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Tips for balancing a full-time job with graduate school

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
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Tips for balancing a full-time job with graduate school
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The benefits of achieving an advanced degree are countless. Graduates face lower average unemployment rates based on their education level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a 1.5 percent unemployment rate for doctorate graduates and a 2.2 percent unemployment rate for master's graduates. However, before you get to that point, you might need to keep your job while going to grad school to pay tuition and support yourself. Working full-time while enrolled in a full- or part-time graduate program can be a challenge. You want to bring your A-game to work while completing coursework to the best of your ability. You also want time to spend with your friends and loved ones.

It might seem difficult to work your full-time job while pursuing graduate courses. However, you're not alone. According to a study by Georgetown University, 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week. There are ways you can complete a graduate degree without getting burnt out. With discipline and hard work, you are capable of executing this balancing act.

1. Decide if an on-campus program or online program fits your needs
You might prefer the in-person learning experience associated with on-campus learning. However, your working hours may not accommodate traveling to and from campus several times a week. If you work long, irregular hours, you might benefit from asynchronous online graduate courses. That way, you can listen to lectures and complete coursework at times that are convenient to your schedule.

2. Practice time management
The biggest speed bump professionals in advanced programs face is the potential time crunch. Even if you are enrolled in asynchronous online courses, you will likely have regular deadlines to hand in papers and assignments. Plan your time wisely, blocking off periods of time throughout the week to study and complete coursework. You might decide to work for short chunks of time every night, or you might prefer to work for extended lengths of time twice a week. No matter what technique works for you, avoiding distractions should help you make the most of your time.

person holding pen marking calendarTime management skills are essential in meeting deadlines and maintaining a work-school-life balance.

3. Make the most of your commute
If you take public transportation to work, whip out your textbook and flashcards on the train or bus. If you drive to work, you can explore hands-free options, like audio editions of your textbooks. If you are enrolled in an online course, you can even listen to the recordings of your lectures on the road. Rather than listening to countless radio commercials and overplayed top-40 hits, make your mornings and evenings behind the wheel as productive as possible.

4. Choose your sacrifices wisely
In order to practice proper time management, you might need to cut down on certain activities to allow more time for schoolwork. You shouldn't cut social opportunities with friends and family, exercise routines or hours of sleep, as these are essential to establishing a healthy work-school-life balance. The activities you cut down on or cut out should be wastes of time or solo pastimes that you can manage without. Instead of scrolling through Instagram for a half hour every night, use this time to memorize vocabulary words or complete assigned reading. You might decide to replace an hour of television every night with an hour of studying. If you need your weekly "This Is Us" fix, review your notes during commercial breaks.

5. Reward your hard work
Part of getting an education is taking joy in the triumphs. After completing a final exam or handing in a paper you worked hard on, schedule a date night with your significant other or a happy hour with your friends to celebrate. Graduate school isn't a simple feat, especially for working professionals, so treat yourself for your hard work and success from time to time.

6. Connect with your classmates
If you're the only one in your inner circle balancing a full-time job with graduate school, you might feel alone in your struggles and challenges. Reach out to your classmates to commiserate or enthuse about the material you are studying. Maybe establishing a study group could be beneficial. As an added bonus, creating solid relationships with your peers could lead to future networking opportunities.

classmates at coffee shop talkingConnecting with your classmates can allow you to vent about your stresses and empower each other to complete exceptional work.

7. Understand your limits.
If you can't handle a full-time graduate program in addition to your full-time job, take a step back. Instead, switch to a part-time schedule if you can't find a balance. It will take you longer to graduate, but the extra time in your schedule could make a substantial difference with your grades, your performance at work and your overall happiness.

8. Remember that the ends justify the means.
There might be days or weeks that you feel stressed or frustrated. When you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and think forward. Imagine how gratifying it will feel to have an advanced degree, to have completed such a noteworthy accomplishment while balancing a full-time career. Don't forget why you enrolled in the first place. Use this as fuel to motivate you going forward.

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