You’re going back to school to earn a degree, but you also work full-time. Choosing between education and a paycheck is a no-brainer, but you really don’t have to be torn between one or the other. Thanks to flexible online programs, weekend and evening classes and loan options, you can have your cake and eat it too, all without having to take off work or compromise your career ambitions.
But even though getting into a degree program is more feasible for adults, it can be difficult juggling family, work, a social life and passions alongside studies. If you’re getting ready to hit the books, save these five tips to make earning your degree easier.
Time Your Commitments Wisely
School requires a minimum commitment of 10 hours a week, but many students spend anywhere between 15 to 20 on reading and assignments each week. That can quickly turn a 9-to-5 job into a 60-hour a week commitment. You might have to put some hobbies off while you tackle a particularly challenging class, and that’s okay. Don’t punish yourself or feel guilty for not being able to do everything. Priorities come and go, so be adaptable and keep an open schedule. You might find some semesters to be ten times easier than others, so you just have to adjust your commitments to suit your needs.
Budget Before Classes Start
While there are no income limits for federal loans, there is a limit for free aid, namely the Pell Grant. Pell Grants can be worth up to $6,345, but they are only for undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. You can also only receive Pell Grants for 12 semesters, which is four semesters shy of a typical four-year program. You can student loans from a private lender to pay for expenses your federal aid doesn’t cover. There are a lot of options to explore, and students who have a steady income and decent credit score will find even greater diversity among their private loan options.
Check if Your Employer Offers College Reimbursement
Companies can offer up to $5,250 of tuition reimbursement to qualifying employees. This can be a major help for someone who is paying for their education out-of-pocket. Just keep in mind that none of the reimbursement covers meals, housing, hardware or supplies you can continue to use after your coursework is complete. For those times you have to pay out of pocket you could make good use of credit card rewards or bonuses before looking to your own bank account or loans to pay for things.
Seek Help Early
If you know that math is your worst subject, don’t put off studying until you’re in a mandatory statistics class. It’s immensely helpful for adult college students to do a review of high school math and science. Hiring a tutor can also be worth your time, especially if your degree relies on subject material you don’t excel at or have forgotten.
Stick to a Consistent Study Schedule
Avoid putting assignments on the backburner. These should be prioritized and considered just as important as your work. If you’re currently working from home, you may have some greater flexibility over when and how you study. For those who are in the office, it’s ideal to work when your mind and energy levels are at their peak. This could either be early in the morning before the day starts or in the evening when you’re cozied up on the couch.