Starting or returning to college as a working adult comes with unique challenges that other students may not have to face. 80% of online degree program students have full-time or part-time jobs,* and many have families and children too. It’s a balancing act that requires time, energy, and commitment. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for maintaining your focus, staying inspired, and completing your online college degree.
These common-sense tips can help you stay motivated and on track while dealing with the complexities of everyday life:
Talk to Your Family
Whether you’re married with children, living with your parents, or on your own with family far away, it’s best to talk to your loved ones about your decision to earn your degree online. If you live with family, it’s crucial that they understand how important it is to support your educational goals—and how it will have a positive impact for them as well. They also need to know the specific things they can do to help you make time for your studies. For instance, each family member may need to take on additional responsibilities to help give you the time you need. Knowing you can reach out to family in other locations for support can also make a tremendous difference, especially when your online degree program will take a few years to complete.
Study What You Love
It’s difficult to stay inspired at work if your profession isn’t one you care about. A key advantage of online degree programs is that they help provide the knowledge, skills, and credibility you’ll need to take advantage of a new opportunity or achieve a specific goal, such as:
Qualifying for a promotion in your current profession after you’ve earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, or completed a specialist or certificate program.
Enhancing your credentials in a specialized area of your profession that interests you.
Directing your career toward your real passion. You may have to continue in your current job for a while longer, but it’s a small price to pay to finally have the education and credentials to pursue a career that better aligns with your goals.
Find Peer Support
Your fellow classmates can be a wonderful asset. You can form study groups and enjoy the special comradery of people who are going through similar, challenging experiences—while also supporting each other along the way. You can even enroll with a group of colleagues who have similar educational interests, and enjoy the benefits of sharing in the experience as you apply what you’re learning to your daily job responsibilities. And, of course, you can always talk to faculty members, an academic coach or advisor, or student support service staff.
Find a quiet, calm place to study, free from distractions and interruptions. You might prefer the comfort of your own home or the quiet sanctuary of a library. Some students in online degree programs enjoy studying in a coffee shop or at a local park. Adult learners with children will sometimes even multitask and study during various activities, like their children’s athletic practice sessions.
Manage Your Schedule Proactively
Effective time management is the key to maintaining a reasonable balance between work, family, and studies. Set a schedule that allows the necessary amount of time for your studies— without ignoring the other important aspects of your life—and build in time for both the inevitable emergencies and “time to recharge” breaks. This prevents complications that would otherwise jeopardize your online degree program goals and timeline.
Whether it’s your first “A” on an exam or you’ve reached the final set of courses in your program, celebrate your achievements along the way with family, friends, and even coworkers. Keep reminding yourself that you have everything it takes to be successful.
Explore Walden University's online degree programs in 10 areas of study. Get the support you need to continue your education and advance your career goals, and earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.
*CollegeAtlas.org. 41 Facts About Online Students, on the Internet at www.collegeatlas.org/41-surprising-facts-about-online-students.html.