How to balance grad school and work

  • How to balance grad school and work

    People either pursue an advanced degree immediately after earning their undergraduate degree or once they have some work experience under their belt. Those who fall under the latter category must make a difficult decision: either leave their jobs and pursue a degree full-time, or continue working and enroll in a part-time grad program. While it can be challenging, working and going to grad school is not impossible. Here's how students can effectively manage both responsibilities.

    Explore online classes
    Online grad school programs are growing in popularity because of their convenience among the employed. Schools like Yale University School of Medicine, Syracuse University and University of Southern California are just a few of the colleges that are offering students flexible and convenient education that can fit in with a busy schedule. Students can develop a personal timeline that allows them to work all week while earning an advanced degree on their own time.

    "13-hour days are common."

    Create a strict schedule
    When balancing work and school, it's common for students to put in 13 to 14 hours of effort on the days they have class. This requires a great deal of stamina, organization and efficiency. Before deciding to juggle both responsibilities, students should consider what a normal week would look like for them. For example, if a program requires in-person attendance on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 out of 5 work days will be extremely long. Students should notify their employers of their plans and discuss the possibility of either working from home on those days or leaving early and working longer on the days they don't have class. Similarly, students should let their professors know about their other responsibilities to see what kinds of helpful resources are available to them. After all, many people successfully manage to earn a degree while working, and their professor may have some helpful strategies.

    Keep work and class separate
    Stress from the work day shouldn't be carried over into class, and vice versa. Students should view both responsibilities separately and give both of them their full effort. Jeremy Snook, senior business development and strategy manager for Microsoft Game Studios, earned his degree from the University of Washington while working, and explained that keeping both responsibilities separate was a big help.

    "I'd come out of a long day at work and check my hat at the classroom door," Snook told the university. "It was great to be in an environment where I could disconnect from work problems and office politics and think creatively, explore the 'what if' situations. 'I just loved it." 

    Don't lose sight of the benefits 
    Working full time and going to school simultaneously is bound to get stressful, but it's important for students to keep their eyes on the prize. Balancing both responsibilities will instill a sense of perseverance that might be difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. People may not realize how much they're able to accomplish until they successfully earn their degree and realize how much effort they were able to put out throughout the process.

    Leaving a job to pursue a full-time degree program could be more convenient, but also riskier. When students decide to enroll in a part-time degree program, they're ensuring that they still have a job to come back to each day. That could be enough to make someone choose the part-time route. When the balancing act becomes overwhelming, it's important for students to remember why they chose to pursue an advanced degree in the first place.

    By Monique Smith

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