Enough people have asked me how I went to school full-time while working full-time, that I thought I’d write up a few of my lessons learned. My school was an online school, but many of these tips could work for in-person classes as well. (When that's an option again.)
Schedule time on your calendar for homework and stick to it. I’m talking about both daily time and also an entire overview of a class-when homework and quizzes are scheduled, when you’ll need dedicated study time, etc, based on deadlines.
My general schedule was work 7 am - 4 pm, spend time with my kids, dinner, bedtime, then homework 8:30 - 11 pm. Saturday was my day to focus on home life (clean, pick up groceries, fun with the family). Sunday afternoons were for more homework.
Paying attention to when finals were scheduled, due dates for assignments, and then balancing that with my work schedule was crucial for me. For instance, the end of the month is always busy at work because that’s when payroll and invoicing happens. If I noticed a large project was also due, I would (try to) complete the project early in anticipation of busy times. I did the same with my personal life. As an active 4H member, my daughter’s busiest show week of the year is the second week in April. This would be a bad time for me to be hustlin’ to finish school work.
I’m grateful to work for an extremely flexible company. Some days I needed to duck out and take a long final on my lunch break and make up any necessary work later. Some days I had something going on at work, so I needed to dedicate a few extra hours (thus pushing homework to later). As long as I prioritized the work that needed to be done, I was able to balance both work and school.
3. Balance the Burden
For the past 4 years, I haven’t had any free time. If I wasn’t working or spending time with my family, I was doing homework. If I wasn’t working, with family, or doing homework, I felt guilty. Homework was a cloud hovering over me for a long time. It took me probably 3.5 years to shift my attitude on this. Instead of dwelling on the heft of homework, let it motivate you. The sooner I get this done, the closer I am to my degree.
4. Involve Your Loved Ones
I have 3 kids who I have included on this journey with me. Every time I studied for a final, I shared with them what I was doing. Every time I successfully passed a final, we celebrated together. When I earned my Degree, they were almost as happy as I was! They have seen their Mom work hard and accomplish her goals. Not only does this help balance the burden, but I can only hope they picked up a life lesson as well.
5. Don’t Give Up
You can do it! I used to think you had to be extremely intelligent to get a degree. Luckily, that’s not true. I have learned over the past 4 years that the most important quality to have to earn your degree is a strong work ethic. You just have to be willing to put the hours in.
I like to think that time will be passing anyway, so you might as well be working towards something. In my case, it was my Bachelor's Degree in Human Resource Management. A degree is the perfect goal to reach in incremental steps. Now that I am on the other side of this journey, I can say with confidence - you can do it, too.