With planning, time management, a flexible program, and passion, you can advance your career by earning a master’s or doctoral degree.

How to choose the right online college or university

Career. Family commitments. Holidays. Vacation time. No matter your age or station, life is busy. While you want to earn a degree, you can probably name plenty of reasons not to pursue one. But if you can silence your inner naysayer and focus on all the many great reasons to earn your degree, you’ll soon realize the benefits can last a lifetime.

How will you continue your postsecondary education? How can you fit a master’s or doctoral degree program into your busy life? Here are a few helpful hints.

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Find your passion. In the oft-quoted words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” If you want to earn your degree, it will require excitement for your subject matter to have the motivation to complete it. You’ll need enthusiasm that lasts beyond the admission process and carries you through the rigors of your graduate program.

Enroll in a flexible program. Life and commitments don’t stop just because you’re in school. For your best chance at success, consider a flexible program at an accredited university. Online education is a great option, especially if you want to cut down on commuting costs, plan to keep working, are caring for a family, or don’t want to move yourself or your family in order to pursue your degree. When earning a degree online, you can take coursework from the comfort of your home or desired study space. In your college search, you might consider asynchronous online classes for the ultimate flexibility, allowing you to attend and watch lectures at times most convenient for you.

Communicate your higher education plans. Let family, friends, managers, and coworkers know you’re advancing your education through a graduate program. They might just become your biggest cheerleaders. Coworkers and managers will likely value your dedication and initiative and appreciate what your education brings to your work. Friends and family might rally around your educational goals and provide support for you at home and with family responsibilities.

Prioritize your studies. Whether you earn a degree online or opt for a program at an in-person college or university, prioritizing your studies is essential. Schedule time to listen to lectures, study, or work on assignments in the same way you would for plan for meetings and appointments. Become a master of time management. Other folks will only respect the time you’ve dedicated to your studies if you do. Your college degree is your responsibility and yours to achieve.

Avoid distractions. Turn off your TV or disruptive music. Silence or turn off phones. If the temptation is still too great, keep your smartphone in another room so you don’t feel compelled to keep checking it. Whenever possible, physically remove yourself from distractions.

For Ulysesses Wilcox, a recent graduate of Walden University’s online MS in Leadership program, checking e-mail was his biggest deterrent to his studies. To succeed in his graduate program, he had to deprioritize it.

“Usually my e-mail is the first thing I go to,” Wilcox says. “But that became the last thing.” He cited “reducing and eliminating distractions” as a key strategy in earning his graduate degree.

If you must stay close to your phone and e-mail, use apps to enhance your productivity. Delete distracting games. Limit social media and messaging during study hours. Schedule times to check e-mails, texts, and voicemails so that you aren’t distracted by each one that arrives. Reply to them in batches.

Take breaks. While it’s important to stay focused and on task, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Allow yourself time to sleep. Ease into study. Take breaks to rejuvenate your body and mind with walks, exercise, and mindfulness activities. Rewarding yourself with breaks allows you to recharge your energy and your passion for your studies.

Graduate school isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile challenge. If you want to get ahead in your career or make a career change, a master’s or doctoral degree can help you achieve your goals. You are neither too young nor too old to start. Remember: Your career and life experiences outside the classroom inform your education just as your education enhances your life and career. Your graduate education not only enriches your own life, but can also impact your classmates, coworkers, and professors for the better.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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