Find the Right Schedule
Many people work nine-to-five day jobs, meaning night classes are a must.
When applying to graduate schools, find programs that cater to working adults. Consider not only the time between when you leave work and when classes begin, but also:
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• The commute. How doable is it realistically? Will you feel rushed and stressed before every class? Will this detract from your experience?
• Your endurance and the flexibility of the program—do you have the option to make it a sprint or a marathon? Consider what you need from your program to make it the most personally sustainable: for example, would you rather take four evening classes per week for one year, or one evening class per week for four years?
• Online and summer courses. Online courses can be done on your own schedule, which can be helpful if you work untraditional hours or are attempting to balance many obligations. Summer courses, meanwhile, can alleviate some of the regular-semester stress by extending your course load over additional months.
• Your ability to care for yourself. What will you do to ensure that you’re eating healthfully and getting enough sleep each night? It might be tempting to skip dinner between work and class, or reach for another cup of coffee in the morning in exchange for a few more hours studying at night. You know yourself best, but don’t forget to take care of your mental and physical health.
Use Your Personal Days Strategically
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a personal day from work to write a paper.
I have, and I fully recommend it. The caveat is that I had planned this personal day, meaning that I spoke with my supervisor in advance to arrange the day off. I wouldn’t advise taking a last-minute “sick” day. Not only is this unfair to your colleagues and borderline shirking your professional responsibilities, but it also encourages you to procrastinate on your schoolwork—which will only add to your stress levels.
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On the other hand, if you arrange a personal day in advance, it will give you peace of mind. Trust me: in the chaos of a busy semester, you’ll want to feel in control, and knowing that you have set aside time to dedicate solely to your schoolwork, you will.
Embrace the Overlap
It might be tempting to keep your work life separate from your school life in an effort to maintain some semblance of balance. If your degree is directly related to your current field, however, you may want to consider integrating the two. Perhaps there’s a skill you’re learning in the classroom that can be applied directly to a work project. Talk to your boss about it. Wouldn’t it be great to spend eight hours of your day knocking out schoolwork and fulfilling work responsibilities?
Ask For Help
It’s okay to admit to being unable to do everything that you once committed yourself to. Maybe this means asking your spouse/significant other for more help around the house, or finding someone else to take your mother-in-law to her weekly doctor’s appointment. If you have a support system, be willing to accept help when it’s offered—and to ask when it’s not.