Sometimes professionals realize that to improve their career and quality of life, they need to make sacrifices. For many professionals, that means returning to university to earn a graduate degree.
Taking the time and effort to return to school makes sense when looking at the earnings differences. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Winter 2019 Salary Survey focused on business administration, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn a starting salary of $57,133, while an MBA graduate can expect to earn $84,580—a substantial difference.
As encouraging as that differential is, earning an advanced degree will take serious commitment. Whether you haven’t worked and attended college simultaneously before, or you have far more responsibilities now, you probably imagine it is challenging to manage your school/work/life balance, especially at the graduate level.
We hope this post can help you with insight into time management, self-care, and how to prioritize responsibilities while you earn your graduate degree. thrive as you study to earn your graduate degree. We want you to walk away with actionable tips and best practices for balancing your career and school. We reassure you that it’s worth it and that you can do it by utilizing these sound strategies.
1. Establish and Remember Your Goals
As soon as you receive confirmation from your college regarding your acceptance and curriculum, sit down and write about your reasons for returning to college and what you hope to accomplish. Establishing goals that you can refer to can help you stay on track when things get tough. This simple task can remind you of the reason you are doing it all, should you become overwhelmed with work, school, or life responsibilities from time to time.
2. Keep a Schedule
Once you receive your online class schedule, it’s time to determine how you’ll make it all work. Start by buying a physical planning calendar, or utilize a digital calendar if you prefer. Regardless of which one you choose, stay consistent in listing the following:
- Short-term and long-term school projects
- Designated times for studying
- Work hours, including special projects, team meetings, and events
- Time with family and friends and keeping up with hobbies
If you plan to use a paper-based planner, try to mark special dates with colorful tabs and notes to avoid missing deadlines. With a digital calendar, you can set alarms and notifications for important projects, giving you some advanced notice that you have a deadline you can’t afford to miss.
3. Get Organized
Poor organization can lead to various complications with a busy schedule attending school, working, and maintaining a personal life. Alternatively, staying organized leads to freedom for you as a college student and a working professional to engage in relaxed and free thinking. You won’t continually feel swamped and overwhelmed, trying to keep up or catch up.
Here are a few more specific ways that strong organizational skills can help you thrive:
- You won’t miss opportunities, such as attending college program events. If you stay organized, you’ll feel calmer and get helpful information from your instructors and classmates, such as special job fairs specific to your program through your college.
- You won’t miss deadlines that could otherwise damage your finances, such as paying rent or mortgage, college registration fees, or credit card payments and other bills.
- You won’t need to skip weekend trips, vacations, or study abroad programs. With your schedule easily accessible and marked, you can plan intermittent personal trips and you won’t miss deadlines to register for special study time opportunities in exciting new locations.
- You won’t have to sacrifice self-care time, whether that means spending an evening out with friends or taking a camping trip out in nature.
4. Manage Your Time Wisely
You may detect a theme so far: focusing on scheduling and organization. That’s because it is incredibly important to adopt and practice strong time management skills to keep everything aligned to prevent coinciding schedules that can lead to stress and missed deadlines.
While it might seem like a project, managing your time will save you time overall. Here are a few tips to help:
- Record all due dates and deadlines as soon as you receive your syllabus.
- Develop a routine and stick with it. For instance, plan a specific study time for your coursework, and commit to it until it becomes a natural habit.
- Rely on your technology, such as your laptop and smartphone, to benefit your time management. Set alarms for the duration of your study sessions or thesis writing. Download time management, scheduling, and organizational apps to stay on track.
- Remove distractions that challenge your commitment. For instance, if you love gaming, you might find it challenging to break away from it to study. In such cases, you might need to temporarily limit your gaming to an hour or so in the evenings or weekends until there is a school break or you complete your program.
5. Separate Work and School
As important as your education is, you can’t let it consume your life to the point that you only work and study. As noted above, you do need to limit some distractions, but you also don’t want to forgo everything that makes you happy and whole as a person while working and studying. You’ll probably feel irritable, stressed out, and resentful of taking on this exciting opportunity if you don’t allow yourself some pleasures, such as spending time with friends and family and pursuing your hobbies.
6. Earn Your Degree Online
Today, you can pursue your graduate degree dreams with online coursework, which has become a game changer for professionals in the workforce.
Here are a couple reasons you might consider earning your degree online:
- Save money by not having to waste gas driving to campus and paying for parking.
- Enjoy the flexibility of studying on your own time via your computer through streamed online class sessions and more. You can also sign up for classes at times that suit your work and personal schedule.
7. Ask for Help
Whether you reach out to your employer, instructor, or peers, sometimes it’s important to ask for help. Attending college while working is a huge undertaking and one that you shouldn’t have to do on your own.
Let’s look at some examples of times you can and should ask for help:
- Contact your instructor or professor if you don’t understand something about a project or upcoming exam.
- Ask your peers for notes if you miss a study session.
- Request that your family and friends understand if you can’t attend events and functions.
8. Don’t Procrastinate
Most people have procrastinated at some point in their life. The result is usually that you end up feeling stressed out and awful, even if you accomplish your tasks on time. What’s worse, you might perform poorly on an exam or miss a deadline. If you stay organized, follow your schedule, and limit distractions, you shouldn’t have any excuse to procrastinate.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness means that you are present in what you are doing at that moment, whether studying or working at your job.
A few tips for practicing mindfulness in college include:
- Meditate to clear your mind.
- Visualize your success in school, work, and your future.
- Play relaxing music.
- Focus on deep breathing techniques, especially when you experience stress.
- Write in a journal about your daily experiences and goals for your future.
10. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
It’s easy to adopt bad habits when you are extremely busy, but is it wise to maintain a healthy lifestyle full of exercise, nutritious food, and plenty of rest and sleep. These practices can help keep your energy levels high and your stress levels low.
Try adding these tips to boost your health and well-being:
- Carry a water bottle with you and take sips at regular intervals to stay hydrated.
- Keep healthy snacks at your work desk and in your study area at home.
- Take naps when you need or have time for them to get more rest and sleep.
- Create a workout routine, even if that means taking intermittent 10-minute walks around the block.
- Eat a balanced diet, chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, and whole grains.
11. Set Aside Time for Yourself
A schedule jam-packed with work and school without time for yourself is a recipe for disaster. This tip goes along with ensuring you stay healthy and active, but it deserves its own space because it calls for slightly different activities, such as:
- Practicing your favorite hobbies, such as gardening, painting, or photography.
- Scheduling a massage or other pampering treatment.
- Going camping or on a day hike.
- Spending time with friends and loved ones.
12. Celebrate Wins
Every time you complete a complex project or paper, it’s important to celebrate your success. Celebrating wins provides you with solid benchmarks, reminding you why you are taking this exciting educational journey. When you submit a paper, especially when you receive a high grade for it, it reminds you of why you have taken on this huge project that will improve your life.
Earn Your Graduate Degree at Johnson & Wales University
Many working professionals find that earning their graduate degree online helps them better manage work and school while enhancing their knowledge to advance their careers.
If you’re ready to balance your career with earning your graduate degree online, contact Johnson & Wales University today. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].