Going back to college as a full-time working adult isn’t the same as going off to college as an 18-year-old freshman straight out of high school. You have more responsibilities now. You might have rent or a mortgage you need to pay or a family to support. Quitting work to go back to college most likely isn’t an option. The good news is there are many ways to go to college while working full time. There are numerous options, like online classes, that let you take classes on your own schedule, at your own pace. And with more employers than ever before offering tuition assistance programs, you have more opportunity to focus on classes that can really build your career, rather than how much they’re going to cost. Let’s take a closer look at the top tips for making sure you’re successful as you go back to school while working full time.
How to Go Back to College While Working Full Time
Deciding to go back to college is a fantastic idea for any working adult who wants to add to or improve their skills. Additional education and training can help you find a job that fits you better, get promoted in your job, or earn more money for your additional expertise. And while it will take some time and sacrifice to accomplish your educational dreams, the work/school balance doesn’t have to overwhelm your life. Here are some tips to help you plan your college return while continuing to work full time.
1. Plan Your Time Carefully
There’s no way around it: going to college while working full time will alter your everyday routine and probably cut into some personal time. To avoid chaos, create a schedule ahead of time – and try to stick to it. Plan for class time as well as homework, studying, and personal time. Block out the hours each day or week to focus exclusively on school and make sure your boss, co-workers, and family know that you’ll be unavailable. Then enforce those boundaries by eliminating distractions.
2. Prioritize Organization
Creating and sticking to a schedule only works if you prioritize organization. Take advantage of the free calendar apps that come with your phone to block out time for studying and to create reminders. Free apps like Todoist can also help you keep track of your daily tasks and long-term projects. Remember to prioritize your “must-do” items over your “want-to-do” items and set reminders well in advance for any project with a deadline or due date.
3. Discuss with Your Family
You already have responsibilities at work and home, right? And now you’re going to have more. Rather than dwelling on how much more you need to do now, try to shift your focus. You’re showing your family how important it is to invest in yourself. If you have kids, they’re seeing you work towards a goal and how important it is to keep learning in life. Keep your family in the loop on all your successes and struggles and let them be your biggest cheerleaders. Friends and families are the built-in support systems you’ll need to conquer this major shift in your life.
4. Maintain Flexibility in Your Schedule
Communicate with your employer and professors ahead of time about your situation. Let them know that you’re still committed to your responsibilities and won’t try to make more work for others. You’ll need their support and understanding while you pursue your degree. This may mean longer due dates for class assignments or a more flexible work schedule. Communicating ahead of time also helps when inevitable emergencies or unexpected distractions arise. You might be surprised at how understanding bosses can be when they know you’re working toward improving yourself for the sake of your career.
5. Plan Ahead for Conflicts
Speaking of planning ahead, try to enroll in classes that work around your existing responsibilities. Some schools offer classes only during the day, in which case you’ll need to speak with your boss about juggling work and college. If you can, try to take classes around your work hours. Many community colleges offer evening classes. Better yet, look for asynchronous online classes that can be worked on at any time, on any day of the week.
6. Maximize Any Benefits From Your Employer
These days, tuition assistance is becoming a popular benefit for employees. Bosses understand the importance of allowing their employees the opportunity to grow and improve their skills. Check with your HR department or employer to find out if your company will pay for part of your college tuition, and what that means for going to college while working full time. (Will you have to attend certain classes? Does your company have a partnership with certain educational institutions?)
7. Consider Online Classes
Working full time while in college doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are many online classes available that are designed to help working adults. Programs like StraighterLine not only save you money on college, but our classes are asynchronous so you can take them at your own pace and on your own schedule.. Work on a class project after the kids go to bed. Take an exam during your lunch break. Another bonus of online classes: no commuting to and from campus. Many schools around the world have made their courses available online so you can take advantage of a world-class education wherever you are.
Work and Study Simultaneously with StraighterLine
StraighterLine is set up with working adults in mind. We offer over 60 for-credit courses, and the college credits you earn with StraighterLine are guaranteed to be transferable to over 150 partner schools, or over 2,000 through the American Council on Education (ACE) credit transfer program. Our classes start at just $79 per course, plus $99 for our monthly membership. Every StraighterLine class includes eTextbooks, student support, and on-demand tutoring. Go at your own pace so you can get the most out of your college education while working full time. Call us at 877-787-8375 to speak with one of our expert Enrollment Counselors to discuss how StraighterLine can help you reach your career goals, or chat with us online for more information.