There are many factors to weigh when making the decision to go to grad school that go beyond just how it will help your career. Deciding to go to grad school while simultaneously working can be challenging and stressful. Do you have the time, money, support from your family and employer, and mental wellness to tackle what will be a timely and costly (but hopefully worthwhile) undertaking? Luckily, there are some things you can do to ensure that your pursuit of an advanced degree won’t completely disrupt the delicate balance of your work and home life.
Ways to help maintain a work-life-school balance
- Explore remote or hybrid options. When researching a program, determine whether it’s offered online, on campus or a hybrid). Enrolling into a program that’s offered solely on campus may not fit into your current life situation, particularly if you’re working full time and have a family at home. It’s also helpful to check in with the professors to gauge their flexibility when it comes to unexpected life issues that may occur during the program.
- Keep your boss in the loop. Whether you’re working full time or part time, discuss your plans for grad school with your boss. If you’re pursuing this degree to advance your career and bring more knowledge to the table, your boss should be supportive of your decision and hopefully allow you the time you need to complete your degree. Even online programs occasionally have group projects or travel opportunities that will require you to be away from work for a limited time. Your company may also offer tuition reimbursement opportunities that are well worth taking advantage of.
- Get your family on board. Perhaps you’ve been out of school for a while and now have a family. A life-changing decision like grad school is obviously worthy of a discussion with your spouse or partner as it will likely take time away from family duties. If your partner must help out more with the house and/or kids, you should discuss those realities and arrangements prior to enrolling, not after.
- Be in the right state of mind. Make sure you have the mental bandwidth to complete a graduate program. Assess your stress in other aspects of your life, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed in your current situation, this may not be the best time to take on a graduate program. This is a time when it’s not only critical to be open and honest with your family, boss and co-workers about your plans, but yourself as well. Determine the workload of the degree you’re seeking — not just the time it will take, but the level of difficulty as well. Then make an informed decision regarding whether the stress of the next 12–24 months (depending on the program) will be worth the proverbial blood, sweat and tears.
- Have a support system. In addition to having the support of your work and home families, create a community with fellow students or join an online community of grad students in a similar situation as you. They can be supportive and help you not feel alone when you’re stressed or overwhelmed.
- Stay organized. Creating and maintaining a schedule will be key to helping you stay balanced. Schedule time to study, family time and personal time, even if it’s 10 minutes of deep breathing or taking a quick walk around the block.
- Take care of yourself physically. Pulling all-nighters to study or complete an assignment, then taking care of the kids and going to work will only cause you to burn out. Along with staying organized and sticking to a schedule, make sure you eat right, stay hydrated and get enough sleep to keep yourself healthy so you can take on this kind of challenging work.