FAFSA form submitted? Check. Books purchased? Check. First semester tuition paid? Check.
Sounds like you’re all set to make the leap back to school and earn your master’s degree. Congrats! While you may think all your ducks are in a row, you need to consider completing a different kind of check list if you work full-time. Grad school is a massive time commitment. To help you get through it successfully, on top of putting in your 40+ hour week at work to keep food on the table (and beer in the belly), here are six tips to keep in mind before your first day of class.
1. Don’t just manage your time - dictate it.
You have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else - now with double the activity and responsibility. Use every bit of free time you can to fit in coursework such as lunch hours, time before work and evenings. If you do choose to work on coursework during your lunch break, completely unplug from your work email, phone and other time-sucking distractions. Be very selfish with your time. You may need to ditch that out-of-town wedding or skip late night drinks on Friday because you’ve got class the next day. You will learn very quickly the art of saying “no” when your on a super-tight deadline.
2. Make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Have a chat with those who are close to you, both personally and professionally, so they understand the time commitment and goals you have set as a grad student. They include your significant other, family, close friends, supervisor, colleagues and employees. The more clarity you provide, the better.
3. Ask for help.
YOU CANNOT DO IT ALL. Seriously, you are not a Superman or Wonder woman. So don’t play the martyr and just ask for some extra help. Pay the girl next door to take care of your dog the nights you have class. Hire someone to clean your house. Ask your significant other to cover some of your chores. Delegating home responsibilities will not only free up more time, it will help avoid frequent major meltdowns due to being overwhelmed (see #5).
4. Get to know those in your grad school circle.
Some of your classmates are in the exact same boat that you’re in. Get to know them and trade war stories about how to deal with the stresses of juggling both school and work. Preferably, vent over beers. It’s way more fun and then you’ll have a new drinking buddy or two!
5. Prepare for a meltdown or two.
You will have a meltdown every now and then. Over big and small things. Don’t think that you’re completely losing your mind - it happens. You’re essentially working two full-time jobs and are bound to feel overwhelmed and overloaded. The question is how will you decompress when that happens. Hit the gym? Take a walk in the park? Have a glass of wine?
6. Remember, it’s only temporary.
You will get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel after 16 to 18 months, or however long your program is. That light is not just getting your diploma but one of the most incredible professional accomplishments you will ever achieve. When the show is over, with a new degree in hand, take the time to celebrate your success - you sure as hell earned it!