6 Tips for the Non-Traditional Student to Help You Juggle School and Life

Not everybody finishes college by the age of 22. There are plenty of non-traditional students going back to college after life in the workforce, and it’s easier than you think.

Going back to college as a non-traditional student is a tough and noble decision. Unlike traditional students who attend college full-time without work or family, non-traditional students tend to balance work and family with college courses.

You may be going to school part-time as you work a full-time day job, returning to college after a few years in the workforce, or pursuing a degree after starting a family. Having to work to earn a living and raise children already makes for a busy schedule without adding college classes to the mix. But the rewards of a college education are worth the struggle.

As your classes begin, you may be wondering what you got yourself into and how you can possibly manage all your responsibilities.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and some of us have much more to fit in those 24 hours than others. The good news is that you probably have more practice with time management skills than traditional college students right out of high school. Here are a few practical tips you can put to use this semester to manage your time.

Schedule time for studying.

It’s easy to focus on learning when you're inside the classroom, but once you’re off campus it’s harder to ignore all the distractions. If you don’t block off some time in your schedule for schoolwork and studying, it’s too easy to keep putting it off.

Break projects up into smaller tasks.

A big project can be impossible to make time for if you try to do it all at once. Instead break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. In just ten minutes, you could brainstorm topics, sketch out a rough outline of a paper, or highlight your notes from class.

Recruit your family to be your allies.

Talk to your family about your reasons for returning to school, and how important it is that you have their support. Be sure to set boundaries: If you study or do homework at home, make it clear that you’re not to be disturbed during that time. Or you could enlist the kids to help you study by quizzing you or holding up flashcards.

Take advantage of college resources.

Colleges have many resources you may not be aware of if you’re not living on campus. You can use the campus library, study hall, or lounge before or after class to study, and save time by renting a locker on campus for the semester to store your books and supplies. If you’re having trouble balancing all your responsibilities, you can talk to your academic adviser or your college’s tutoring center for tips on time management, and ask him about other available resources.

Make self-care a priority.

Balancing work, school, and family takes a lot of energy. If you don’t make it a priority to take care of yourself first, you risk burning out, which could result in bad grades, bad reviews at work, and no energy to spend time with your family. Be careful to get enough sleep and eat right, and pay attention to how you’re doing physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Going to college as a non-traditional student can be tough. But the good news is, college doesn’t last forever! If you can work hard and persevere for a few years, all your hard work will pay off, and you’ll get that degree you’ve dreamed of.

Sources:

Advice and Perspectives From Non-Traditional Students to Other Non-Traditional Student. (n.d.) University of Arkansas. Retrieved from occ.uark.edu

Krasselt, K. (2014). For parents in college, it's all about balance. USA Today. Retrieved from college.usatoday.com

Pascucci, M. (n.d.). 5 Time Management Tips to Calm College Student Stress. Retrieved from campuscalm.com

Successful Study Strategies for Non-Traditional Adult Learners. (n.d.). Columbia College. Retrieved from web.ccis.edu

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