Finding the right balance between a career, family and getting your graduate degree can be a tough line to walk. Whether it’s at a ground campus or you’re getting your online masters degree, dedicating enough time to your school work is never easy. However, the personal and professional gratification you’ll experience as you pursue your Master of Arts in School Counselling will greatly outweigh any of the challenges you may face while enrolled in a graduate program.
As you start this exciting new chapter in your life, it may help to know that you won’t be alone. Online degree programs, especially online masters programs, are on the rise and many current and aspiring students across the country are juggling full-time jobs and raising their families while pursuing their degree.
In fact, 90% of Our Lady of the Lake University grad students are working full-time. Maintaining a healthy work-study life balance just takes determination, organization and as every good teacher knows, a passion for education.
1. Follow the Recommended Course Schedule
Our Lady of the Lake University’s Master of Education in School Counseling online program is designed for those seeking a career as a professional educator, and like most online masters degree programs, there is a recommended course schedule in place. This recommendation is designed with the demands of your career in mind and will provide you with the education tools and skills needed to become a top-tier educator. Use it as a guide to complete your M.ED degree in the shortest amount of time possible, without overloading yourself. If for whatever reason, OLLU’s online programs are too stringent or you feel yourself falling behind, don’t hesitate to reach out to our education faculty. They are always available to help passionate, dedicated educators achieve their personal and professional goals.
2. Communicate with Your Support System
Communication is key for any aspect of life. Especially when it comes to online graduate degree programs. That involves a big investment in your life and those close to you will understand that sacrifices need to be made when pursuing your masters in counselling.
When you do decide to embark on this educational journey, talk with your family, friends and colleagues and let them know that you won’t be so readily available to them anymore. Tell them that your studies and career aspirations are a priority in your life and they will understand and provide you with all the help you will need.
3. Lean on Your Support System
Whether you are referring to your degree program or your personal life, it’s also OK to ask for help. Your significant other or partner may need to pick up laundry duty, make dinner more often or arrange to pick the kids up from school a few days a week. Look for creative ways to make more time for yourself, whether it’s starting a carpool system with a few trusted parents (they’ll be glad for the break too!) or asking family members to help with pickup or drop-off. If guilt begins to creep in, remember that the decision to advance your professional career and yourself is as much for them as it is for you.
4. Create a Schedule and Stick To It
If you haven’t developed a consistent routine in your life yet, we recommend that being your first goal. Once your routine has been clearly established, write it down in detail. Analyze it from the moment you wake up to the moment to you to sleep and then find time where you can fit in time to work on your coursework.
That’s part of the beauty of OLLU’s online program: You don’t have to log on at the same time every day. You can access your masters coursework any time, and as long as you complete your assignments by the due date, it’s completely up to you when you work on them. This might mean swapping out your weekly book club meeting or evening TV time for an extra hour or two of studying. If everyone in your home goes to bed relatively early, plan to put in two hours of late-night studying three times a week. Some find that waking up two to three hours earlier is the secret to being more productive. It may take a bit of trial and error, but find what works for you and stick to it.
5. Plan the Next Day
It’s been well-documented that highly successful individuals do one very simple thing: Before you go to bed, plan for a productive tomorrow. Review your schedule and see where you may be able to work in some extra study time. If you’re currently a teacher, and know your third-period math class will be taking a test, that’s an extra 45 minutes you can dedicate to your coursework or other home-related to-dos. If your children have soccer practice, plan to bring your coursework along. Make it stick by plotting out your day hour by hour in a traditional daily planner or your calendar app.
6. Work Smarter
As a professional educator or counselor, your graduate-level coursework and 9-to-5 are inextricably linked. Make that work to your advantage by tying a school project into something you’re already working on at work. For example, an assignment centered on helping students improve their social skills might be accomplished by initiating a community service project into your own classroom’s curriculum. Also keep in mind that with program chair permission, you may qualify to do your practicum in your current school district or place of your choosing.
7. Use Vacation Days Strategically
A tropical vacation might seem tempting, but consider planning your vacation time around major project deadlines or exams. A well-planned staycation can double as relaxing time off, coupled with some quality study time. This means maximizing your summers off too, if you have that luxury. The advantage of an online masters degree is that you can double up on your coursework anywhere and anytime, and buckle down, but give yourself something to look forward to by planning a celebratory trip post-graduation.
8. Make Time for YOU.
Between work, school and family demands, it can be difficult to stop and think about what it takes to keep you happy and healthy. Set aside time every week to spend with your family, friends or yourself. Your mental and emotional well-being are just as important as your physical health; a well-balanced diet and regular exercise will help keep your mind sharp and keep your body well-fueled for your busier-than-usual schedule.
During especially hectic days, remind yourself that you won’t be in school forever. By pursuing your masters of education in school counseling, you’re not just helping prepare students for academic success, you’re setting a stellar example for future generations.
Now, take a deep breath — you’ve got this.
If you’d like to learn more about OLLU’s online education, check out our online degrees page.