When I went back to school, I was working full time as a child support officer for the Texas attorney general and had two young girls at home.
Going to school online seemed to be my only feasible option. I decided on a school and jumped right into life as a full-time student.
Here are some tips that helped me be successful:
1. Add schoolwork/studying to the daily schedule – Once I got my kids to bed, I would get online and do my schoolwork or study. This made for some late nights, but I knew that it would not be forever and that the outcome would be worth the effort. I quickly realized that the saying “it takes 21 days to make a habit” was definitely not true in my case (Read: Study Habits and Discipline: How Your Military Discipline Will Help You Learn). However, I did find that with hard work, discipline and commitment, studying became part of my routine. Working on school was something my friends and family knew that I always had to do.
2. Give yourself time limits – Setting time limits allowed me to still feel present in my own life. During the week, I worked on school-related things once my kids went to bed, but for no more than two hours. On the weekends, I had to be more disciplined about blocking off time to get my stuff done. I preferred to set aside a few hours early Saturday morning and get my schoolwork done. I stuck to my time frames and my family was respectful of my need to work on school. Once you have set your time limit – structure this time. Make sure your family has what they need during this time so interruptions will be lessened and do whatever you must in order to minimize distractions. Keep in mind that for that certain block of time, you are dedicated to and focused on schoolwork.
3. Network with others – One of my professors created a chat room and encouraged us to talk to each other about things outside of school. Networking with other students in this informal manner helped me realize the obvious — I was not alone in this online education venture and I could draw strength and encouragement from others. I started talking to my fellow students about things that had nothing to do with the group project we were working on. Instead we spoke of how to better manage our time, our sick kids, our goals and aspirations, or just how tired we were. These people became my greatest supporters and we helped each other get through the challenges of school.
4. Give it your all – Do your absolute best — on every assignment, every class, every time. Your GPA will thank you, and your sense of accomplishment will be greater.
5. Guilt is a useless emotion – Have no regrets and don’t allow yourself to feel guilty. Going back to school is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. Being a college graduate makes you more marketable and allows more room for advancement. There’s no need to apologize for bettering yourself. Going back to school shows your kids the value of education and that will inspire them in time.
Going back to school and obtaining a degree is not easy – it takes a lot of time and effort. Once I graduated, I went through a teaching alternative certification program, took the required state exams and got my teaching certificate. This is my seventh year teaching third grade. The hard work paid off and I love what I do — your experience will be just as worth it. Online education is a positive experience that will make your life better.