Adults returning to education after some time away may find it difficult to fit their study schedules into their everyday lives. Their younger counterparts are less likely to have family responsibilities and bills to pay, but mature students are likely to be under pressure to keep their family and household in order while working to pay the bills. Fortunately, there are some ways you can cope with college and school schedules while juggling other responsibilities.
Talk to your tutor about your situation
At the beginning of your course, ensure that you speak to your tutor about your responsibilities. If there are particular circumstances that could affect your studies, such as a heavy work load at certain times of the year, or a job that requires you to drop everything else at the drop of a hat, then it is best to explain this at the outset. You are much more likely to be cut some slack with assignment hand-in times if you have made your tutor aware right from the start. Most tutors will have outside responsibilities themselves and will probably be able to suggest some coping strategies.
Find out about childcare
You’ve probably put some thought into childcare already. However, it is worth finding out if your school has a crèche or any activities for children that can help keep them occupied while you are in class. If you’re relying on family to care for your children, this could give them a break while you have the peace of mind of knowing your children are nearby and safe. If there are no childcare facilities, ask around and see if you can get together with classmates and set up something yourselves.
Ask for support from family
If your family don’t really understand what you are doing and what your aims for the future are, then they may well resent the time you are spending away from them while working and studying. Talk to the family as a group and ask for their understanding, as well as assistance with household tasks. Make sure that you factor in some family time so that they know you still want to spend time with them, even if you are concentrating on your studies for the time being.
Be as efficient as possible
Of course, there are always going to be times when you are distracted by family and work issues, but the more organised you are, the less of an impact these distractions are going to have. Try to get to all of your classes and find time-saving ways to take notes. You could, for example, type them directly into a laptop, or you could record the lesson and then ask someone else to type them up for you afterwards. File everything away on a regular basis so that you can find it again at a moment’s notice.
Study during work breaks
You will need to find efficient ways of fitting in time to study, even if you are only working part time. Take a book and your notes with you and study while on public transport and during breaks. Talk to your boss about freeing up some time if you are overwhelmed with work; he or she may well be very accommodating, especially if the subject you are studying is related to your job. You could also listen to relevant podcasts and recordings while you are walking to the shops or doing housework.
Many students procrastinate while studying, but as a mature student holding down a job, you are very unlikely to have time to waste. By all means fit in time to have a social life, but don’t make it a priority; remember your reasons for studying in the first place. Plan assignments and revision well in advance so that if life gets in the way, you will still have time to do what you need to do. If you leave everything until the last minute and then have a work or family emergency, you could find that you don’t do as well as you should, or even fail the course.
Ensuring that you have time to do everything you need to when you are a working mature student can be a challenge, but provided that you think ahead and don’t forget your goals, you should be able to cope with your new schedule.