Parent, student, employee. Each title provides enough responsibility for a lifetime. Add all three together and you’ve got, well… about three lifetimes. The reality is, for a lot of us, raising a family while going to school and working is the reality. At Saint Joseph’s College, nearly half our students both work and have children under the age of 18. They’ve shared with us their tips on managing family, work and school.
- Write down your schedule. Write it in a planner, on your computer’s calendar, in a notebook, on a napkin, on your hands – wherever. Write down everything you need to get done in the day and assign times to when you’ll do it. You don’t have to (and probably won’t) follow it exactly, but having an outline of the day will help keep you on task to finish your course.
- Plan ahead, but be realistic. Planning ahead is great, but being too ambitious in your scheduling can add unnecessary stress to your life. Trying to map out an entire week’s worth of meals, for example, can be daunting. Instead, just worry about making enough to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. Search for other simple ways to save time, whether it’s laying out tomorrow’s outfit or showering at night.
- Take advantage of your commute. The average U.S. worker has a daily commute of 28 minutes. Make use of that time! Look into public transportation and carpool programs. If someone else can take the wheel, even if it’s only once or twice a week, you can spend those extra minutes catching up on the week’s reading.
- There’s no such thing as downtime. Actually, there is such a thing as downtime. However, for parents who work and go to school, downtime is usually unexpected: a long line at the grocery store, an appointment that’s running behind. Anticipate free time – even if it’s just five or ten minutes – by keeping class readings on your person at all times.
- Turn your children into study buddies. Just because you’re not working on the same assignments doesn’t mean you and your kids can’t study together. Set aside a couple of hours each week to do school work at the kitchen table. Even family members who aren’t in school can take part; offer them a newspaper or a coloring book and invite them to join. The ways in which your family ends up collaborating might surprise you.
- Get out of the house. If studying alongside your children isn’t realistic, find a quiet place to work. Often, that means getting out of the house. We recommend local, Wi-Fi-enabled libraries or coffeehouses – most are open until 8 pm or later. With fewer distractions, you’ll be able to finish your work – and get back to your family – more quickly.
- Rely on others. Feeling overwhelmed with house and yard work? Elicit the help of older children. They may already pitch in, but consider implementing something more regimented. Plan out who will do laundry and when. Knowing who’s responsible for each task will let you focus on your work without worrying about whose turn it is to take out the trash.
Guides to Success as an Online Degree Student
The following information has been prepared to assist adult students.