How to Earn a Degree While Working a Full-Time Job

After high school, I joined the legions of graduates who went to college. I lasted one year at a traditional four year university before adventure came calling. I had solid grades, but I didn’t know what I wanted out of college, so it didn’t seem right to continue getting my education when I didn’t have a plan in place. So I left. I didn’t drop out of college for good, but I did place my education on hiatus.

My situation isn’t unique–thousands of people put college on hold every year for one reason or another. In my case, I joined the USAF. I was seeking an adventure and 5 continents and 30 countries later, I decided I had my adventure and I wanted to complete my degree. So I went back to school while I was on active duty.

Juggling a full-time job and a full-time course load isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it is possible. I’ve lived this and I want to share a few tips on how you can go back to school while working full-time. Trust me, if I could go to school full-time to complete my Bachelor’s degree while on active duty, you can too.

Tips For Working Full-Time and Taking Classes Part-Time

Finding a balance between work, school and family is the biggest problem facing families when someone decides to work full-time and take classes part-time. However, it can be done with some planning, perseverance and a focus on the end result. Here are some tips to help you manage your time between your work and educational commitments and still have time for family and relaxing:

Get Organized. If you are contemplating returning to college, you need to head out to the local office supply store and purchase a quality planner. Finding balance will be virtually impossible if you don’t have a solid plan in place. Write down a list of all the obligations you have in your life, including work, home and social engagements. The reality is that until you truly visualize what you have to accomplish each day, you can never manage your time.

Write Down Your Goals. You are not a superhero, but you can achieve reasonable goals. Write down a list of short-term and long-term goals and develop a plan to achieve them. Cross off milestones as you achieve them and continue working toward your major goal of achieving your degree.

Consider Your School Options. Depending on your job, you’ll need to find a class schedule flexible enough to accommodate your work schedule. If you work a full-time day shift, night classes at a local community college may be the best option. If your work schedule is erratic and you have no reasonable way to guess when you can fit in class time, you might consider signing up for online classes.

When you find the right school, take a look at your planner and decide how much of a workload you will be able to take on in the beginning. Take into account the amount of time it takes to complete both class work and homework.

Cut Your Extras. You will have to make financial and time related sacrifices to stay on track. You need to decide what is necessary and what you can live without. Make a list of priorities about spending, family time, school time and work and figure out a way to cut unnecessary items. You don’t have to drop your entire social network, but you may have to cut back on some social events.

Get Work Support. You may need to be flexible with your work hours in order to fit classes into your work schedule. Let your employer know your education plans. Many employers are happy to work with your schedule, especially if you are using employer tuition assistance. Be sure not to let your schooling affect your work, otherwise you may quickly lose your employer’s support.

Get Family and Social Support. It’s difficult to do this alone. You will need the support and understanding of your spouse, children, parents, friends, coworkers and anyone else you interact with on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when starting out. Things will improve as you master your new schedule.

Working full-time and going to school isn’t easy, but it is possible. The key is to maintain focus and to remember this is a temporary situation. Sacrifices are easier to make when you see the end result in sight and realize how close it is to becoming reality.

Obviously, quite a few sacrifices need to be made in order to go back to school while continuing to earn an income. Make sure all the time and effort you put in is worth it–don’t graduate with unnecessary student loan debt. Find out how you can use low interest student loans to help make college more affordable.