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Balancing Grad School While Working Full Time

Nov. 12, 2021

Woman balances schedule while working full time and attending grad school

An advanced degree could be exactly what you need to take your career to new heights. However, most people who want to go to grad school also work full-time. Adding classes, homework, and exams on top of a busy job can seem overwhelming if you don’t learn strategies to balance it all.

Thankfully, you are not alone in asking yourself how to balance a 40 hour work week and graduate-level coursework. Many of our other students have had the same challenges, but they were able to pursue a graduate degree and work at the same time using the right strategies. Balancing your career and school may never be completely stress-free, but here are a few tips and tricks that can make succeeding a little easier.

Examine your current situation

Before you even begin your grad school journey, you should examine your current situation and its limitations. Would your career and life responsibilities allow you to maintain a full-time job and complete all of your school coursework? Can you manage a full course load, or would you need to maintain a part-time schedule to keep up with your work?

You should also consider whether anything is going on in your life that would make going back to school and having a career nearly impossible. Health issues, family issues, or financial stresses can be hard to work around once you’ve started school, so it’s best to plan for them in advance.

Your family and personal relationships, your career, and your social life all play a role in your academic success. Finding strategies to manage all of these demands while going to school can help you remain focused along the way.

Find a flexible program

Researching the best program for your lifestyle is an important first step when you’re deciding to go back to school while working. Cost and curriculum matter, but you should also consider a degree program that can be tailored to your needs. For example, LSU Online offers flexible programs that are designed specifically with working professionals in mind. Programs like ours are more likely to be adjustable around your schedule, setting you up for a greater chance of success with balancing work and school.

You can take a look at some of our online graduate programs here.

It’s also worth figuring out exactly what you want to get out of grad school. Will your program help you earn a coveted position in your current organization? Or do you want the networking opportunities that come with earning a degree in your field? Keeping your long-term goals in mind can help you choose the most relevant program for you, and it can be a source of motivation as you juggle school and work.

Research Financial Aid Options

Most people expect a graduate degree to require a fairly large financial investment. Tuition, books, and other expenses need to be accounted for when deciding on a program. You should choose a school that offers high-quality, affordable education to reduce the stress on your finances.

While working full-time, you should ensure you can adequately cover all of the costs of grad school. Like any other student, you will want to limit the amount of debt you take on.

Consider how you’ll finance your degree. Will you save up enough to pay your tuition outright? Does your employer have an education program that can help you mitigate the costs? You can view a sample of the partnerships with employers and associations currently active with LSU Online and Continuing Education.

Beyond traditional financial aid, you can also save time and money by exploring prior learning assessment credit. Do you have professional certifications or military credit? You may be able to use your prior learning through “Prior Learning Assessment” to gain credits towards your degree.

Before deciding on your loan amount, make sure you’ve explored all your options. A solid financial plan can take much of the pressure of grad school off of your shoulders while you work.

Prepare to adjust your schedule

Grad school also requires an investment of time. When you choose to embark on this journey, you should have already changed your mindset. However, you will need to also adjust your schedule to accommodate the addition of homework, studying, and exams.

It may be best to organize a set schedule that incorporates everything you need to get done in your life. This way, you can make sure that nothing important gets tossed to the back burner.

As mentioned before, online classes provide an alternative learning structure that can help you balance working a full-time job and going to school.

Work smarter

To maximize your time in grad school while maintaining a career, you’ll need to work hard and smart. Often, your graduate coursework may require that you complete a research project or thesis. Finding ways to tie your classwork into your daily job can make your life much easier-- and potentially impress your boss. Consult your professor in each class on how to best apply your work to your studies.

Take advantage of your available resources

If you have a solid support system, grad school is one of the best times to lean on the people in it. Your family, friends, significant other, children, peers, and coworkers can all be an integral part of your success. These people may be able to help out with essential tasks or provide emotional support and motivation.

You should also take advantage of any resources that your university offers. For example, LSU Online provides personal advisors to support you throughout your school journey.

Additionally, you may be able to seek community among others in your cohort. These people are often balancing the same things you are, and they may have helpful insight or advice to offer you. As you build your support network, don’t forget to actually ask for support when you need it.

Practice self-care

Balancing graduate school and working full time is not easy. Eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising should all be a priority in your life during this time. If you neglect yourself and become unwell, you cannot focus on school or work.

Practice good stress management, reward yourself for the wins you have in school or at your job and allow yourself to have fun. Remember, you are going to school to improve your life, not make it worse.

How does LSU Online support students balancing grad school and working full time?

LSU Online aims to provide support for all students throughout their educational journey and their personal lives. We are committed to ensuring you have the best chance of success no matter your situation.

We offer several online classes conveniently designed for students who are working professionals. LSU also offers numerous resources that strive to strengthen your academic experience. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

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Media Contact

Christina Bourg
christinab@lsu.edu

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