Going Back to College With a Full Time Job
Posted on July 14, 2016
At age 27, I found myself sitting in a cubicle longing for a career change, but wondering how in the world I could go back to school while working full-time. While there’s no denying that it’s a challenging proposition, I soon discovered that it wasn’t as hard to manage as I had expected. With the right mindset – and a few tips and tricks to help you maximize your time on campus and on the job – you’ll be walking across the stage with your degree in hand in no time.
Connect with Your Professors Early and Often
If you’re like most students, the idea of spending a little one-on-one time with a professor might seem a bit daunting. Even so, connecting with faculty early and often is a great way to promote a better learning experience that compliments your work schedule and reduces the risk of missed assignments and exams.
Reaching out for a meeting after your first class and addressing any scheduling issues related to your work requirements – think business trips, irregular work shifts, etc. – helps promote transparency and avoids dealing with these problems at the last minute. While each professor is different, being this upfront and taking the initiative is something that can make a strong impression.
Ask for Extensions When Needed
Going a step farther, spending time in advance to forge a working relationship with your professor also means that you’ll have less of an issue addressing a problem if it pops up later on down the road. Specifically, what we’re talking about here is being granted an extension on a major project or paper.
Obviously, this is the epitome of a “last resort” measure; the more you ask for this kind of help, the less likely it is for your professor to give you a later deadline. However, should you find that your boss isn’t willing to budge on a tight deadline or upcoming shift, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension for your schoolwork.
The big key to getting a “yes” from your professor, according to the experts at the Harvard College Writing Center, is to skip the dramatics and cut straight to the chase. Chances are that he or she has heard every excuse in the book, so just be completely honest and explain that you’re stressing over this time crunch and not getting any help from the professional side of your life.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Aside from building a strong relationship with your professor, you also have plenty of potential allies in your classmates. Just like you, many of these students are trying to handle the rigors of balancing work and school, so why not band together and make life a little easier for everyone involved?
I’m not advocating cheating (or even cutting corners), but there’s nothing wrong with comparing notes and helping each other play “catch-up” if one of you falls behind. Whether you had to work overtime or missed a class because of your child’s dance recital, having the email address or phone number of another trusted member of your class can be all that you need to get back on track.
Place an Emphasis on Time Management
In terms of impact, few things are as important as proper time management when it comes to balancing work and school. Unfortunately, simply saying “I need to spend more time studying” isn’t going to cut it on this front. If you really want to make the most of every minute, it’s time to go beyond the basics.
I’ve found that downloading free mobile apps like Wunderlist and RescueTime can help you keep your life on track when juggling work, school, family, and even volunteer commitments. Using these time management tools will not only help you stay on top of deadlines, but can also help you find ways to free up more time for doing the things you love. At the very least, keeping track of family schedules, upcoming exams, and other important events can help ensure that you never find yourself pulling double duty.
Be Realistic with Your Workload
Finally, before you ever step foot on campus, it’s important that you take a moment to sit down and realistically plan out your school schedule. Would taking 18 credit hours this semester be wonderful? Of course. Is this feasible with a full-time job? Not exactly. As hard as it can be to face this reality, balancing your professional and academic lives means that sometimes you have to slow down your pace a bit.
Instead of biting off more than you can chew, try and take on a reasonable course load that won’t leave you pulling your hair out from frustration two weeks into the semester. Naturally, what counts as “reasonable” depends on the rest of your weekly schedule, but if you can do this – as well as put to use the rest of what you’ve gathered here – then you are well on your way to keeping both your paycheck and your grades in good shape.
About the author:
Joy Miller is the managing editor of accelerated-degree.com and specializes in matching students with accredited universities offering online degree programs at an accelerated pace.