How to Succeed in College When Balancing Work and Family
Are you thinking about going to college but feel a little overwhelmed as you think about balancing a career, school and a family? Well, if you are this blog might be helpful for you. I will start by saying college is not for everyone and trying to balance a career, school and family can be challenging. Though it can be challenging, it is not impossible. If completing college is one of your many goals and you feel it will help you in the long run for career advancement, consider my advice below on how to succeed in college when balancing a career and a family.
As Oprah said, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” so be patient with yourself and be patient with your journey. Keep your goals close and strive towards those goals every chance that you get. There is a misconception that you have to put things on hold and wait for a better time to do something but honestly when is the right time? If you keep putting things off, you may never accomplish your goals. I hope this blog motivates you to start reaching towards your goals and know that balancing college, work and family is possible. Notice that I said that it is possible, but not that it would be easy.
These are tips that I actually apply to my life since I have to balance work, college and motherhood without losing my head and feeling overwhelmed. I hope these tips help you on your college journey.
1.Have a set schedule. I know that this is easier said than done and it took me awhile to get a set schedule. Now, I know when you have kids unexpected things come up and can throw a schedule out of whack but that’s totally okay. Having a schedule is very important when trying to balance it all. With your set schedule, you want to block out time specifically for school and your coursework whether that is before the kids are up in the morning, on your lunch break at work or even after the kids have gone to bed. I personally choose to do my schoolwork at night when the boys are fast asleep so I am able to dedicate a lot of time to my studies with little to no distractions. Setting aside time to do coursework is key to balancing work and family.
2. Do not wait until the last minute to do assignments. I used to be a huge procrastinator when it came to schoolwork but that was before my boys and trying to have a career. Procrastinating is a great way to feel overwhelmed and stressed for no reason. Do not do this to yourself! There is nothing worst than trying to submit an assignment at 11:59 PM and your child decides that is also the perfect time to get really sick or decides he doesn’t want to go to bed. Or maybe it is the same day that you have to stay late at work for whatever reason. Procrastination makes you think you have all the time in the world until the due date approaches faster than you expect it would. Save yourself this headache and get your work done ahead of time. I have gotten to the point that I am always a week or two weeks ahead of my work.
3. Organize your life. A planner saved my life but I know this method may not work for everyone. If you are more tech savvy and like having everything on your phone then you can find a planner app or utilize the calendar on your phone to set alerts and mark important dates. You can also utilize to-do lists so you are checking off things as you go. I personally use all three methods in my daily life. I especially like to-do lists and feeling accomplished when I cross things off my list. You just have to find the method that will work for you so that you are able to keep up with assignments and important dates. Whichever method that you decide on to help organize your life, make sure the method you choose will help you keep up with dates. You want to use a method that you can eye several times a day and constantly update. I use a planner to keep up with dates and appointments and I use to-do lists to keep up with assignments and other important to-do’s that involve work or family obligations. In my planner, I not only include important school dates and assignment due dates but also family obligations like activities, events, appointments, etc… and I also include my work schedule and deadlines. You want to include these things to see if there are any conflicts and figure out how to prioritize if two things happen on the same day. For example, if your child has a soccer game and you also have an important exam to complete, you might want to complete the exam the day before or even before the game just, so you are able to enjoy the game and not have to worry about submitting that assignment. I always knock out school assignments first if it conflicts with family or work obligations, so I’m not stressed about a deadline or having to cut a family obligation short to complete an assignment. I’m a mom first so I like to enjoy my sons’ activities and events without being flustered about something that I could have done sooner. Also, when using my planner, I color code each obligation (ex. red for school, blue for work, yellow for family) and it really helps to see everything at once and to see which item belongs to which obligation.
4. Knowing when to say NO: Do not bite off more than you can chew. Know what you can handle and when you have enough on your plate. The thing about juggling multiple things is that you face the reality that something you are juggling may fall if you are not careful. I have made the mistake of taking on way more than I should have and it led to stress and me not doing well academically. Before starting college, look at your obligations and how much those obligations require of you and know how many classes you can truly handle with those obligations. I know taking on a full course load of four or more classes seems ideal, so you can be done quicker with school but taking on that many classes can be a lot to handle with a full-time job and family obligations. You might have to take 3 classes especially if the classes that you take require a lot from you or if you can afford to, you might have to reduce your hours at work. Balancing it all has everything to do with knowing when enough is enough and prioritizing your obligations.
5. Do not wait until you are drowning to ask for help: A strong support system is important when trying to balance it all. I know that some are luckier than others to have a strong support system but even if you feel like you have no one, reach out to an academic adviser or see if you can find a like-minded mentor to help guide you through this journey. Balancing school, work and family can get tough at times and stressful. You might have to withdraw from a hard course that requires more of you than you can presently give. Reach out to your support system if things get to be overwhelming. Maybe you need someone to watch the kids for an afternoon, so you can go somewhere quiet to finish your work or even need to reach out to a friend or tutor to help you with a hard assignment. There is no shame in asking for help if you really need it.
6. Take night, online and weekend classes: I have found in my college career that the night and weekend professors are more willing to work with non-traditional students and be more understanding about the toughness of balancing it all. I’m not saying that the classes would be easier or anything like that but having understanding professors is helpful when trying to balance it all. I love online classes, but I know online classes are not for everyone and can be quite challenging depending on the course. But, with online classes you have the freedom to do your work anywhere that you choose. Online classes are usually not self-paced, and the instructor has a schedule you must follow but I find it easier to get ahead in online classes than a face-to-face class. Let me also say that not every online class is an “Easy A” class and some are even harder than the class you would take in person. What type of classes you decide to take is up to you but online, weekend and night classes are usually geared to the working professionals and non-traditional students.
7. Read your syllabus/schedule and go through them with a fine-tooth comb: You want to pay attention to the dates and the pace of the class. Will you be able to handle the speed of the class where you must submit and go through a lesson every week or are you better suited for a course that stays on a lesson for 2 weeks? You also want to pay attention to what time and days that you usually have to submit assignments, usually the time is 11:59 PM but I have found a course that had assignments due at 8 am. You want to also look at the assignments that are required of you. Does this course require a lot of reading, are you going to have to submit a lot of essays, is a discussion and response due every week and things like that? If a course does require a lot of reading, you might have to set aside additional time to get the reading done. If a course has a lot of essays and you’re not that great of a writer, you might want to consider how you can get to your school’s lab and get help with the essay. Some online classes require discussion posts and a response to other posts and though it is easy, it can get to be time-consuming. I personally stay away or drop classes that require a lot of writing assignments, has group assignments in an online class or a class that is discussion based. The most important thing that you want to look for in a syllabus is the feel of the professor. A professor usually writes clues in the syllabus about whether they are willing to work with a student on late/missed assignments, how they feel about student emergencies, what kind of grader they are and things of that nature to let you know if you have an understanding professor or one of those professors that will be a piece of work.
I hope these tips have been helpful and you feel confident that you can balance school, work and family obligations. I have been in college since 2012 and sometimes I feel that I am behind schedule when completing this Bachelor’s degree. Then, I realize that there is no set schedule when completing a degree so don’t get discouraged if it is taking you a little longer than most to get your degree. As long as you stay on the course and remain focused, you will also earn your degree and the time that it took to get the degree won’t even matter.
This journey of balancing it all has not always been easy and I had a lot of tough days and I had to figure out how to balance, prioritize and organize my life so it wouldn’t be as tough. I have learned that you must be disciplined, organized, motivated and determined if you want to balance it all. It’s hard to balance these things if your life is out of whack. Good luck on your journey and leave some tips below that helps you balance it all!
Hope you all enjoyed the blog!