If you’ve decided you want to go to university, you will hopefully be able to go on a full-time basis, perhaps while working a few hours a week to pay for your living costs. However, if your financial or family situation precludes this, then you may need to consider continuing to work full-time while studying in the evenings and at weekends. This can be an incredibly stressful thing to do, but it is possible, provided that you think things through carefully.
When you’re looking for relevant courses, be very aware of your capabilities. If you’re working full-time, it could take you several years to get your degree, so don’t expect to be able to forge ahead and complete it in the minimum possible time. The best type of course for you may well be one that allows you to work in your own time, but with a certain amount of structure so that you don’t end up procrastinating too much. This is most likely to be an online course. If you do go for a bricks-and-mortar university option, make sure it is one that is within a reasonable distance of your home – you don’t want to be spending hours on public transport after a heavy day at work.
Working and studying at the same time will involve a great deal of organisation. The best way to ensure that you fit everything in is to evaluate your lifestyle and work out when you can squeeze in studying. For example, if you travel to work, take books with you, or record podcasts that you can listen to. If you have a family, try to find a couple of evenings a week when you can study in peace, perhaps while a friend or family member care for children. Cook in bulk at the weekends so that you don’t need to cook every night of the week; you can even freeze sandwiches so that you don’t have to make them every day.
Plan ahead for deadlines
Be very aware of any upcoming deadlines, both work and study-related. If you’re working full-time, you may well not be able to write an essay in a few days, so you will need to ensure you start doing the research in plenty of time. You may find, for example, that you don’t have time to go hunting for books that your classmates also need, so the earlier you get hold of them, the better. If you know you have a heavy deadline at work, you may need to take a week off from your studies, so work out a way of compensating for this. The more you plan, the less likely you are to become stressed and incapable of getting anything done.
Talk to your boss
You may be tempted to keep your studying separate from your work life, especially if you are hoping that your qualification will allow you to leave your current job. However, it is worth letting your boss know, unless you think he or she is not going to be understanding, because they will hopefully be very supportive of your plans. They may be very interested in what you want to do and you may discover that new job opportunities open up because of it, or that you are moved on to certain projects because they fit in with what you are studying. They may also allow you time off during exam time, which could be a life-saver.
Allow yourself holidays and treats
When you’re studying and working at the same time, it can be difficult to find time for holidays. However, you do need some time off, even if it is only a couple of days here and there. You’ll find that by shutting down for a while, you will return to your books and job feeling refreshed and raring to go. On the other hand, if you keep pushing yourself to get everything done, you are likely to become moody and depressed. Allow yourself treats on a regular basis too. Having something to look forward to at the end of a long week will keep you going for just a little bit longer.
Don’t neglect your family
Trying to complete a university course and working full-time can mean that you have very little time left to spend with your family. Make sure that you set aside a few hours each week to do something as a family, even if your children are older and don’t necessarily need you as they once did. Also keep your children and spouse fully informed of your plans. If they are aware that you have to study and that they need to support you, they are much less likely to resent you for not being around. Perhaps you can even work out a rota to help you with the housework and cooking on a weekly basis.
Ideally, you will be able to study at university without too many distractions. However, if you do find yourself studying and working at the same time, there is no reason why you can’t be successful; you just need to be extremely organised.