The word “college” typically brings to mind images of fresh-faced 18-year olds partying on suburban campuses or sitting outside beneath trees studying. But that describes only a small fraction of the nation’s 18 million undergraduates. A study from Complete College America, an Indiana nonprofit, estimated that only a quarter of the current college students are actually enrolled full-time in traditional residential colleges.
The broader view shows a population of mature students enrolled in college, working 30+ hours a week and raising a family. They prefer commuting over dorms and have families instead of roommates. When given the option, they prefer taking classes online because it fits into their work/family schedule better. For many it is an opportunity to press restart and refocus their career, enhance their skill set and increase their earning power. Bottom line, they want more out of life, and they aren’t afraid to go for it.
The key to managing this busy mix of work, school and family is in balance. This is a term heard often these days. And why wouldn’t we? The Digital Revolution has thrown us all head first (with cell phone in hand of course!) into what is being dubbed the Information Age. With an internet that never sleeps, our lives are on constant stand by. Making the practice of balance more important than ever.
What is balance anyway? Balance is a daily practice of self-observation and choice making. Keep in mind that balance is NOT something to be achieved or sustained. It does NOT require that you divy up an equal number of hours for each of your home, work and school obligations. Instead balance IS like a lava lamp. It is a fluid ongoing process. It is the perpetual redistribution of a person’s focus, time and energy, both internally and externally.
So take a page out of the working student’s playbook and use these top ten tips to to bring some balance into your life:
- Own Your Time- Stand up and speak up for what you need and want each and every day. You are the person most responsible for choosing whether to stay at work or go home—so own it.
- Know That Things Will Not Always Balance- It is impossible to meet everyone’s needs all of the time. The key is to rotate your time so that the same party doesn’t get neglected all the time.
- Let Go Of Guilt – Forgive yourself when things don’t get done and do your best to get back on track as soon as you are able.
- Resist Multitasking– Focus on the task at hand. You’ll get it done faster and leave time for other things that matter. Resist the temptation to plan dinner while studying or quiz yourself (in your head) while talking to your co-worker. Be present and in the moment.
- Pay Attention- Make family time an instrumental part of your success. Give family and friends 100% of your attention when together.
- Mind Your Boundaries- Picture that there is an imaginary line of protection drawn around you protecting you from other people stealing your time. And learn to say NO when they cross that line.
- Be The Boss- Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions that will ultimately pave the way for you and your family’s long-term success.
- Keep A Calendar- Create a master calendar and write all of your work, family & school obligations on it to get it out of your head. Then keep it with you so you can easily be reminded at a glance.
- Schedule Your Class Time- Develop a routine that you can easily follow by scheduling your class time like you do a hair appointment or dentist appointment. But remain flexible and willing to rearrange when needed. That’s the beauty of learning online!
- Stay Positive- Remind yourself every day how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to raise a family, get an education and earn a living at the same time.
Blame it on the economy says Kevin Kruger, president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. “What we are uncovering is that the path to social mobility and economic success in our country runs through a college degree and not enough of our citizens have a college degree,” he said. Accredited online degree programs have proven to be one of the most convenient and affordable ways for working adults to fast-track their professional skills development without sacrificing work or family obligations.
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