Tips for Working Full Time and Going to School

Posted on August 17, 2023

Posted on August 17, 2023

If you want to go back to school to start or finish earning your degree, you probably don’t have the luxury of quitting your job to be a full-time student. The responsibilities to family and tuition payments mean that work is a necessity – often on a full-time basis – to make going back to school a reality. 

Balancing work and school is no easy feat, but it is possible. Here are some tips to help you succeed in college while working full time. 

Set a Schedule – And Stick to It 

Creating a schedule and sticking to it is the best way to set yourself up for success with the upcoming term or semester. It’s best to plan before you actually start your courses and set notifications and deadlines on a personal calendar. Make sure to list everything, including your work hours, study time, errands, and assignment deadlines. 

Your schedule not only keeps you on track with time management but helps you prepare for upcoming projects, assignments, and exams. If you have something big coming up, you can prepare by rearranging your scheduled time to prioritize school. 

For example, if you have plans for an event or day trip, you have advance notice to move around your free time to accommodate studying and assignments. If you’re inundated with work, you have a comprehensive view of your responsibilities to avoid overwhelm and block out time appropriately. 

Choose Flexibility, Either in Work or School 

Flexibility is the key to balancing work and school. Having a rigid schedule for both makes it nearly impossible to keep up, so consider where you can get this flexibility. Full-time jobs aren’t always 9-5, so you may have the option to take different shifts or get different days off to coincide with your school schedule. 

If flexibility isn’t possible with your job, look for it with your education. Online programs are often asynchronous, so you can work on assignments and contribute to discussions or projects at the best time for your schedule. Self-paced online courses like Sophia Learning are another good option that allows you to work through the material at a comfortable speed. 

Consider Self-Paced Online Learning 

As mentioned, self-paced online learning offers advantages for adult learners. Though asynchronous courses (courses that are semi self-paced but within a given time frame) can help, you’re still beholden to a schedule for discussions, group projects, assignments, and tests. With self-paced learning, you can tailor your learning schedule to your own needs. 

Of course, this takes self-discipline and motivation, so it may not be right for everyone. It’s easy to lose sight of course deadlines when you’re devoting 40+ hours to work and managing other responsibilities. Staying disciplined in completing your work is a challenge but can make it much easier to complete your degree while working. 

Know Your Productive Periods 

Everyone has natural rhythms that determine when they’re the most and least productive. You may feel most energized in the morning, for example. Or you could be a night owl that thrives after the sun goes down and the rest of the world sleeps. 

If you have a workplace that’s supportive of your educational pursuits, discuss the possibility of flextime to accommodate your schedule. This isn’t possible at every job, but some offer flexible working hours to help you stay productive on the job and committed to your education. 

Make Use of PTO 

If your workplace offers generous paid time off (PTO), resist the urge to use it just for sick days and vacation. Some selective PTO days can be helpful for extra time to study for a big exam or complete a final project for a course. 

Safeguard Your Study Time 

Putting study time in your schedule is easy to do, but making sure you use that time to study can be difficult. You may have to miss out on things, such as your favorite television show, time out with friends, or family events. 

Remember, this is a short-term sacrifice for long-term goals. Set clear expectations with your friends and family in advance to make sure they help you stay on track. Often, the people closest to you are your biggest supporters and will be happy to do what they can to help you succeed. 

Remember Self-Care 

Balancing the demands of school and work can be stressful and may put you at risk of burnout. Make sure to take time for self-care to preserve your mental health. Something as simple as taking a few hours – or a whole day – to enjoy hobbies or spend time with friends and family can give you the mental reset you need to continue performing at peak levels. 

You shouldn’t leave your self-care to just a few days a semester, however. We all need those days off, but you should devote some time to yourself every day. Choose activities that don’t take a lot of time or commitment, such as reading a book, playing a video game, or doing a puzzle, to give your brain a break and have some fun for an hour or so. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help 

You’re making the decision to go to school and work full-time, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a hero. Ask for help if you need it, whether that’s asking your partner or children to help with some of the household responsibilities or study with you. A strong support system is your greatest asset with your career and educational goals. 

Keep Your Eye on the Prize 

Even with the best planning, things will get hard sometimes. You’ll feel stressed or overwhelmed sometimes. You may even wonder why you’re putting yourself through this. That’s when you have to remind yourself of your end goals and how far you’ve come. 

It may help to make a list of your career and educational goals in advance and keep it near your study area. Then, when you’re feeling defeated or run down, you can reference it to stay motivated toward reaching those goals. 

Is It Possible to Excel at Work and School? 

Traditional students go to college straight out of high school, spend two to four years earning a degree as a full-time student, and enter the workforce. But as a non-traditional student, you may not need to follow that same time-constrained linear path. 

It’s okay if it takes a little longer to get your degree as a half-time student with a full-time job. It’s okay if you need to take a term off to recuperate and reset to keep your momentum. There’s no “right” way to go back to school as a working adult – only your way. 

There are more options now than in the past to help adult learners reach their educational goals. Some schools and programs are specifically designed for working adult students with flexible schedules and self-paced formatting. 

You can also pursue options to shorten your degree path, such as transfer courses from Sophia Learning or work-experience credits that help you earn credit for the time you’ve already put in. 

It's Never Too Late to Get Your Degree 

Working full time and attending college won’t be easy, but that shouldn’t be a reason to put off or give up on earning your degree. With good time management, a strong support system, plenty of self-discipline, and flexible learning options, you can make your dream a reality. 

Interested in taking transfer courses with self-paced online learning with Sophia Learning? Start a free trial or explore our courses

Category: Student Success

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