Have you been thinking about going back to university or signing up for a tertiary course as a mature student? Indeed, many older adults reach a point in their lives where they crave to learn something new, or are simply looking to expand their skills and job prospects for further career advancement. However, being a mature student also comes with its fair share of challenges — children, work and family commitments are often a huge component of a mature student’s life, making it that bit more challenging to strike a healthy balance overall. This can be especially demanding if you’re currently employed on a full-time basis, with little time to spare for leisure activities, let alone study. The truth is that both study and work are huge commitments, but with a little focus and planning, we’re confident you will be able to successfully manage both.
To get the ball rolling, we’ll be sharing our 6 top tips for successfully juggling school and work as a mature student.
Consider Online Learning
Regardless of what course you’re interested in signing up for, whether that be a social media marketing course or a front end developer course, you’ll be happy to know that there are guaranteed to be numerous online learning resources at your disposal. Online learning has become increasingly popular for several reasons, including convenience and flexibility, affordability, access to a wide range of courses and many more. With this in mind, it will come as no surprise as to why online learning is so popular amongst mature students.
By signing up for an online course, you will be able to tailor a study schedule that perfectly fits into your individual lifestyle. This will effectively allow you to not just work at the same time, but also juggle other commitments such as family, friends and leisure for the perfect balance of work and play.
Create A Realistic Schedule
The simple truth is that to succeed in your job and at school as a mature student, you’re going to need to be realistic with your time and schedule. For example, as tempting as it may be to take on as many shifts at work as possible, consider how this might affect your schooling or take away from your ability to focus on the other important aspects of your life. On the flipside, spending too much time on your schoolwork may result in poor job performance or an inability to keep up with daily responsibilities. We won’t lie — striking the perfect balance is challenging, even for the best of us. Creating a realistic schedule is all about determining your goals and priorities: What do you want to achieve in a given time period? Make a list of your top priorities and allocate time for each of them accordingly. The ideal schedule will be different for everyone, so be sure to tailor your routine to your individual life circumstances.
At the end of the day, the ‘perfect’ schedule is one that allocates sufficient time for both study and work, whilst also making sure to prioritise time for leisure and relaxation to avoid burnout. Once you’ve created a schedule, try to stick to it as much as possible. Consistency and discipline are key to making it work.
Set Aside Study Time
This may sound glaringly obvious, but making the time to study and do nothing else, is one of the best things you can do as a mature student. It can be really tempting to just assume you’ll study when you have time—especially if you’re juggling work, parenting or even just taking an online course. Unfortunately, when you lead such a busy life, often that time just never appears. This is why it is vital that you set aside designated study time—even if it’s only for half an hour once or twice a week.
Dedicating some time to study outside of the classroom will greatly help with learning and retention, and the most successful learners develop a daily routine of their study time amidst other responsibilities. Moreover, regular studying leads to better exam results and overall grades, which can positively impact your future opportunities and career prospects.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
When it comes to balancing school and full-time work, communication truly is key. If you are having trouble keeping up with work, we highly recommend creating an open communication channel with your employer to keep them in the loop. Sure, talking to your boss about your study plans and the challenges you anticipate along the way can seem daunting at first glance, but you’ll be surprised at how supportive, encouraging and understanding many employers can be.
Letting your boss know that you’re going back to school will allow them to be more understanding of your elevated stress levels and responsibilities, making it a lot easier on you should you need to take some time off to focus on during high stress times at school. You might even be surprised — many employers often want to help their employees further their skills and learning, or may be in a position to offer a promotion once you’ve earned your new qualification. You’ll never know unless you communicate, and it will only help you in the long run.
Top Tip: While you’re at it, don’t forget to also communicate with family members and close friends whose interactions with you may be impacted during this busy time in your life.
Take Advantage Of Support Groups
When you’re aiming to strike a fine balance between work and school as a mature student, having a good support group makes all the difference. Thankfully, there are many dedicated support groups and communities for older students, so be sure to take advantage of these opportunities should they come your way. Many schools, especially online schools, have online forums and networks where you can connect with other learners to share your thoughts, feelings and the challenges you face with like minded individuals who may also be in the same boat. Taking advantage of these resources to find study buddies or just someone who can support you throughout your education period can often make a world of difference in the life of a mature student.
Aside from dedicated support groups, your personal support squad might include your family, friends and/or partner. Don’t be afraid to open up to those who are nearest and dearest to you, or to ask for help and support if you need it. Sometimes, just having someone babysit the kids for a night while you study or go to work is enough to help alleviate stress levels, so don’t hesitate to reach out when you need a helping hand.
Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle
Last but not least, nothing is more important than your health. You need a ton of energy to manage a full-time job while at school, and the only way to achieve this is by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Even though you’re busier than a bee, it pays to invest a little time and care into yourself. This means prioritising a healthy and nutritious diet, exercising on a regular basis and ensuring that you get adequate sleep each and every night. If you’re feeling constantly tired and stressed, chances are you’ve taken on too much and may benefit from reassessing your schedule. Don’t forget that taking regular breaks and scheduling some time to enjoy life can also help manage your stress levels so you don’t become overwhelmed by all of your responsibilities. In a nutshell, look after your body and in turn, it will look after you!
And there you have it —- everything you need to know when it comes to creating a healthy balance between school, work and leisure time as a mature student. The truth is that juggling school and work doesn’t have to be an overly stressful task, and we hope that these tips will help you to find balance in your life as you embark on life’s next adventure. All the best!
What are some of your personal tips for juggling school and work as an older student? Be sure to share your ideas and tips in the comments section below!