Attending an online school while working is a growing trend and can be a juggling act. It is also a necessity for many students who have to work.
According to studies, more students are opting for online college programs than ever before. In 2016, over 6 million students chose at least one online class for the semester, which was up more than 5 percent from the year prior. In particular, public universities are seeing significant growth in the online sector while private nonprofit schools are seeing more modest growth.
There are a variety of reasons that undergraduate and graduate students choose online classes rather than traditional on-campus experiences. However, for many, the ability to merge classes with real life is key to growth.
Many students now prefer to work while attending classes, which allows them to pay for their tuition as they go rather than graduating with staggering debt. Flexible online college classes often allow students to work full-time or part-time and take classes around their work hours.
A growing number of college students are pulling incredibly long work hours every week. In fact, many are working full-time hours to pay for their tuition or provide for their families. Online school certainly allows students to work while taking classes and gives them improved flexibility in their already hectic schedules.
Tips for Attending an Online Program
These quick tips will help college students discover the best ways to merge their online college experiences with their weekly work hours without leading to additional stress and burn-out.
1. Choose a Program with Flexible Courses
It is vital that students choose online schools that offer flexible courses. Programs should ideally allow students to take asynchronous classes at any time of the day or night and should focus more on major project deadlines rather than on weekly deadlines.
These requirements let students fit school around their lives instead of having to fit their lives around the school. However, not all online programs offer this type of flexibility. Some are loaded with live, or synchronous classes, that are demanding. So, prospective students should look into course requirements before signing up for any class.
2. Consider Part-Time Versus Full-Time Work
While many more online college students are working full-time than ever before, this amount of weekly work may still not be ideal for all students. Students taking high-stress classes or classes that require numerous projects or clinical hours, such as nursing or graphic design majors, may prefer to work part-time hours so that they have enough time to study each week.
It is far easier to start with fewer work hours and to add more hours in later than it is to take hours off a work schedule later. Students should consider starting with 25 to 30 hours of work per week if they are taking classes full-time.
3. Communicate with Employers
Telling employers about current online college classes is about more than just asking them for a new work schedule. In some cases, employers may offer to pay for a percentage of the tuition, or they may be able to change job requirements to make work easier with the newly busy schedule.
4. Practice Smart Time Management Skills
Excellent time management is the most important key to juggling online school with full-time or part-time work. Because students are typically designing their daily and weekly schedules on their own, they must practice great self-discipline and high levels of organization to ensure that classes and assignments are completed on time.
In addition, students should schedule their most challenging classes at the time of day when they feel the most energetic. For some, this could mean making time for classes in the morning and opting for afternoon and evening work hours. What is most important is to set aside certain hours of the day for specific tasks and to develop a new rhythm for everyday life.
5. Find a Job That Solidifies Current Classes
Some students want to work while taking online classes and are able to find jobs that mesh with what learn. For example, nursing students may be able to work as CNAs. Or, business students might land managerial roles in the food management or hospitality industries. These jobs solidify what students are learning in class. Additionally, they help put new knowledge to work right away and could help them with future projects and papers for classes.
6. Maintain a Support System
With days full of school and work, it is difficult to look beyond daily demands to other parts of life. For example, family and social needs often fall by the wayside during these hectic times. However, a solid support system can help students maintain their calm in times of crisis. So, look beyond the moment to the hope of the future and destress after long or grueling days.
7. Take Time Away from Work and Classes
In addition to a good support system, individuals must also remember that they are much more than employees or students. They are unique people who have much to offer the world. Their own mental and physical health must matter to them if they want to achieve long-term success in life.
Taking time to relax now can fill individuals with more energy for the future. Additionally, it can keep them from burning out in their classes. Hobbies, relationships, exercise, and even alone time can recharge one’s batteries. And everyone needs this before returning for a new day of school and work.
Finding Your Balance
Online schools provide students with a host of benefits. They allow individuals to seek higher education that meshes with their goals and, more importantly, with their schedules. Prospective students should make no mistake about how time-consuming online classes can be.
However, online schools provide flexible class times and more independent projects. So, individuals can pursue their dreams and work their way through college.