So you’ve finally committed to start the journey to get your college degree or to finish the degree program you started years ago - before life got in the way. Balancing school, a job, and a family is tough for anyone. These 10 tips are a must to making the transition seamless.
1. Build your support network.
Making sure your family is onboard - and that they understand your goals and why you want to do this - is important. It’s like any goal; when you have others who are there to support and encourage you, your success rate will be higher. Talk with your family about the time commitment it will take on your part, and discuss ways each person can help support your goal. A side benefit: this is a wonderful way to help your kids learn both the value of education and the commitment it takes to achieve a goal.
2. Set specific goals.
Beyond the ultimate goal of graduation, create short term goals so you experience successes along the way to stay motivated. Set goals for the grades you want to achieve, since setting and writing your goals will help you stay focused on them. You can also break down class projects into smaller chunks to help you stay on task.
3. Set up a comfortable study space for yourself.
Having a nice desk lamp for those late night study hours, along with a comfortable chair in an area that is (hopefully) away from most distractions, will go along way in keeping you on-task. If you have a space to retreat to that you enjoy, you are more likely to spend time there getting your work done.
4. Get connected.
Many adult students can feel isolated as they see the younger, traditional students studying together. With social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, there’s no reason you can’t connect with others in your classes, or with others taking similar courses around the world. With Twitter you can use hashtags to connect and share content or ask questions. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can create private groups to share resources. Google Hangouts are a wonderful, free tool to get as many as 10 people on group video chats. Be bold and get connected early.
5. Involve your coworkers.
If you are working, you can volunteer to share or present anything you are learning that might be helpful to your teammates. Perhaps you are taking a management course, and you learned a great way to hold more effective meetings. By sharing or teaching others, it helps reinforce your learning and can give you real world experiences to bring back into your class discussions.
6. Get organized.
You’ll be juggling more responsibilities when you start school, and getting (and staying!) organized will help you succeed. If you are tech-savvy, you may want to use apps like Evernote to take notes and organize your projects. It’s free and holds photos, audio, and text notes. If you are more of a paper and pencil kind of person, get colorful binders and organizational supplies that will get you off on the right foot. Fun school supplies aren’t just for kids.
7. Take the time to explore all of the resources available at your university.
Whether you are attending classes on campus or taking classes online, your university has lots of study and learning resources to ensure your success. From library study resources, guidance counselors, to financial aid resources, you should use every resource that is available to you.
8. Listen and learn.
Multitasking is already necessary if you are a working parent, but when you add schoolwork to your list, you may need a few new tools to juggle it all. Download as many audio course files as you can find and use those in between moments while waiting in line to pick up kids, or walking the dog, to listen and learn.
9. Dig deeper and more creatively for financial aid.
Perhaps you have saved aside money to go back and get your degree, but don’t overlook some of the scholarships that are available to the adult student going to college. You won’t have to worry about competing with the younger students who seem to snap up most of the scholarship money. According to Gen Tanabe, coauthor of 501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College, there are many scholarships available for adults returning to school. For instance, the Jeanette Rankin Scholarship (RankinFoundation.org) is awarded to low-income women age 35 and under, and the AARP Foundation Women’s Scholarship (AARPFoundationwlc.org) is given to women age 40 and over. To find more, visit SuperCollege.com and ProjectWorkingMom.com
10. Give yourself grace.
You will have days when you wonder what you were thinking, and you will have nights when you will question whether you bit off more than you can chew. Give yourself grace. Remember why you started. Your ultimate goal might be to graduate, but the benefits it brings to you include learning, growing, becoming more interested in life. Celebrate the fact that you have made a commitment to yourself and to your future!
For assistance in selecting a degree program that matches your goals, contact one of our enrollment advisors by calling 855-OCU-GRAD or visiting our website: Ohio Christian University
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