If you've been toying with the idea of going back to school to finish your degree, specialize in an area related to your career, change careers or for any other reason, chances are that one thing standing in the way is the question of how to balance work and school.
Nowadays, it seems that more and more students are working part-time or full-time while studying and people who work part-time or full-time are returning to colleges and universities to earn degrees and certificates, in order to enhance their current career or start a new one. However, the idea of adding school to the already endless list of things to do on top of work, including responsibilities in the home and in other areas of life may seem nearly impossible. The good thing is, you are not alone and because this is a fairly common concern of students of all ages and walks of life, many colleges and universities have adapted their programs for students who work full-time and have a family, in order to accommodate the needs of the students and enable them to realize their academic goals.
Many programs are offered on a part-time basis so that students can elect to take a small amount of courses per term to allow time for work and family. Even more programs have begun to offer an ever-growing number of courses online, in order to allow students to work at their own pace on the coursework, and with the options becoming more and more flexible, it is becoming more simple to complete the necessary coursework in a timely manner. It is true that taking only one or two courses per term tends to draw out the length of the program, but that is a great way to start the transition back to school, since many students find that once they have adapted to the balance of work and school, they are gradually able to take on more courses per term successfully.
When considering the degree or certificate program of your choice, it is necessary to make a realistic timeline for completing your academic goals. Depending on the program of your choice, there may be courses that are only offered at certain times, making it essential to plan your course schedule around such classes to ensure that you are able to complete them on time. This becomes especially true if some of these courses are prerequisites for courses in furture terms.
One question that must be answered in this process is "How much time do I have for school?" Prospective students often tend to over- or underestimate the time that may be required for completing a given course. A rule of thumb is that for a 3-credit hour course, students are expected to dedicate approximately 9 to 12 hours of time to the coursework per week, including classtime. This, of course, varies according to each student's learning style, the professor's teaching style and potential additional assignments. In order to guage the possible workload for a given course, the course description may provide some basic information, but websites like http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/, https://www.myedu.com/, or some institutions of higher learning also have their own websites with course ratings and rankings.
Once you have thought about how much time you may be able to dedicate to schoolwork, another option that is available at most colleges and universities is academic advising. Many times, this is a service for enrolled students, but it never hurts to try contacting an academic advisor when planning your study program even before you have enrolled in the program.
This type of planning is a good first step, but you may find that courses take more or less of your time than you had expected, which is true of most plans in school, at work or in other areas of life. So once you have your plan drafted, the next step is applying for the program...