Returning to school to earn a degree can provide great rewards, but make sure you don’t sacrifice other important aspects of your life along the way. Find out how to successfully balance your family, career, and schoolwork as a non-traditional student.
Your life as a non-traditional student may be a little more complicated than that of students entering college directly out of high school. Depending on your personal situation you may be picking up the children after school, preparing for a seminar at work, and still have to figure out when you’ll have time to finish up that paper for English Literature class. How does a non-traditional student manage to successfully balance the responsibilities of family and career while continuing her education? Just like a juggling act–it takes discipline and commitment.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects that in 2012 there could be about 4,682,000 students aged 30 or older enrolled in the nation’s colleges and universities. They also estimate that there could be over 6 million part-time college students by 2017. Many of these non-traditional students are going to have families, part or full-time jobs, and if they are over 30 years old, they have more than likely been away from school for a while. These future students are going to have to learn the same lessons that you and other current non-traditional students are now–how to juggle their career, family, and school responsibilities without anything falling.
Tips for balancing career, family, and school as a non-traditional student
Successful non-traditional students offer several suggestions for people considering a return to school after being away for a while:
- Use the beginner’s slope–If you haven’t taken classes or studied in a few years, start out with a few classes the first semester to rekindle your dormant scholastic skills
- Study time–Set aside a certain time each day for studying and doing homework and try to avoid distractions during this period
- Set goals–Determine your reasons for going back to school and what you hope to achieve during your time there. Take a few moments from time to time to ensure you’re still headed in the right direction or whether your goals should be modified
Getting involved with non-traditional student groups can also help with your transition back to the classroom.
Continuing your career
If you plan on continuing your career while attending college, it’s important not to let your school work interfere with the job you are being paid to do. Your office is not a place for doing your homework–even during your lunch break. The jury is out on whether you should let your employer know about your education plans: it may just come down to your personal career situation. Some companies can be very supportive of their employees’ efforts to further their educations and recognize the benefits a better educated staff may bring to the organization. These companies could even offer to provide partial financial assistance for you to attend school.
At the other end of the spectrum are the employers who might feel that you could be switching your focus and priorities from the work place to the classroom, and your job performance may suffer. They might also think that you’ll be seeking a better position after graduation, and they could decide to begin looking for your replacement now. If you are counting on your income while attending school, you may want to use discretion when discussing your scholastic endeavors with co-workers and supervisors.
As mentioned previously, it can be very important that you have the support of your entire family when returning to school. Your busy schedule is going to become even more hectic when attending classes and doing homework are added to your daily responsibilities. A few suggestions for getting your family on board with the changes about to take place:
- Family meeting–Have an open discussion about why you are returning to school and how accomplishing your educational goals should help the entire family
- Delegation of duties–Another method for bonding your family while working toward a common goal is by asking everyone to pitch in while you’re attending classes. If you have simple chores such as taking out the trash or walking the dog, get your children involved taking over some of these simple responsibilities. Be sure to express often and sincerely to all family members how much you value their contributions to your long-range goal and what your achieving it can mean to them, too
- Schedule–Coordinate your evening study time with that of your school age children. When they see you sitting at your desk with open books it may help their own study habits, and when homework is finished, family together-time can begin
Returning to school as a non-traditional student can be a juggling act, but with practice and commitment you can be a headliner during your college career.
This article was originally published in our free, 27 page ebook titled The Essential Guide to College for Non-Traditional Students.