When I decided to go back and do my Post Graduate in Business Management I knew that it would be tough when I was still working full time but I certainly under – estimated just how hard it would be to stay on top of it all. Since it is now coming to crunch time if you are thinking of going back to college I thought I would share some tips that I learnt along the way (and some I wish I had applied from day one). It can be a great sense of accomplishment when you finish a course while still working but it also takes time and planning to make it successful and to ensure that you don’t end up exhausted.
Be honest with the time it will take
Before you sign up for the course – check you actually have the time to devote to it. Some part time courses are 1-2 evenings a week and then maybe 6-8 hours reading on top of that. Some courses are 1 day a month with 20 hours reading a week etc. etc. Find out the exact details and then see can you fit it in. You will be surprised how you can fit it in – give up a soap that you watch a few times a week and you could easily gain 2-3 hours for college. Also, be honest with your partner/children on what you intend to do – if you do have kids your other half may need to help out more so that the house is still balanced. You can’t do it all!
Buy any books needed before the course starts
This may sound a tad obvious but I didn’t – I waited for a few weeks and then at that stage I was already slightly behind with the readings. Most courses will give you the reading list well before the course starts – that is the time to see can you pick up any second hand (get in ahead of everyone else and you may find them cheaper). My reason for looking secondhand first is that I know many people who don’t even write a dot on their books so some are as good as new.
Set up an area in your house just for your college work
Trying to study on the couch while the TV is on or at the kitchen table while you are looking at dishes that need to be washed etc. will not lead to the most productive studying time. You need to be able just sit down and focus for a couple of hours on what you need to do and then that is it done for the evening. And it doesn’t need to be an expensive desk – Argos have small corner desks that will do the job and you can put them in the corner of a spare room etc. and remember to stock it with all you will need – pens, notepaper etc.
Study from the very start
It is so easy when you start a course to leave starting to do the readings or study until ‘next week’ or ‘tomorrow’ and I am telling you now – don’t do this. When you leave starting until a few months into the course it feels more over-whelming. If you do the readings/assignments as they pop up and do a little study as you go – it won’t be as big a deal. I did the latter in semester one of my course and panicked coming up to my Christmas exams and the stress was just not worth it. In semester two I did little often and it was much more manageable.
When you close your books, study is over
Work life balance is so important for both your mental health but also for your home life. Adding in a course that involves studying, assignments etc. adds another level that you need to balance. It just takes planning to ensure that you don’t end up burning the candle at both ends and end up exhausted. It is so important to take care of yourself and not burn yourself out which leads onto my next point.
Make a plan / schedule study in
Similar to knowing you may have to work 9am – 5pm each day schedule your study time in the same way. After the first week or so you will have a better idea of what you need to do and can then schedule in say 1 hour on a Tuesday evening and 3 hours at the weekend (or whatever is needed). Once you actually write down the times that you intend to study I believe that you are more likely to stick to it. And it also means that you don’t feel guilty when you spend a night binge watching your favourite program (something like Stranger Things!) as you will know that you are on top of college work. Try not to get obsessed – if you do need to plan every day then remember to include fun things like date night etc. as well – it’s just as important 🙂
Going back and studying part time when working full time is a challenge but you need to enjoy the process as well or else you will end up resenting it! It is tough but the feeling of accomplishment is fantastic when you get to the end and graduate 🙂