How to Work Full Time and Go to Grad School

This August marks three years since I uprooted my life, moved to the East Coast, with nothing more than a few hundred dollars and an acceptance letter into grad school. I don't know how I did it, but within two months I managed to start my graduate program, find two jobs and start building a life in a new city.

No one warned me how hard it would be, especially when it came to feeling like I was in control of my life. Making friends was hard, and even with the few I had, finding the energy to spend time with them was even harder. Working and attending graduate school full time is one of those things that you can't fully relate to until you're in that position, but you can prepare.

As someone who had never even had a job, entering the workforce at the same time I was going to school full time was a bit of a shock. If you're considering going to school full time while working full time, or doing both part time, keep reading to see how you can prepare to better balance both responsibilities.

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Learn how to balance working and going to school full time, from someone who has managed to do it all the past three years. Tips and advice to working hard and still enjoying your life.

Plan your courses ahead of time

If possible, plan your course schedule ahead of time to anticipate changes in your work schedule and intensity of schoolwork. Unfortunately with my graduate school I was not able to plan my courses more than a semester ahead of time, which made it difficult to anticipate the types of hours I could commit to and the number of classes I would be taking.

By planning your classes ahead of time, it gives you the opportunity to collaborate with your employer and control the amount of work you'll have throughout the year.

Learn how to balance working and going to school full time, from someone who has managed to do it all the past three years. Tips and advice to working hard and still enjoying your life.

One will have to be the priority

For the first two years of my graduate degree I was in complete denial about the type of life I was living. My life revolved around work and school, constantly stressing about one or the other. It wasn't until the end of my second year that I came to terms that I couldn't do both full time, so I decided work needed to be a priority. Your situation may be different, especially if your program keeps in mind people's work responsibilities when creating a course schedule.

This didn't mean I took a break from school, instead I went to school part time for a few semesters and worked as much as possible. By doing this I eventually saved enough money to quit my job for my last semester of school. For more on how I did this and why, you can read this post.

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Find a program with evening courses

When I started attending my graduate school the majority of my classes were offered in the evening. What I didn't realize, or think to ask, were the hours that more advanced courses would be offered. Because of this mistake, I later realized all my courses would be offered during the daytime, meaning I would have to leave work.

When talking to admissions counselor, don't be shy to ask for a current course offering, including the hours courses are offered. Having the option of evening and night courses could make the difference between being able to balance both work and school full time.

Draw boundaries at work

Because very few things are negotiable when attending graduate school, you most likely will need to set boundaries in the workplace. By boundaries I mean committing to a certain amount of hours and no more, or clearly stating the days you are unavailable. This may be more difficult at certain types of jobs, but with enough notice, it shouldn't be something that's impossible.

Avoid procrastination

We all do it, I even still fall into the trap, but it will cause you more stress than necessary. I'm not saying keep up with all your class readings and respond to every email as you get it, but generally don't leave big projects until the last moment. Whether the assignment is for work or school, having to balance both means you might not have a lot of extra time to do it at the last minute. Avoid this unnecessary problem by doing small chunks of work at a time than all of it the night before it's due.

You might also like: The 10 Most Effective Ways to Help You Study Last Minute

Learn how to balance working and going to school full time, from someone who has managed to do it all the past three years. Tips and advice to working hard and still enjoying your life. Communicate with your employer

If you're currently employed and thinking of starting graduate school then you are at an advantage. Hopefully your employers sees the value you bring to the organization and will be willing to be flexible with your schedule. If you are applying to new jobs, my biggest advice is to be honest about your circumstance.

When applying to my last job, I was 100% honest about my involvement in graduate school, including the hours I would likely never be available. While this may prevent some job opportunities, in the long run, you wouldn't be able to manage both anyways.

Build a support system

You can't do this alone. Well, actually, you can, but you shouldn't. I balanced working full time and going to grad school full time for the first year and a half, and I was absolutely miserable. I was dating a guy who didn't work or go to school, so venting to him about my stress levels was pointless.

Find others in a similar situation, or better yet, people who've been through it. If you can, form a relationship with peers in your graduate program. Most likely the people in your classes are dealing with the same stressors, so who better to try to relate to?

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Be realistic with time

If I learned anything in the past three years, it's that comparison really is the thief of joy. When I started my graduate program I was going to school full time and working full time. I quickly realized this was not something I could do long term, especially since my masters requires me to complete an internship. Accepting the fact that there would be semesters that I took less courses took time, especially since it took me off track to graduate in two years.

Whether you get your masters in two or three years doesn't matter, your everyday quality of life does. It will be difficult to see other friends graduating or progressively moving forward, but you'll thank yourself on a daily basis for not allowing going to school and work full time take over your life.

Are you currently balancing work and school? How are you managing? Also, if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask below!

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