In today’s society, it can seem almost impossible for a person with adult responsibilities to return to school full-time. That person may struggle with the question of how to make full-time college fit into a full-time schedule. Whether it be preparing dinner for your children after they return home from school or meeting deadlines on the job, these, among others, are valid concerns for anyone pondering the notion of returning to school. However, attending college full-time is achievable with proper planning and preparation.
Phase 1: Planning
Overcoming the challenge of how to make full-time college fit into a full-time schedule may be difficult but with proper planning it’s very attainable.
- One must acknowledge the purpose for returning to school. Most people decide to go to college later in life to advance their career or to make them more employable by improving upon their professional skills. Others may have already begun a degree program and are returning to complete it. Whatever the reason, non-traditional students must have a clear objective to determine what steps they need to take to reach that goal, as well as to keep them motivated throughout the degree program.
- Planning also involves deciding which colleges to apply to based upon the current needs and responsibilities of the student. Optimize schedules and commitments by determining if it’s possible to reprioritize, consolidate, reschedule or even cut some things out altogether. Many colleges and universities today make it more convenient than ever for non-traditional students to fit full-time college into a full-time schedule. With the number of non-traditional students on the rise, more colleges are offering flexible course schedules, online degree programs and even accelerated degrees that meet one night per week. Based on scheduling and commitments determine if a flexible online degree or predictable accelerated program (one night per week) are best. It is the student’s responsibility in the planning phase to determine which college and class schedule would be the best fit based upon individual necessities and time restraints.
- The next step is to apply to the chosen college and gain acceptance. Once accepted into a degree program, the student must prepare for balancing student life with other responsibilities.
Phase 2: Preparation
Upon acceptance into a degree program, the non-traditional student must make preparations for actually attending college.
- Work Schedule and Tuition Assistance: For example, if the student works full-time, perhaps the employer will allow some flexibility in the work schedule to accommodate the student’s course schedule. This may be especially true if the student is using the degree to further advance within the same company. Furthermore, it may be worthwhile to inquire with the employer about funding some of the degree program costs. Many employers will pay for books or courses that directly relate to the business. This may help with the financial burden of returning to school.
- Family Support and Schedules: Another example is that many non-traditional students have families. Make sure to have a conversation with your family regarding your decision to return to college. This will help you gain the necessary support needed to maintain house chores and responsibilities. Also, don’t forget to make the necessary arrangements if child or elder care is needed. Making these arrangements ahead of time will make attending classes more enjoyable and offer peace of mind that loved ones will be taken care of.
- Study Time and Space: Lastly, scheduling time to study is often overlooked in the preparation phase. It is important to decide ahead of time which days/times will be set aside for studying and where you will study. With proper preparation, transitioning into college life will be much easier and the student should be more successful.
Again, the question of how to make full-time college fit into a full-time schedule may seem unattainable with all the family and job responsibilities facing the non-traditional student today. Yet, with careful planning and preparation, the seemingly impossible can become possible.