets your new schedule with your family.
- Remember to take time for yourself: Unless you can stop and focus on you, you may lose track of how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Staying healthy is one aspect that is all important when you’re handling a lot of stress. Some quiet time to recharge your energy also is important.
- Remember to take time out for your family: Your family may miss you during your going-back-to-school adventure, so make sure they remember you and that you care. Learn what your rights are in your state to take time off from work to spend time with your family. This link leads to Massachusetts laws, you can learn from this page which questions to ask.
- Remember why you’re doing this: If you’re going back to school to retain your job, to enter a new career, or simply to make more money, remember those goals. Write them down and make sure you see those goals every day.
- Remember to not worry: Worry won’t change anything, and it can lead to anxiety disorders. A stressful schedule demands that you take one day at a time, roll with the punches, and remember your goals.
- Remember that this schedule won’t last forever: While two to four years may seem like a long time to start or finish a degree, time seems to pass quickly when you’re handling a lot of stress. Before you know it, you’ll have that degree, and you can move into another phase of your life.