If you’ve been noticing less activity on my blog and social channels recently, it’s because I’ve started back to school this fall as a full-time, online student while maintaining my work schedule. (Yes, I’m crazy). While this change has been pretty much life-consuming, I’m eager to finally finish my degree (hopefully by next year) and get back to normal eventually. However, I wasn’t really prepared for just how much of my life being a full-time student would require. Mentally, I knew it would be challenging. But when I opened up my classes on the first day, I was immediately submerged into a sense of feeling overwhelmed and panicked. What had I gotten myself into, exactly?
I did some quick google searching to see how other people were handling work and study loads. Even though it’s online, the homework assignments are intense and I was already behind in my first week, which left me wondering how I was going to get it all done and work and eat and sleep and fit a shower in, too (I’m kidding about that last part… or maybe not…). I can’t even imagine what I’d do if I were married and had a family – being single and juggling the workload is hard enough! Surprisingly, I didn’t find a lot of help or real-life advice from people who have or are going through a semester as a nontraditional student. It was almost discouraging. After a very rough beginning, I’m finally figuring things out and it occurred to me to blog about it in the hopes that it will help someone else out there who is an adult student and who might be struggling, as I am, to find that elusive work/study/life balance. It isn’t much, but here is what I’ve figured out so far…
The below applies mostly to online students, however, it is my hope that any kind of student may also find it helpful.
Tips for The (Nontraditional) Student, Part 1
1) Make studying a priority. This means when you’re not working, you’re studying. You’re not going to do much else right now, sorry. That’s the reality. The good news is that it isn’t for forever and there is an end in sight. Keep that end in your thoughts constantly to motivate and power you through, because it’s hard to be always reading and writing papers and taking tests while everyone else is having fun. When you’re on campus, studying is a part of the environment but when you’re away from that, you are going to find that you are missing out on a lot because no one else is studying. Prepare yourself for those feelings and be ready to combat them when they surface (because they inevitably will).
2) Print the syllabi and anything else your professors give you! Read them thoroughly and make a homework schedule. Know the due dates and have specific assignments to work on/complete each day, with one free day to use if necessary. If you complete something early, go ahead and work on the next thing. Try to not get behind. This can be really devastating. I know this because I speak from experience. Falling behind happens. Don’t let it discourage you, just do what it takes to get back on track.
3) Use any extra time you have to complete assignments. Weekends, lunch hours, before and after work. Are you an early bird? Get up extra early and get it done. Are you a night owl? Turn off the tv and study. Put your phone away so that you can’t be distracted by notifications. Always be prepared to use any extra time you receive in the day to study. I take my notebooks (and textbooks when possible) with me everywhere I go and use any extra time I have to log into my classes and read over the lecture notes and make notes/record important things.
Note: you can get creative with your study time. Not every sport would lend itself to this, but a game that lasts as long as baseball does, with all the pauses between half innings, is a great way to fit in some fun and study at the same time!
4) Prep your friends and family that you will be unable to see them and hang out as often. You’re going to have to say no to a lot of things. It’s very, very hard because people can be hurt if they don’t understand that you are studying. Just be honest and tell them ahead of time that you probably won’t get to see them as often during the semester.
However, make time for family when possible. They are your support system and can help you in so many ways, therefore it’s important to make spending some time with them a priority. And that may mean choosing time with family over friends during the semester. I have had to do this a couple of times, but my family has supported me financially (I live rent-free at my parents’ home and so am able to apply more money towards my degree) and emotionally, giving me encouragement and support when needed, so I often choose to spend any extra time with them over friends right now. Unless your friends are willing to support you financially and emotionally, choose family over friends if you must prioritize.
More on this next week, and I hope that this has been helpful so far. If you’re a student, I’d love to hear from you too! What are your best study habits and how do you manage your work/study/life balance?