There are many reasons why you may want to go back to school after a few years in the workforce. Perhaps you’ve found that you need an additional qualification in order to progress in your career, or maybe you want to switch things up and move into another field.
Thankfully, it’s never been easier to earn a valuable qualification without quitting your job, thanks to increasing numbers of renowned institutions offering fully-online courses. However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to balance work and study.
What’s more, you’ll probably find studying pretty different from the first time around. Here’s what to expect and how you can overcome common challenges for returning students to get the most out of the experience.
Is Studying Different When You Go Back to School?
One major difference is that you now need to balance your studies with all kinds of other parts of your life. You may have had a part-time job when you completed your undergraduate studies, but chances are that you had far fewer commitments and were able to focus more exclusively on studying.
Now, you may be holding down a full-time job, be looking after a family, or both. This obviously makes it harder to get everything done. You’ll probably find you’ll need to be much more organised, not to mention motivated, to meet your study and other commitments.
You’ll also probably find that your student cohort is much more diverse than before. If you go for a Master of Science, or professional certificate, many of your fellow students will also be professionals with a range of working experience. This means plenty of opportunities to build your network and make valuable connections.
Choosing the Right Format and Course for You
Today, universities and business schools offer courses in three main delivery formats:
- On-campus: Classes are delivered in-person at the school’s campus.
- Online: Classes are given online, usually via video, and classwork and assignments are managed remotely.
- Hybrid: A combination of on-campus and online study, such as the majority of classes and coursework delivered online with on-campus seminars a few times a year.
Each format has its pros and cons. Online courses offer a high degree of flexibility, allowing students to study anywhere, and often anytime. On-campus courses give you the benefits of in-person learning and can make it easier to make personal connections.
A hybrid course can be the best of both worlds, if you’re able to easily travel to the campus when required. On the other hand, if you want to study at an institution on the other side of the world, a fully-online course may be the only option.
Along with mode of delivery, other key factors to consider include:
- Tuition, fees, and other costs
- The school’s reputation and quality of education
- Course content
- Networking opportunities
How to Get Organised While Balancing Work and Study
It can be tough to balance work and study. Here are some tips that will help you get organised, stay motivated, and get the most out of returning to school.
Create a Formal Schedule & To-Do List
With so much going on, it can be easy for your schedule to get out of control. It can be a good idea to block out your time, making sure you block out sufficient time to meet your work, study, and other commitments.
Once you’ve created your schedule, make sure you stick to it! Setting boundaries and not letting your work encroach on your study time, and vice versa, is essential.
Likewise, a formal, written to-do list lets you keep track of everything and avoid things getting overlooked. At the end of each day, review your list and update it with your priorities for the following day. This
Many people try to push through when faced with stress and overwork, but this is actually counterproductive. It’s more effective to take a break and recharge to be able to stay efficient and effective over the long term.
Juggling work and study can be a lot, so don’t put yourself on the road to burnout. Instead, prioritise your physical and mental health by practicing self-care strategies. Self-care can mean different things to different people, it could be meditation and journaling, playing sport, indulging in a hobby, or simply getting a good night’s sleep.
The most important thing is to look after yourself and make yourself a priority in the midst of everything else.
Take Advantage of Coaching
Always remember that you don’t have to do things alone. A coach or mentor will help you to get organised, plan your time, and adopt the right approaches to meet your goals. They can also help you develop a strong career plan that will take you where you want to go over the long term.
You may be able to access this kind of support through your school. For example, EDHEC offers individual and group coaching to all of its students to help them to excel in their studies while preparing for their future careers.
How to Successfully Go Back to School
It may not be easy to balance work and study, but it’s certainly possible if you adopt the right approach. Furthermore, by making a bit of effort now, you’ll reap plenty of rewards down the track, whether landing a job at a new company, a pay rise, or switching to another industry and pursuing your dream career.
There are two major elements that will help you to be successful. Firstly, it’s important to be organised and disciplined, while prioritising self-care and inspiration to keep yourself motivated.
Secondly, choosing the right course is vital. Opting for a school like EDHEC that is tailored to the needs of working professionals and will give you a valuable, recognized qualification at the end of it all is the best way to set yourself up for success.